US votes against control of illegal arms

Apparently the illegal trade in arms is linked to 1,000 deaths per day. But that number does not impress the US National Rifle Association, as they apparently were upset by 2,000 international UN delegates working together last June to stem illegal trade in small arms:

The conference has drawn the ire of the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful lobby of US gun owners which views it as a first step toward a global treaty to outlaw gun ownership by civilians.

Addressing those concerns, Annan stressed that there was no question of negotiating a global ban.

“Our energy, our emphasis and our anger is directed against illegal weapons, not legal weapons,” he said. “Our targets remain unscrupulous arms brokers, corrupt officials, drug trafficking syndicates, criminals and others who bring death and mayhem into our communities.”

The faces on the petition handed to Annan represented the million people who have been killed by small arms since 2003.

640 million illegal small arms floating around the world today and the NRA is worried about the impact to legal access? Who needs legal access when illegal is so prevalent? Besides, is the slope that slippery? If the NRA applied their argument to logging they would argue against someone being banned from cutting down protected species in the Amazon because it would somehow threaten the business of Christmas tree farms in the US.

Interesting to note who is at the top of the list of arms sale and what is defined as small arms:

Most deaths in conflicts around the world are caused by small arms, which are mainly exported by the United States, Italy, Brazil, Germany, and Belgium, according to a survey released by Small Arms Survey, the brainchild of a Geneva-based independent research project.

“Small arms” include handguns, pistols, rifles, sub-machine guns, mortars, grenades and light missiles. “Light weapons” comprise heavy machine-guns, mounted grenade launchers, anti-tank guns and portable anti-aircraft guns.

Sub-machine guns, mortars, and light missiles are the mainstay of the Taleban, Hamas, Hezbollah and al Qaeda forces (to name a few in recent news). And 200,000 people per year are shot in homicides, with another 50,000 dead by gun suicide, as reported in the Guardian. So one would think that the US would favor trade restrictions that reduce the flow of illegal weapons, right? Actually, the BBC reports that the opposite appears to be the case:

The measure would close loopholes in existing laws which mean guns still end up in conflict zones despite arms embargoes and export controls.

It could also stop the supply of weapons to countries whose development is being hampered by arms spending.

Only the US – a major arms manufacturer – voted against the treaty, saying it wanted to rely on existing agreements.

It is probably less relevant that the US is an arms manufacturer than the fact it is interested in supplying arms to whomever it wants to. So the control of manufacturing is a good start, but the negative vote by the US as well as the abstentions by Russia and China, show that the bigger issue is controlling the countries who wish to proliferate arms to achieve geo-political ambitions. The BBC points out several countries manufacturing the arms actually voted for the measure:

Major weapons manufacturers such as Britain, France and Germany voted to begin work on the treaty, as did major emerging arms exporters Bulgaria and Ukraine.

This supports the point above that these countries have less national or political cause for trade in illegal arms. In fact, there may be room for disassociation between the arms companies and the government in these other states, unlike the US, Russia and China. That is to say, the US developed, armed and trained the Taleban in Afghanistan to fight a large conventional army (USSR) not because they wanted to profit on stinger missle sales but because they believed that destabilization of the region by militant extremists would serve their short-term political objectives. Were those light missles illegal then? Would they be illegal today? CBS news reveals that the NRA has been informing people that there is no need to waste time on such a distinction between legal and illegal arms and to oppose the control measure by the UN:

Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, said in a message on the NRA Web site that the conference seeks to draft a treaty that would “pass a global treaty banning ownership of firearms.”

That bit of hyperbole and misinformation (e.g. lie) resulted in hundreds of thousands of letters (approximately 4,000/day) sent to the president-designate of the UN by NRA members, with many of the letters based on a form from the NRA website. One can only hope, since these letters were based on pure fiction, that the US position was not influenced by them. Then again, the US did impatiently blow-off the UN and invade Iraq on the premise of imminent danger from WMD. The Bush administration pandering to highly partisan extremists and wearing reality blinders should not be a surprise to anyone:

All three of the public delegates chosen by the U.S. government are strong NRA supporters. In fact, two of the three delegates (Keene and Gilmore) are current board members of the NRA. The third, former Congressman John, received an “A+â€? rating by the NRA while in office. […] The appointment of the three public delegates is a symbolic reminder of the U.S. attitude towards the UN process – that the views of one interest group dominate the agenda.


One thought on “US votes against control of illegal arms”

  1. Just astonishing. This really undermines the idea that the NRA is just a group interested in protecting their own legal rights.

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