Obama’s parting shot
Another of President Obama’s brazen acts as he leaves office is a “parting shot” at American gun owners by submitting the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification. For the uninitiated, the term refers to turning around in your saddle as you ride away from a losing battle and firing one last round at your enemy.
The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was negotiated from 2006, during the Bush administration, through 2013 with the Obama administration. The original intent of the treaty was theoretically to prohibit arms transfers to regimes that abused human rights. From the very start though, gun control groups looked upon the treaty as an end run around America’s domestic reluctance to adopt their agenda — if Congress and the state legislatures wouldn’t pass gun control why not get the U.N. to make it a permanent part of its agenda or even better part of international law? Gun control groups have pursued their agenda at the organization since 1995 but were frustrated by the likes of Ambassador John R. Bolton who single-handedly stopped a U.N. treaty effort in 2001 that would have regulated U.S. civilian firearms.
The proposed ATT gave them the opportunity they had been waiting for, a legally binding treaty imposing regulation and conditions on the transfer and maybe possession of any weapon from a pistol to a battle ship. As incredible as it seems, the U.N. Human Rights Commission has already interpreted lack of gun control as a human rights abuse. The treaty is now in effect and the United States has signed it.
The Bush administration and its chief negotiator Ambassador Donald Mahley recognized the danger of a treaty whose scope included civilian firearms. During early negotiations Mr. Mahley convinced the U.N., and countries supporting the treaty, to exempt firearms held under “national Constitutional protection,” i.e. the American Second Amendment. This language was in the U.N. reports that were the basis for the final negotiations at the ATT Conferences in 2012.
The election of Barack Obama and the appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of State changed everything. Mrs. Clinton demoted Mr. Mahley and replaced him with Under Secretary of State Tom Countryman, a shaggy-haired disarmament specialist who had no interest in protecting American gun rights. Mr. Mahley himself fell ill with pancreatic cancer and died in 2013, an unsung hero for American rights. The NRA and other gun rights groups lobbied the new administration in good faith not to give away what Mr. Mahley had accomplished. In 2011 Executive-Vice President of the NRA Wayne La Pierre appeared before the U.N. and bluntly told them that the ATT would be opposed unless there were protections of American gun rights. He was ignored. Fifty-seven U.S. senators wrote the Obama administration and made essentially the same point. They were ignored. In negotiations with the State Department, and treaty supporters, we pointed out time after time that a treaty that included American civilian firearms would never be ratified by the United States. We were ignored.
The “national Constitutional protection” language for the treaty was slowly but surely removed by anti-gun forces without objection by Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Countryman. The U.S. could have objected and had its way and preserved the language as the conference drafting the treaty operated under the “consensus rule” whereby all the major powers had to agree on the final text.
What happened was not just part of the usual give and take of such negotiations, but a deliberate act of bad faith by Hillary Clinton. The firearms community was under the impression that the Department of State was negotiating in good faith. However, release of Mrs. Clinton’s Benghazi emails revealed the truth. As it turned out one of the reasons she supported the treaty was because it was opposed by the NRA. She wrote this in an email in March, 2011: “You know we’ve tried to support the U.N. small arms treaty but we have run into, as usual, fierce NRA and congressional opposition. But, I believe we have to keep trying. All the best, H.” Other emails showed her actively working with and meeting with anti-gun groups supporting the treaty at the U.N.illary herself identified that the treaty was about “small arms,” the U.N. term for gun control.
Unfortunately, there is neither time nor space here to go into the onerous provisions of the treaty, which themselves would merit rejection of the instrument. In the final analysis, the fact that American rights were deliberately given away should be more than sufficient reason for it never to be adopted.
• Thomas L. Mason is co-author with David Keene of “Shall Not Be Infringed: The New Threats to Your Second Amendment” (Skyhorse Publications, 2016).