By David B. Kopel, Paul Gallant & Joanne D. Eisen
America's 1st Freedom, October 2010. More by Kopel on United Nations gun control.
Earlier this summer, the United Nations held two gun control meetings. At both, the Obama administration cooperating in advancing the international schemes that could eviscerate your rights.
One meeting was a July negotiation session for a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The other, in June, was a "Biennial Meeting of the States" to strengthen the U.N.'s 2001 Programme of Action (POA) on gun control. Both the ATT and the POA pose serious threats to Second Amendment rights. In combination, they could be deadly.
Let's start with the Arms Trade Treaty. The process for creating an ATT began in late 2006, against the strong opposition of John Bolton, who was then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. But soon after President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took power, they reversed the American position and announced that the United States now supported moving forward with the ATT. That treaty will likely be completed in July 2011, in time for President Obama to sign it.
Nobody knows for sure what the ATT will contain, but based on what transpired this July at the Arms Trade Treaty Preparatory Committee meeting, it seems likely that the treaty will mandate microstamping--a requirement that will add about 200 to the cost of a gun.
Microstamping is a patented process, and the patent holder has been lobbying governments to require the use of his product. With microstamping, the tip of the firing pin is laser-engraved with identifying information about the firearm. According to the sales pitch, when the firing pin hits the case, the case is stamped with the gun's unique markings. So when the case is recovered from a crime scene, it can be linked to the owner of the gun. Of course, making this work would require that all guns be registered.
However, three separate studies have unanimously agreed that microstamping doesn't work: National Academies of Science, "Ballistic Imaging" (2008); Howitt, Tulleners, Beddow, "What Laser Machining Technology Adds to Firearm Forensics: How Viable are Micro-Marked Firing Pins as Evidence?" (University of California, Davis, 2007); Krivosta, "NanoTag Markings from Another Perspective," Journal of the Association of Firearms and Toolmarks Examiners (Vol. 38, No.1, Winter 2006).
First of all, the patented device does not reliably stamp an identifiable number on the case. Second, a criminal can easily defeat the device by simply filing the firing pin head. Third, criminals could pick up empty casings from public firing ranges and dump them at crime scenes, thereby implicating innocent gun owners.
While failing to reduce crime, the $200-per-gun cost of mandatory microstamping would succeed in making guns much less affordable, especially for poorer people. The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI) explains that gun makers would have to spend millions of dollars in retooling their manufacturing and assembly processes to comply with microstamping mandates.
By longstanding U.S. law, the serial number must be engraved on the gun's receiver. In assembly, that receiver would have to be mated with a firing pin containing the same unique marking, even though the mark on the firing pin is invisible to the naked eye. If a firing pin was rejected for quality-control reasons, then the receiver (with the matching serial number) would be worthless.
In addition to microstamping, the ATT is likely to require registration of every gun and restrictions on arms sales, particularly on transfers between private individuals.
Another key component of the ATT will be the creation of more international arms embargoes, prohibiting the sale of firearms or of materials that can be used to make firearms (e.g., nickel, tungsten) to countries that violate human rights. (For details, see our Penn State Law Review article available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1437204.)
In the perverse world of the U.N., the worst human-rights violator in the world is Israel. According to George Soros' international gun prohibition lobbies, the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and Control Arms, Israel is an officially declared target for ATT embargoes.
Another potential target for an ATT arms embargo is the United States. In a report written by IANSA member Barbara Frey, the U.N. Human Rights Council Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights declared that gun laws in the United States are human-rights violations. According to the U.N., American gun-control laws (even in places like New York City) are so lax that they violate international human rights. Supposedly it is a human-rights violation for governments to allow crime victims or even police to shoot criminal predators such as rapists, arsonists and armed robbers. Based on the U.N.'s human-rights standards, if the criminal is only trying to rob you, rape you and burn your house, but not to murder you, then you must never be allowed to shoot him.
If the U.N. keeps to its schedule and finishes the ATT next summer, President Obama could then sign it on behalf of the United States. The ATT would become law in the United States if it were then ratified by two-thirds of the United States Senate. Consequently, the 2010 Senate elections could help determine whether the American people fall under the power of the U.N. gun control regime.
While a treaty cannot override the Second Amendment, a future U.S. Supreme Court packed with Obama appointees could simply decide that nothing in the Arms Trade Treaty violates the Second Amendment.
Interestingly, at the July meeting, Australian lobbyist Rebecca Peters resigned as head of IANSA. Before running IANSA, Peters was the mastermind of the great Australian gun confiscation in 1996, a close adviser of the so-called "Million" Mom March from 1998 to 1999 and the head of Soros' U.S. anti-gun operation. No reason has been given for her sudden and unexpected resignation, and the IANSA website has not been updated to acknowledge her departure.
The second major front in the U.N.'s anti-gun offensive is the 2001 Programme of Action (POA) for gun control. Unlike a treaty, the POA is not legally binding, but it does urge governments to intensify gun control and has been used all over the world as a pretext for national governments to restrict arms rights.
In 2006, there was a "Review Conference," where gun prohibitionists attempted to make the POA more severe and legally binding. Fortunately, they were thwarted by then-U.N. Ambassador Bolton. The next Review Conference is scheduled for 2012.
In between the review conferences, there are "Biennial Meetings of States" (BMS). The Biennial Meetings took place in 2003, 2005, 2008 and again this summer.
What the Obama administration did at the 2010 BMS reveals much about its long-term agenda.
We saw this first-hand, since two of us (Paul and Joanne) attended this summer's BMS. Of course, NRA was present at the BMS and at the Arms Trade Treaty meeting a few weeks later.
As the U.N. works to put together a global gun control system, they are copying much of the content of the Western Hemisphere gun control treaty known as CIFTA. (For its Spanish acronym; the English name is the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials.) President Clinton signed CIFTA, and President Obama has called for Senate ratification. Fortunately, Senate leaders have refused to allow CIFTA to come up for a Senate vote.
However, at the U.N. meeting, Federico Perazza of Uruguay presented a working paper setting out a model for global gun controls that he said should be adopted by every nation. Included in that working paper was an endorsement of the recommendations that the Organization of American States (OAS) has made for how nations should implement CIFTA. According to the U.N. Department of Public Information, "Stephen R. Costner (United States) said his delegation agreed with and supported 'virtually everything' in the working paper presented by Mr. Perazza. He noted a few comments for further consideration, but stressed that the paper was well thought out."
Costner properly reminded the U.N. that the Senate has not ratified CIFTA. However, in 2012, the U.N. could adopt a revised POA, with U.S. delegation support, based on Perazza's recommendations. And again with U.S. support, the U.N. could make the revised Programme of Action legally binding, as has been urged by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and by the Mexican diplomat who chaired the 2010 meeting.
The result would be that the United States would have accepted a legally binding international law obligation to impose U.N. gun control restrictions. If Congress refused to enact the model restrictions, the United States would be globally criticized for failing to live up to its international law obligations.
So what exactly are these model restrictions, "virtually all" of which the U.S. delegation endorsed?
To start with, they include a ban on the manufacture of ammunition (e.g., reloading) or firearms for personal use unless a person has a manufacturing license from the government.
The OAS also suggests that "unauthorized" acquisition of firearms or ammunition (e.g., you buy a gun or a box of ammunition from a friend) be criminalized because, supposedly, buying a gun or ammunition without prior government permission means that you are "trafficking" in firearms. Likewise, OAS proposes making it illegal to give 10 rounds of ammunition to a friend at a shooting range unless the government has approved that transaction in advance.
If a person is suspected of having "illicit" firearms or ammunition (e.g., ammunition reloaded at home), then a court "shall issue, at any time, without prior notification or hearing, a freezing or seizure order." In this case, a judge who never gave notice or allowed the opportunity for the individual to present their side of the story confiscates the individual's property.
The recommended prison term for violating these provisions is from one to 10 years.
Then there are the controls on "arms brokers." This does not just cover people who arrange for the sale of 3,000 rifles to foreign governments. Rather, according to the system adopted by the OAS and favored by the Obama administration's U.N. delegation, an "arms broker" is anyone who "for a fee, commission or other consideration, acts on behalf of others to negotiate or arrange contracts, purchases, sales or other means of transfer of firearms, their parts or components or ammunition." In other words, it is someone like a hunting guide who arranges that the local gun store have suitable ammunition on hand for the guide's clients.
Everyone who is an "arms broker" must have a license from the national government. The broker must file annual reports with the government specifying exactly what arms and ammunition he brokered, and to whom. For example: "Oct. 10, 2011, arranged for Fred's Hunting Supply store to have 50 rounds of ammunition: Winchester .270, 130 Grain Supreme Ballistic Silvertip. Client: Edward Smith, 123 Main Street, New Sharon, Iowa."
The hunting guide's office records would be subject to government inspection without need for a court order.
Then there's marking. U.S. law has long required that any firearm manufactured for sale in the United States, or commercially imported into the United States, must have a serial number and manufacturer identification. But that's not enough for OAS (or, apparently, for the Obama administration). The OAS demands that when a gun is imported the gun be separately marked to also show "the country of import, the importer's name and, whenever possible, the year of import."
This would, of course, impose a significant additional cost on all imported firearms.
Also, "wherever possible and appropriate, States should consider requiring appropriate markings on other structural components (such as barrels and slides) manufactured or imported for use as replacement parts for firearms." This would likely raise the cost of a firearm by at least several hundred dollars, for the same reason that mandatory serialization of firing pins would.
What about existing guns that don't have all these marks? According to the OAS's model laws for CIFTA, governments are required to outlaw these guns, creating the following criminal offense: "Except as authorized by the (State), every person commits an offense who deals in, transfers or possesses firearms that do not contain the corresponding markings required ..." If there's any thought of grandfathering the possession of current guns, the OAS model statute makes no mention of it.
Governments are required to maintain a database of the gun's serial number, along with the "name and location of the owner and legal user of a firearm and each subsequent owner and legal user thereof, when possible." In other words, this mandates universal gun registration.
Note that it's not just the gun owners and their guns that would be registered. So would every gun user. The registry must include the "name and location of the owner and legal user of a firearm and each subsequent owner and legal user thereof, when possible."
Canadian professor Gary Mauser spoke to the U.N. meeting and explained that the ambitious plan for universal, hyper-detailed gun registration was simply not feasible.
"Few countries in the world are capable of instituting complex regulatory schemes, such as owner licensing and firearm registration," Mauser said at the meeting. "Canada and South Africa both have strikingly failed to set up a workable national system."
Of course, he was right. As detailed in previous issues of America's 1st Freedom, the Canadian and South African gun registration schemes have been extremely expensive bureaucratic disasters, imposing major problems on gun owners, wasting enormous amounts of taxpayer money and law enforcement time and doing nothing to reduce crime. All that, and the registries created are riddled with inaccuracies.
Not surprisingly, for speaking truth to those in power, during his speech Prof. Mauser was disrespectfully jeered by the delegates and by the anti-gun lobbies who were present.
One thing you'll never find mentioned at the U.N. gun control meetings are the constitutions in the three dozen nations that guarantee the right to arms, the right of self-defense or the right to resist tyranny. The U.S. delegation is not the only one that is using the U.N. to end-run its own constitution.
The 2010 Biennial Meeting of States had lots of whining about "the need for resources." This is an indirect way for saying that United States taxpayers, who already get soaked for 22 percent of the U.N.'s general budget, should pay even more money to the U.N. in order to support gun registration and confiscation programs in other countries.
More U.S. taxpayer funding would also support U.N. global gun-control centers, such as the U.N.'s "Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean."
U.S. taxpayers might even be forced to pay more than their usual 22 percent of the U.N. budget, since the Iranian delegation, backed by some others, insists that "the weapon producers provide the assistance." (For details, see Kopel's July 20 web memo for The Heritage Foundation: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2010/07/As-the-UNs-Arms-Trade-Treaty-Process-Begins-UNs-Programme-of-Action-on-Small-Arms-Shows-Its-Dangers)
In virtually everything the U.N. does, law-abiding democratic nations and their citizens suffer all the burdens and constraints, while dictatorships flout international law with impunity. Thus, the BMS opening day included a speech by Iran's Khodadad Seifi Pargou complaining about "the close link between terrorism ... and the illicit trade in small arms." He urged that the U.N. arrange for technology to be transferred to Iran to facilitate "the tracing and detection of small arms and light weapons." Never mind that Iran itself is a leading global arms exporter to terrorists such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the American-killing jihadis in Iraq.
At the October 20, 2009, meeting of the U.N. General Assembly's First Committee (which deals with disarmament and international security), Sudanese delegate Kamal Khair fretted, "illicit small arms and light weapons affected poor and developing countries. Sudan was dedicated to fighting the spread of those weapons and was working to strengthen existing efforts on an international and national level."
He said, "financial assistance was needed, in accordance with chapter II of the Programme of Action." The Sudanese delegate further urged that arms-producing nations "refuse to export those arms to non-State actors." In other words, he wants a cut-off on the flow of arms to the various tribes in Sudan, which have been defending themselves against the Sudanese government's long-standing programs of genocide and ethnic cleansing.
In just this one article, we can't even begin to detail all the other U.N. gun control campaigns. For example, the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms collects import/export data about battle tanks, attack helicopters and armored combat vehicles, large caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, warships, missiles and launchers. France and some other nations are pushing to require this U.N. registry to include firearms.
With U.N. support, various global anti-gun groups have created the "Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development." The Geneva Declaration promotes global gun control on the basis of a factoid that 740,000 people per year are killed as a result of armed violence. That figure isn't true, as we explain in an article for the NYU Journal of Law & Liberty(http://ssrn.com/abstract=1580225).
Nevertheless, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is preparing a report on the Geneva Declaration, and you can bet the report will call for global gun control.
Simply put, the U.N. threats to your Second Amendment rights are intensifying, and the Obama administration is making the problem worse. Now is no time to let down your guard against the U.N.
Model CIFTA/U.N. laws discussed
in this article include: Model Legislation on the Marking and Tracing of
Firearms (April 19, 2007); Draft Model Legislation and Commentaries on
Legislative Measures to Establish Criminal Offenses (May 9, 2008);
Broker Regulations (Nov. 17-20, 2003). Available at
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Share this page:
Follow Dave on Twitter.
Search Kopel website:
Make a donation to support Dave Kopel's work in defense of constitutional
rights and public safety.
Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily representing the views of the Independence Institute or as an attempt to influence any election or legislative action. Please send comments to Independence Institute, 727 East 16th Ave., Denver, Colorado 80203 Phone 303-279-6536. (email)webmngr @ i2i.org
Copyright (c) 2014