The latest cover story from the National Rifle Association magazine America's 1st Freedom pushes a baseless conspiracy that a proposed United Nations treaty to prevent the diversion of weapons to human rights abusers will be used by “the minions of tyrannical and thieving governments” to achieve “total disarmament of freedom-loving people all over the world.”
In reality, the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) seeks to address the fact that as many as 500,000 people are killed in armed violence each year worldwide by implementing -- on an international scale -- arms trade standards that are already used in the United States.
The piece, titled “Siege,” was authored by gun advocate David Kopel and shares pages in the February 2013 edition of America's 1st Freedom with an unhinged article by NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre that calls upon Americans to buy firearms to ensure their “survival.”
Despite Kopel's claim that U.N. officials will deviously interpret the ATT to disarm civilian populations and ultimately “destroy much of what remains of lawful gun ownership,” the treaty explicitly disallows such interference by the U.N. in the sovereign affairs of nations. The latest draft of the ATT expressly prohibits the imposition of domestic firearms regulations upon parties to the treaty by "[r]eaffirming 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."
Kopel, who is an adjunct law professor at the University of Denver, makes a contrived and baseless legal argument to suggest that liberal federal judges would use the ATT to undermine the Second Amendment. According to Kopel, “Of course, a treaty cannot repeal the Second Amendment, but it can influence how courts interpret the Second Amendment. Further, to influence a court's decisions, a treaty need not be even ratified.”
But Kopel fails to acknowledge that treaties can only be cited by judges in accord with the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which plainly states that the law of the Constitution is supreme to all other laws. In fact, the Supreme Court specifically ruled that international treaties are inferior to the U.S. Constitution in Reid v. Covert. In that case, the Supreme Court held, “It would be manifestly contrary to the objectives of those who created the Constitution, as well as those who were responsible for the Bill of Rights - let alone alien to our entire constitutional history and tradition - to construe [the Supremacy Clause] as permitting the United States to exercise power under an international agreement without observing constitutional prohibitions.”
Furthermore, lower courts are bound by the doctrine of stare decisis, meaning that any court's rulings must comport with the decisions of higher courts, including the Supreme Court. This means that any court decision interpreting the Second Amendment must be in line with the 2008 Supreme Court decision District of Columbia v. Heller which found that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm in the home for the purpose of self-defense.
In addition to the constitutional safeguards in place, the Department of State has taken the further step of stating that it will not agree to an ATT that restricts “civilian possession or trade of firearms otherwise permitted by law or protected by the U.S. Constitution,” and that “There will be no dilution or diminishing of sovereign control over issues involving the private acquisition, ownership, or possession of firearms, which must remain matters of domestic law.”
Kopel's article follows the NRA's baseless claims about the ATT for the purposes of fearmongering and fundraising. During a July 5, 2012 appearance on Fox News, NRA leader LaPierre claimed that the enactment of the ATT could lead to Americans being added to “that pile of dead people left defenseless by the U.N. policies” and further stated that the treaty “says to people in the United States turn over your personal protection and your firearms to the government.” In his 2011 book “America Disarmed: Inside the U.N. & Obama's Scheme to Destroy the Second Amendment” LaPierre claimed 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.” In the same book, LaPierre also suggested that the 2001 United Nations Small Arms and Light Weapons Destruction Day could “help set the stage for mass executions of gun owners.”