The Hill Echoes False Republican Talking Points On UN Arms Trade Treaty

A November 19 article in The Hill repeated the false claim that the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty -- a proposal to crack down on the supply of weapons to human rights abusers -- poses a threat to private gun ownership in the United States.

In a piece that relied entirely on a House Resolution filed in opposition to the ATTHill reporter Pete Kasperowicz also credulously repeated suggestions that the treaty could impact assistance to Israel and Taiwan. In fact, both of these claims are contradicted by the text of the proposed treaty itself and by basic United Nations procedure.

Throughout the entire article, Kasperowicz does not cite any authorities to provide deeper context for the ATT, relying instead on the text of the House Resolution filed by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), which is quoted at length. From The Hill:

The resolution, whose main sponsor is Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), argues that the ATT does not recognize the right of American citizens to keep and bear arms, and thus threatens to undermine the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

The ATT's draft preamble 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 systems.” Furthermore, the Department of State has also declared that the United States will oppose any final treaty that contains “restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms otherwise permitted by law or protected by the U.S. Constitution.”

The idea that the ATT could act as a framework for the United Nations to make decisions about private gun ownership in the United States -- an idea originated by the National Rifle Association -- is so ridiculous that it has even been dismissed by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Claims that the ATT could “undermine the Second Amendment of the Constitution” are also preposterous given that the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution guarantees that rights granted by the Constitution are superior to all laws, including international treaties.

The Hill also repeated the House Resolution claim that United States arms exports to Israel and Taiwan could fall within the purview of ATT arms embargoes against dictators and other human rights abusers:

[The House Resolution] says further the treaty could have other consequences, including limiting the right of the United States to offer aid to Taiwan or Israel. 

According to the text of the proposed treaty, the ATT would allow for arms embargoes to be issued against countries engaged in “genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes constituting grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, or serious violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.” Opponents of the treaty, however, claim that these guidelines could lead to embargoes against United States allies, including Israel and Taiwan.

This claim has little basis in reality, given that the United States Security Council is the issuing body of arms embargoes. As a permanent member of that Council, the United States would possess the ability to unilaterally veto any proposed arms embargo. The Hill's reporting, however, failed to note that significant fact.