by Alex Emmons, Co-Coordinator
I grew up in Fairfax, Virginia, 10 minutes from the national headquarters of the NRA. I know a lot of gun owners. I also know that local gun owners understand the responsibility that comes with being armed. I respect gun ownership – on the condition that gun owners are nonviolent and law-abiding. I also maintain that if someone demonstrates violence or insanity, they should not be given a gun.
That was the message of a June 2012 Amnesty International protest in Times Square. This message, however, was not about local gun owners. Protestors were instead demonstrating for stronger controls on the international arms trade. Under present rules, arms merchants are free to sell military weapons to dictators, terrorists, and perpetrators of gender-based violence.
By selling guns to human rights violators, arms dealers profit from enabling oppression, slaughter, and rape. The international arms trade has been guilty of keeping dictators like Bashir Al-Assad and Saddam Hussein in power. Arms merchants have also enabled civilian violence and mass rape – like that committed by the army of and various militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Representatives to the UN convened in July to negotiate a solution. With the world’s first ever Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the UN attempted to ban the export of weapons to the world’s worst human rights violators. Contrary to the criticisms of the NRA, the ATT did not address domestic gun sales or ownership.
But that didn’t stop President Obama from killing the treaty. On the final day of negotiations, American delegates declared that they had not been given enough time to read the 11-page treaty. Their interests were all too clear. The United States is the largest exporter of weaponry. American arms exporters make about 25 billion dollars a year by arming the world. Any regulation at the international level would come with a noticeable cost to American industry.
Treaty negotiations ironically failed one week after the terrible tragedy in Aurora Colorado. President Obama had just finished calling the nation to “prayer and reflection” about arming dangerous men. It is clear that he is not willing to stand strong on that point in the international arena. And the world will continue to suffer for it.
The ATT is a necessary measure for a world safe from dictators and terrorists. Tell heads of state to support the ATT by signing the Control Arms Campaign’s petition.