NRA's Cox Deceives Over Arms Trade Treaty

National Rifle Association chief lobbyist Chris Cox claims in Guns & Ammo magazine that a proposed United Nations Arms Trade Treaty is “completely unnecessary” because the United States “operates what even Hillary Clinton admits is the 'gold standard' of export controls for arms transfers.'” But Clinton made that comment while expressing U.S. support for a treaty that would “promote the same high standards for the entire international community.”

Cox Cropped Clinton Quote To Argue Treaty Is “Completely Unnecessary”

NRA's Cox: Clinton Comment Shows Treaty Is “Completely Unnecessary.” In a column for the November issue of Guns & Ammo, Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, wrote:

During the Bush presidency, American gun owners had an ally in the White House. But President Obama reversed course, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing hope for a “strong and robust treaty that contains the highest possible, legally binding standards.”

The final version of the treaty isn't due out until 2012, but the Chairman's draft version that was made available in July is troubling. It predictably includes small arms and light weapons in the scope of the treaty's control, but goes as far as to cover firearm ammunition, “parts and components” and “technology and equipment” designed to “develop, manufacture or maintain” firearms. How far will the international bureaucrats take these definitions? Scopes? Slings? Cleaning patches? Making the treaty completely unnecessary is that the U.S. already operates what even Hillary Clinton admits is the “gold standard of export controls for arms transfers.” [Guns & Ammo, 11/1/11, via Nexis, emphasis added]

Clinton Was Arguing For Extending U.S. “Gold Standard” Internationally Through Treaty

In 2009, Clinton Said U.S. Supported Negotiations Toward A U.N. Arms Trade Treaty Under Certain Circumstances. From Clinton's October 14, 2009 statement:

Conventional arms transfers are a crucial national security concern for the United States, and we have always supported effective action to control the international transfer of arms.

The United States is prepared to work hard for a strong international standard in this area by seizing the opportunity presented by the Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations. As long as that Conference operates under the rule of consensus decision-making needed to ensure that all countries can be held to standards that will actually improve the global situation by denying arms to those who would abuse them, the United States will actively support the negotiations. Consensus is needed to ensure the widest possible support for the Treaty and to avoid loopholes in the Treaty that can be exploited by those wishing to export arms irresponsibly. [Remarks by Clinton, 10/14/09]

Clinton's Full Comment States Treaty Could Allow U.S. To “Promote The Same High Standards” U.S. Has “For The Entire International Community.” From Clinton's October 14, 2009 statement, with the portion highlighted by Cox in bold:

On a national basis, the United States has in place an extensive and rigorous system of controls that most agree is the “gold standard” of export controls for arms transfers. On a bilateral basis, the United States regularly engages other states to raise their standards and to prohibit the transfer or transshipment of capabilities to rogue states, terrorist groups, and groups seeking to unsettle regions. Multilaterally, we have consistently supported high international standards, and the Arms Trade Treaty initiative presents us with the opportunity to promote the same high standards for the entire international community that the United States and other responsible arms exporters already have in place to ensure that weaponry is transferred for legitimate purposes. [Remarks by Clinton, 10/14/09]

Without A Treaty, Small Arms Are Flowing From Non-U.S. Markets To Human Rights Abusers

U.N.: Illicit Trade In Small Arms “Wreaks Havoc Everywhere.” From the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs:

The illicit trade in small arms, light weapons and ammunition wreaks havoc everywhere. Mobs terrorizing a neighbourhood. Rebels attacking civilians or peacekeepers. Drug lords randomly killing law enforcers or anyone else interfering with their illegal businesses. Bandits hijacking humanitarian aid convoys. In all continents, uncontrolled small arms form a persisting problem.


The majority of conflict deaths are caused by the use of small arms, and civilian populations bear the brunt of armed conflict more than ever. Also, small arms are the dominant tools of criminal violence. The rate of firearms-related homicides in post-conflict societies often outnumbers battlefield deaths. These weapons are also linked to the increasing number of killings of UN employees and peacekeepers, as well as workers from humanitarian and non-governmental organizations.

Small arms facilitate a vast spectrum of human rights violations, including killing, maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, enforced disappearance, torture, and forced recruitment of children by armed groups. More human rights abuses are committed with small arms than with any other weapon. Furthermore, where the use of armed violence becomes a means for resolving grievances and conflicts, legal and peaceful dispute resolution suffers and the rule of law cannot be upheld. [, Small Arms, accessed 10/19/11]

U.N. General Assembly: Treaty Conference Needed To Prevent “Diversion To The Illicit Market” Which Promotes “Armed Conflict.” From the U.N. General Assembly resolution on the Arms Trade Treaty:

Recognizing that the absence of commonly agreed international standards for the transfer of conventional arms that address, inter alia, the problems relating to the unregulated trade of conventional arms and their diversion to the illicit market is a contributory factor to armed conflict, the displacement of people, organized crime and terrorism, thereby undermining peace, reconciliation, safety, security, stability and sustainable social and economic development,


Decides, therefore, to convene a United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty to meet for four consecutive weeks in 2012 to elaborate a legally binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms [Resolution adopted by the General Assembly 64/48, 12/2/09]

Treaty's Supporters Say It Is Intended To Stop Arms From Flowing To Human Rights Abusers, Not Regulate Domestic Arms Sales. From an October 2009 Washington Post article on Clinton's statement that the U.S. supported treaty negotiations:

“No government is discussing a treaty that would ever impact the right to bear arms, nor require regulation of domestic sales of arms,” said Scott Stedjan, a senior policy adviser at the relief group Oxfam America. “This is totally about international transfer of arms so that they don't go to human rights abusers.”

The United States is the world's largest supplier of conventional weapons, accounting last year for nearly 70 percent of the global arms sales on contracts valued at $37.8 billion. Italy and Russia were second and third, with $3.7 billion and $3.5 billion in arms sales, according to figures compiled by the Congressional Research Service.

Arms control experts and rights advocates welcomed the U.S. commitment to participate in U.N. talks, saying the negotiations could help impose some basic rules in an industry that operates in the shadows, fuels conflicts and provides arms to terrorist groups and insurgents. [Washington Post, 10/16/09]