Recent events in the US have once again ignited the debate over control of guns within the US. This post is not a political debate rather an introduction to US gun issues and, more specifically, actions of the United Nations. First, for some quick statistics. According to the US Firearms Institute between 40% – 50% of US homes own firearms. There are between 250 million and 280 million firearms in the US owned by between 120 million and 150 million US citizens. Hunting, shooting, and firearms are deeply embedded in the US culture and history. In fact, the right to own firearms is guaranteed in the US Constitution’s 2nd Amendment which states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” As every 6th grader knows, the 2nd Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights which was passed in 1791. While many people don’t agree with the 2nd Amendment the US Supreme Court has upheld the amendment and clarified the intent in several cases:
n 2008 and 2010, the Supreme Court issued two Second Amendment decisions. In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. In dicta, the Court listed many longstanding prohibitions and restrictions on firearms possession as being consistent with the Second Amendment.In McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment limits state and local governments to the same extent that it limits the federal government.
The United Nations is attempting to pass a Arms Trade Treaty which is being debated through today at the United Nations. Former US President Bush opposed the Arms treaty but recently President Obama voiced support for such a treaty. While there are many aspects to the treaty, the part that is of particular concern to many in the perceived subjugation of US sovereignty to the UN and the violation of US constitutional rights to own and bear arms. According to the Institute for Legislative Action:
“Anti-gun treaty proponents continue to mislead the public, claiming the treaty would have no impact on American gun owners. That’s a bald-faced lie. For example, the most recent draft treaty includes export/import controls that would require officials in an importing country to collect information on the ‘end user’ of a firearm, keep the information for 20 years, and provide the information to the country from which the gun was exported. In other words, if you bought a Beretta shotgun, you would be an ‘end user’ and the U.S. government would have to keep a record of you and notify the Italian government about your purchase. That is gun registration. If the U.S. refuses to implement this data collection on law-abiding American gun owners, other nations might be required to ban the export of firearms to the U.S.”
The primary issue revolves around US sovereignty as well as US gun rights. Many believe that treaties such as these are attempts to circumvent the US rights to gun ownership. As of today 51 of 100 senators oppose the treaty. This is important because the US Senate plays an important role in the ratification of any treaties. The 51 senators wrote to the President:
“Our country’s sovereignty and the constitutional protection of these individual freedoms must not be infringed,”