Our Valentine to the NRA: A Global Arms Trade Treaty Will Save Lives

We shared the love today!

Over 6,000 of you took the first step with us in our campaign to pass a treaty that will keep weapons out of the hands of dictators, warlords, and human rights abusers. And today we took your Valentine’s Day message directly to the National Rifle Association.

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And we weren’t alone. This week, our voices were joined by tens of thousands of supporters from Amnesty International and Oxfam in challenging the treaty’s biggest opponent, NRA lobbyists. Our collective efforts are putting the gun lobby on the run and weakening their efforts to derail the negotiations for the Arms Trade Treaty.

Starting in March, we will ask you to join us in taking the next step in pushing for the strongest possible language to prevent warlords from getting the weapons and push President Obama to fulfill his commitment not only to protecting children at home, but children across the world.

The Arms Trade Treaty won’t solve all of our problems, but as former child soldier Ishmael Beah of Sierra Leone puts it, “The treaty is not a panacea to end all violence, genocide and human rights abuses, but it is a colossal step in the right direction. It’s time to make the world a safer place.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Here’s the copy of the letter we delivered along with the Valentines to the President of the National Rifle Association:

David Keene, President
National Rifle Association of America
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, VA 22030

Dear Mr. Keene,

On behalf of hundreds of thousands of Americans who care deeply about preventing genocide and mass atrocities, I am writing to appeal to you to reconsider your opposition to the global Arms Trade Treaty.

The Arms Trade Treaty supports a notion that we think everyone can agree on: no arms for those who would commit atrocities.

The Treaty would make it more difficult and costly for serious human rights violators to carry out genocide, mass atrocities, and other abuses. Far from limiting the rights of Americans or putting them in danger, the Arms Trade Treaty would serve to protect America’s missionaries and men and women in uniform, not to mention potentially saving the lives of hundreds of thousands.

We have listened closely to your arguments and concerns about the Arms Trade Treaty and thought carefully about them. We ask that you in turn please consider the following:

Fact #1: The Arms Trade Treaty would have no effect on the Second Amendment. In referring to the Arms Trade Treaty discussion, the U.S. State Department has stated unequivocally that, “The Second Amendment to the Constitution must be upheld” and that it will oppose any treaty that contains “restrictions on civilian possession of firearms otherwise permitted by law or protected by the U.S. Constitution.” Understanding this redline, the drafters of the Treaty included language in their latest draft, that “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.” Even if those positions were to change, the Supreme Court ensures that no treaty can override the Constitution (see Geofroy v.Riggs 1890 and Reid v. Covert 1957).

Fact #2: Perpetrators of genocide and atrocities WILL be affected by the Arms Trade Treaty. The goal of the treaty is to regulate the international trade of weapons in order to prevent the diversion of arms to human rights abusers. The Arms Trade Treaty is not about taking arms out of the hands of law abiding citizens, whether in the United States or abroad, but rather about keeping them out of the hands of the world’s worst human rights abusers. In fact, rather than changing U.S. laws, the Treaty would force other countries to meet the higher standards of international trade in weapons to those already in place under U.S. law. The treaty would close loopholes exploited by international arms traffickers to supply weapons to warlords, terrorists, and severe human rights abusers. It would further provide added legal tools to hold those who sell weapons to human rights abusers accountable. Between 2006 and 2011 the United States worked on at least 70 prosecutions charging defendants with crimes related to illegal arms brokering, yet has faced difficulties in bringing arms brokers to justice.

Fact #3: The Arms Trade Treaty is in America’s moral and national security interest. The Treaty protects legitimate trade and cracks down on weapons sales to war criminals and terrorists including those that would target U.S. humanitarians and soldiers. Former missionaries and U.S. military officers alike have come out in favor of a global Arms Trade Treaty, citing that it would help to protect those carrying out humanitarian work and American men and women in uniform. As Admiral Stuart Platt (Ret.) has stated, “Drug cartels in Mexico, insurgent fighters in Afghanistan, warlords in Sudan, and pirates in Somalia thrive off of the lax global regulation of weapons and ammunition sales. The ATT [Arms Trade Treaty] gives us an opportunity to clamp down and stop this spread of terror and violence.” In short, the Treaty is good news for America and the international community and bad news for war criminals and terrorists.

Fact #4: The Arms Trade Treaty won’t stop all illegal weapons flows. Proponents of the Arms Trade Treaty are not claiming that it would stop all bad actors from getting weapons, but it would provide an important strengthened framework for making it less likely than it is in the patchwork system that currently exists. Only 56 countries currently have regulations controlling arms brokers, less than half of those with associated criminal penalties. This would be like having only 7 states in the United States with laws and criminal penalties for crimes. The fact that all 50 states have such laws and penalties hasn’t prevented everyone from committing crimes, but it does make it much more difficult. People are still going to try to do bad things, but we can make it much harder for them to do it and hold them accountable. As former child soldier Ishmael Beah of Sierra Leone puts it, “The treaty is not a panacea to end all violence, genocide and human rights abuses, but it is a colossal step in the right direction. It’s time to make the world a safer place.”

To be blunt, opposing the Arms Trade Treaty, is opposing cracking down on weapons sales to those who commit genocide, warlords, and terrorists who kill American troops and humanitarian workers serving abroad. We sincerely hope that upon consideration of the facts you will recognize that the global Arms Trade Treaty is NOT a threat to the rights of gun owners in the United States but an important step forward toward the prevention of genocide and other atrocities.