‘Norms of Non-Possession’: What the UN Firearms Treaty Is All About
by William Norman Grigg
White House mouthpiece Jay Carney says that the Obama administration will “conduct a thorough review” of the UN’s newly enacted gun control pact “to determine whether to sign the treaty.” The suspense is hardly unbearable, given that the UN treaty would codify the proposition that national governments should have a monopoly on weapons.
The announced objective of the treaty is to regulate the sale and transfer of small arms and light weapons, a category that includes all civilian-owned firearms. According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, the treaty “will help to keep warlords, pirates, terrorists, criminals and their like from acquiring deadly arms.”
Well, actually, it would not. Nothing in the dense and nearly unreadable text of the 15-page treaty will prevent member states from arming terrorists and criminals. Article 2, Section 3 specifies that nothing in the treaty will “apply to the international movement of conventional arms by, or on behalf of, a State Party for its use provided that the conventional arms remain under that State Party’s ownership.”
Article 11, which deals with “Diversion” of weaponry, requires that parties to the treaty work to “mitigate the risk” that weapons would fall into the hands of criminals or terrorists, and that they “share relevant information … on effective measures to address diversion.” But nothing in the language forbids such diversions from States to “non-state actors” – a point that was made, ironically, by the Communist government of North Korea when it voted against the treaty.
Each government that signs the UN gun treaty agree to create “a national control system to regulate the export of ammunition [and] munitions” (Article 3), which is described in the preamble as “the primary responsibility of all States.” The document repeatedly refers to the “inherent right” of States to arm themselves and to control the weaponry within the boundaries over which they claim jurisdiction. Not a syllable can be found in the document recognizing the innate right of the individual to armed self-defense. This omission was not accidental.
For more than fifty years, the United Nations, with the enthusiastic support of the U.S. government, has pursued a vision of “general and complete disarmament” in which the world body, or its successor, would claim a monopoly on the “legitimate” use of force. Within that global monopoly, each national government would have an exclusive territorial franchise.