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Jul 27 2011

Manchin, Colleagues Warn Obama: Arms Treaty Must Not Infringe on Gun Rights

Senators outline strict conditions for U.N. Arms Trade Treaty proposal

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has called on President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to guarantee the Second Amendment rights of all law-abiding Americans while negotiating the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty, which must be ratified by the Senate. 

Senator Manchin joined his Senate colleagues, led by Senator John Tester (D-Mont.) in a letter stating that that the arms trade treaty must not “in any way regulate the domestic manufacture, possession, or sales of firearms or ammunition” in the United States. 

“I am a proud gun owner and like all West Virginians, I strongly believe in the Second Amendment. Our great country is great because of our freedoms, like the Second Amendment, and America should never sign agreements that infringe on our cherished Constitutional rights and freedoms,” Senator Manchin said. “I strongly urge the President and the Administration not to use this Arms Trade Treaty as a backdoor route to infringe on the freedoms of law-abiding Americans and our Second Amendment rights.”  

The letter also warns that the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty:

  • Must guarantee that joining countries “will maintain the exclusive authority to regulate arms within their own borders,” a condition the Senators say is “non-negotiable.”

  • Must not include “small arms, light weapons, ammunition or related materials that would make the treaty overly broad and virtually unenforceable.”

  • Must not establish “any sort of international gun registry that could impede on the privacy rights of law-abiding gun owners.” 

The NRA praised these Senators’ efforts: 

“As we have for nearly two decades, the NRA will fight to stop any United Nations treaty that infringes on the constitutional rights of American gun owners,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director, NRA Institute for Legislative Action. “This effort sends a clear message to the international bureaucrats who want to eliminate our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms. Clearly, a U.N. Arms Trade Treaty that includes civilian arms within its scope is not supported by the American people or a bi-partisan majority of the U.S. Senate.  We are grateful for Sen. Tester’s leadership on this critical issue.”

The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, which must be ratified by the Senate, aims to improve regulation of the international trade of conventional weapons and set standards to ensure that arms are only transferred for appropriate use.  

The letter notes that the United States has adopted a rigorous system of arms export controls that other nations should follow. 

Text of the letter follows:

July 26, 2011

The Honorable Barack Obama
President 
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear President Obama and Secretary Clinton,                                                                               

As staunch defenders of the rights of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms, we write regarding ongoing negotiations of the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty, and to express concerns about any provisions that could potentially infringe upon those rights. 

We support efforts to better regulate the international trade of conventional weapons, but such efforts must be done in a responsible manner.  We should do everything we can to ensure these weapons do not end up in the hands of human rights abusers, terrorist groups, insurgents or organized criminal enterprises. Further, we should not allow the unregulated trade of these weapons to continue fueling conflict and instability in nations around the world.  The profound human and economic toll from these conflicts is staggering and the subsequent impact on our nation’s economic and security interests is increasing.  The United States has adopted a rigorous system of arms export controls and it is time for other nations to abide by some of those same standards. 

For the past few years, negotiations for the Arms Trade Treaty have progressed.  As your Administration continues to engage in these negotiations, we strongly urge you to address a number of our concerns.   

First and foremost, the Arms Trade Treaty must not in any way regulate the domestic manufacture, possession or sales of firearms or ammunition. Firearms possession is an individual right guaranteed by the Second Amendment and that cannot be subordinated, directly or indirectly, by any international treaty.  We are encouraged that your administration is working to ensure that signatory countries will maintain the exclusive authority to regulate arms within their own borders. That must continue to be non-negotiable.  We also oppose any inclusion of small arms, light weapons, ammunition or related materials that would make the Treaty overly broad and virtually unenforceable. Finally, the establishment of any sort of international gun registry that could impede upon the privacy rights of law-abiding gun owners is a non-starter. 

As members of the United States Senate, it is our constitutional responsibility to advise and consent on the ratification of the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty.  Before we could support ratification, we must have assurances that our concerns are adequately addressed and that the Treaty will not in any way impede upon the Constitutional rights of American gun owners. Anything short of this commitment would be unacceptable.

We appreciate your consideration on this issue and look forward to your response. 

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