Heritage Foundation Shoots Down Right-Wing U.N. Gun Grab Conspiracy

The right-leaning Heritage Foundation has thrown cold water on the revival a conspiracy theory pushed on Fox News by contributor Dick Morris and the National Rifle Association that the United Nation's Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is actually a sinister Obama administration plot to eliminate the right of private individuals to own a firearm.

During a Heritage Blogger Briefing, senior research fellow Ted Bromund stated, “I don't think that the ATT is a gun confiscation measure for a variety of reasons. First, because I don't regard that as within the bounds of possibility in the United States and secondly, because that is not what the text says.”

Bromund's assessment is correct. The stated goal of the treaty is to regulate the international trade of firearms in order to prevent the diversion of arms to human rights abusers, and the most recent version of the treaty's text expressly prohibits the regulation of firearm ownership within sovereign nations.

The preamble of the July 26 treaty draft clearly "reaffirm[s] the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system." Furthermore, the Department of State has stated that it will oppose any treaty that contains “restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms otherwise permitted by law or protected by the U.S. Constitution.”

Despite convincing evidence that the treaty seeks only to regulate international trade -- and that any treaty limiting rights granted by the United States Constitution would be considered invalid -- the conspiracy theory persists. Morris, who has pushed theory on Fox News, and NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, both dedicated space in their latest books to advance the claim.

“Here Come The Black Helicopters!” a book released by Morris on October 9 devotes an entire chapter -- “UN Forces Gun Control on America” -- to the subject. Morris first erroneously writes that "[t]he Second Amendment to the US Constitution, granting our citizens the right to bear arms, may be facing de facto repeal in the Arms Trade Treaty now being pushed by the UN." [Here Come The Black Helicopters!, p. 43]

Morris, citing the claims of “Second Amendment rights” publication The Independent Sentinel, states that the treaty would allow the Obama administration to "[c]onfiscate and destroy all 'unauthorized' civilian firearms (all firearms owned by the government are excluded, of course)" and "[b]an the trade, sale and private ownership of all semi-automatic weapons." [Here Come The Black Helicopters!, p. 46] In fact, Heritage's Bromund himself is cited as a supporter of Morris' confiscation theory, even though Bromund -- a critic of other aspects of the ATT -- clearly does not believe that threat of gun confiscation is real. [Here Come The Black Helicopters!, p. 48]

Following a November 7 vote by the U.S. Mission to the U.N. to continue treaty negotiations, the NRA was quick to cite the United States' ongoing commitment as evidence of an Obama conspiracy to confiscate firearms. LaPierre, who has also pushed U.N. gun confiscation claims on Fox News, wrote about the ATT at length in his 2011 book “America Disarmed: Inside the U.N. & Obama's Scheme to Destroy the Second Amendment.”

According to LaPierre, the ATT would ban the importation of firearms in the United States by classifying American gun owners as human rights abusers “because U.S. laws allow crime victims to shoot rapists, arsonists, and carjackers.” [America Disarmed, p. 66] Ignoring that the United States would not a support a treaty that regulates domestic firearm ownership, LaPierre went on to claim that "any U.N. firearms treaty that becomes law in the U.S. could become a platform for the imposition of extremist gun control, with U.N. bureaucrats, not U.S. voters, making the decisions." [America Disarmed, p. 119]

Not one to limit his fearmongering, LaPierre also attacked the U.N. Programme of Action, the framework the U.N. uses to address small arms violence, writing, “Any Americans who aren't worried about firearms being confiscated have their heads in the sand.” [America Disarmed, p. 13]