Secretary of State John Kerry signed his name to the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) on behalf of the United States. The treaty seeks to reign in the global arms trafficking business that ships large amounts of weapons, from tanks to machine guns, to war zones and brutal dictatorships around the world.
Secretary of State John Kerry signed the treaty on behalf of the United States on Wednesday, making the U.S. the 91st country to do so. “I signed it because President Obama knows that from decades of efforts that anytime we work with cooperatively with the illicit trade in conventional weapons, we make the world a safe place,” Kerry said. “And this treaty is a significant step in that effort.”
The legal arms trade, comprised of both the import and export weapons, constitutes around $70 billion annually. Attack helicopters, tanks, and other larger arms are covered under the treaty, as well as small arms and ammunition for these weapons. Under the terms of the treaty, states are required to determine whether the shipment of arms to a second country would be used to commit atrocities or violate human rights or if they could diverted for such a purpose, and report back to the U.N. Secretariat on their efforts.
Counter to worries that the ATT will constitute an infringement of the Second Amendment in the United States, the American Bar Association has concluded that Americans needn’t fear such an outcome. As the ABA points out in their white paper, import restrictions on firearms have been ruled constitutionally valid. At present, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms already regulates and tracks the import of firearms into the United States, leaving no need for further domestic legislation regarding the ATT’s implementation. Exports of firearms, the ABA also notes, are not protected under the Second Amendment.
Unfortunately, the treaty still has to be ratified by the Senate, which requires a 2/3 vote and the wingnuts likely have the votes to block it at the moment. The right wing has good company in their opposition to the treaty, though. Three nations voted against it at the UN — Iran, Syria and North Korea.