Unwise gun treaty erodes U.S. sovereigntyCommentary by H. Sterling Burnett
September 01, 2009
Source: Green Bay Press Gazette
DALLAS - CIFTA - the 1997 small-arms trafficking treaty drafted with the help of the Clinton administration - is bad as a matter of principle and policy.
When the United Nations tried to get the Bush administration to push the treaty through the Senate, it refused. John Bolton, then undersecretary of state for arms control, said the United States would reject any effort to regulate trade in non-military arms or any treaty that would "abrogate the constitutional right to bear arms." Individuals have a natural right to defend themselves against predators of all types, including individual criminals and tyrannical states. Our Founders recognized it by enshrining the right to keep and bear arms in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
By far, the biggest killers of people have been governments and their surrogate militias. Their victims are often their own citizens. Before every attempted or successful genocide, those in power notably disarmed the group targeted for extinction. They were aided by laws requiring firearms licensing and registration: in order to seize the guns, a government must know who has them.
Even when motivated by a sincere desire to protect people from crime, these policies have made the situation worse.
For example, at the turn of the 20th century, England had few gun control laws and low crime rates. Since then, they have enacted numerous laws making it harder for private citizens to own guns or defend themselves. After each new restriction, crime - especially violent crime - has risen.
Justifying a renewed push to adopt the small arms treaty, the Obama administration recently claimed that more than 90 percent of the guns used in crime in Mexico come from the United States.
First, Mexico has among the strictest gun control policies in the world - yet killings are routine and violent crime rates are many times higher than in the United States.
Second: that figure was made up. From 2007 to 2008, more than 29,000 firearms were picked up at crime scenes in Mexico. Only 17 percent of those guns, about 5,000, were traced to the United States.
Indeed, most of the guns came from governments, arms dealers or crime syndicates in countries that don't require manufacturers to stamp identifying marks on their guns. Others were U.S. government arms given to corrupt police officers and soldiers. In the past six years, more than 150,000 Mexican soldiers have deserted, many with their M-16 assault rifles.
The United States, in fact, has among the best systems for tracking arms. Consider just a few of its requirements:
- Every firearm manufacturer, importer, exporter, wholesaler and retailer operating in the U.S. must be licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
- Every gun must be stamped with a unique serial number and manufacturer information.
- Every retail firearm sale requires a federal and/or state background check on the buyer. Manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers are required to keep the records of all of their transactions.
Machine guns, anti-aircraft weapons, and fragmentation grenades are increasingly found in raids on the Mexican cartels, in conflicts in Africa, and among terrorists worldwide. But they are not coming from American gun shops or gun shows, which can't sell these weapons. They come from arms dealers or governments.
All this treaty will do is erode U.S. sovereignty by putting the United Nations in charge of U.S. gun policy. In the future, to make U.S. laws conform with international standards, individual citizens will have to be licensed to own a gun and the guns will have to be registered. This would convert the basic right to self-defense into a privilege granted by the federal government in consultation with foreign governments - to be rescinded at will.
If the Senate still respects the Constitution and recognizes the right to keep and bear arms as a fundamental right it should reject this ineffective and dangerous treaty.
H. Sterling Burnett is a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis, a nonprofit free-market institute with offices in Dallas and Washington (http://www.ncpa.org/). Write him at NCPA, 12770 Coit Road, Suite 800, Dallas, TX 75251-1339.