Monday, October 01, 2007

U.S. gun lobby fights regulating world arms trade

Britain, Japan, Australia and others are pushing for an unprecedented treaty regulating the arms trade worldwide, in a campaign sure to last years and to pit them against a determined American foe, the National Rifle Association.

In what U.N. officials say is an "overwhelming" response, almost 100 governments have submitted ideas for such a treaty, to be reviewed over the next year. There's an "extremely urgent" need for controls on the international gun trade, says Kenya, echoing the sentiment in much of guns-besieged Africa.

But in the U.S., the NRA says it sees a creeping attempt to limit civilian gun ownership within nations — even though the focus now is on setting standards for arms exports and imports.

The international issues "necessarily will come to involve at some point domestic laws and policies regarding firearms," said former congressman Bob Barr, a leading NRA voice on the subject.

"That's not what we're looking at here," countered Greg Puley, of the Control Arms coalition of pro-treaty advocacy groups. "The point is to control trade in weapons that contribute to conflict and atrocities."

The NRA and other U.S. gun lobbyists have helped blunt earlier efforts at the United Nations to rein in the weapons trade. Last December, the U.S. delegation cast the lone negative vote when 153 nations approved a General Assembly resolution initiating this new treaty process.
Of course, the U.S. is the world's top arms supplier, with $16.9 billion dollars worth of agreements cornering 42% percent of the global market. And, according to the article, we haven't even filed a requested report to the United Nations with our views on the proposed treaty.
The United States and other industrialized countries generally keep close oversight on arms sales, but dozens of nations have no regulations specific to weapons exports and imports. Only 37 nations, for example, have laws governing the operations of private arms brokers.

In its submission, Britain proposes a legally binding treaty requiring governments to authorize weapons exports only after ascertaining that they will not provoke or prolong armed conflicts, aid in human rights abuses, destabilize countries or undermine peace in other ways.

...Experts estimate one-quarter of the $4 billion-a-year international small arms business involves illicit dealings. Up to a half-million people are believed killed each year by small arms, and more than 600 million such weapons are believed in circulation.
I don't think there's any of us on this site that doesn't support the right of people to own guns (as long as there are reasonable regulations), but as Nat-Wu said, people like this "are going to get America tossed into the dustbin of history." No treaty we'd enter in to would prevent Joe-schmo gun owner from buying or do anything he can't now. Yet, the gun lobby and gun manufacturers oppose what would potentially curb what contributes to mass violence across the globe. The fact that the U.S. isn't taking a lead on this issue is just another example of how extremist and business interest groups have disproportionate influence over our political system and exercise it not just to our detriment, but sometimes the world's. But I digress.

You can sign a petition in support of the effort here.

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