Tester leads Senate in warning Obama: Arms treaty must not infringe on gun rights
Senators outline stern conditions for U.N. Arms Trade Treaty proposal
(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today led a group of U.S. Senators in calling on President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to guarantee the Second Amendment rights of all law-abiding Americans while negotiating the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty.
The warning letter, written by Tester and signed by a dozen colleagues including Senator Max Baucus, outlines in specific terms that the arms trade treaty must not “in any way regulate the domestic manufacture, possession, or sales of firearms or ammunition” in the U.S.
Tester’s letter also warns that the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty:
• Must guarantee that joining countries “will maintain the exclusive authority to regulate arms within their own borders,” a condition the senators say is “non-negotiable.”
• Must not include “small arms, light weapons, ammunition or related materials that would make the Treaty overly broad and virtually unenforceable.”
• Must not establish “any sort of international gun registry that could impede on the privacy rights of law-abiding gun owners.”
“The bottom line is this: No international treaty is more important than the Constitutional rights guaranteed to all law-abiding Americans,” said Tester, chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and a longtime champion of gun rights. “I want the Obama Administration to understand loud and clear that no foreign treaty will dictate America’s gun rights, or the privacy of the firearms and ammo we own. I'm leading this charge on behalf of millions of law-abiding Americans who couldn’t agree more and I appreciate the NRA’s leadership in making sure our message is heard loud and clear.”
The NRA today praised Tester’s leadership.
“As we have for nearly two decades, the NRA will fight to stop any United Nations treaty that infringes on the constitutional rights of American gun owners,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director, NRA Institute for Legislative Action. “This effort sends a clear message to the international bureaucrats who want to eliminate our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms. Clearly, a U.N. Arms Trade Treaty that includes civilian arms within its scope is not supported by the American people or a bi-partisan majority of the U.S. Senate. We are grateful for Sen. Tester’s leadership on this critical issue.”
"I've always been a staunch defender of our right to bear arms, because the 2nd Amendment is part of who we are as Americans and Montanans,” Baucus said. “It's crucial that any treaty negotiated doesn't impede on law-abiding Montanans' gun rights, and I'll continue making sure the administration hears that message, loud and clear."
The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, which must be ratified by the Senate, aims to improve regulation of the international trade of conventional weapons and set standards to ensure that arms are only transferred for appropriate use. Tester and Baucus say such regulations should “ensure these weapons do not end up in the hands of human rights abusers, terrorist groups, insurgents or organized criminal enterprises.”
Tester’s letter notes that the United States has adopted a rigorous system of arms export controls that other nations should follow.
Earlier this year, Tester and Baucus introduced a bipartisan bill to prohibit the Department of Justice from tracking and cataloguing purchases of multiple rifles and shotguns. Text of the legislation can be viewed HERE.
Text of the letter follows and is also available HERE.
July 26, 2011
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear President Obama and Secretary Clinton:
As staunch defenders of the rights of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms, we write regarding ongoing negotiations of the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty, and to express concerns about any provisions that could potentially infringe upon those rights.
We support efforts to better regulate the international trade of conventional weapons, but such efforts must be done in a responsible manner. We should do everything we can to ensure these weapons do not end up in the hands of human rights abusers, terrorist groups, insurgents or organized criminal enterprises. Further, we should not allow the unregulated trade of these weapons to continue fueling conflict and instability in nations around the world. The profound human and economic toll from these conflicts is staggering and the subsequent impact on our nation’s economic and security interests is increasing. The United States has adopted a rigorous system of arms export controls and it is time for other nations to abide by some of those same standards.
For the past few years, negotiations for the Arms Trade Treaty have progressed. As your Administration continues to engage in these negotiations, we strongly urge you to address a number of our concerns.
First and foremost, the Arms Trade Treaty must not in any way regulate the domestic manufacture, possession or sales of firearms or ammunition. Firearms possession is an individual right guaranteed by the Second Amendment and that cannot be subordinated, directly or indirectly, by any international treaty. We are encouraged that your administration is working to ensure that signatory countries will maintain the exclusive authority to regulate arms within their own borders. That must continue to be non-negotiable. We also oppose any inclusion of small arms, light weapons, ammunition or related materials that would make the Treaty overly broad and virtually unenforceable. Finally, the establishment of any sort of international gun registry that could impede upon the privacy rights of law-abiding gun owners is a non-starter.
As members of the United States Senate, it is our constitutional responsibility to advise and consent on the ratification of the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty. Before we could support ratification, we must have assurances that our concerns are adequately addressed and that the Treaty will not in any way impede upon the Constitutional rights of American gun owners. Anything short of this commitment would be unacceptable.
We appreciate your consideration on this issue and look forward to your response.
Jon Tester, Max Baucus et al