At the United Nations, Secretary of State John Kerry signed the Arms Trade Treaty on behalf of the United States today (Photo: Think Progress).

At the United Nations, Secretary of State John Kerry signed the Arms Trade Treaty on behalf of the United States today (Photo: Think Progress).

In a great victory for genocide prevention, Secretary of State John Kerry has signed the global Arms Trade Treaty!  The United States becomes the 91st country to sign the treaty designed to prohibit states from transferring conventional arms to states, like Burma, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Syria, where those weapons would be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity, and/or war crimes.

United to End Genocide has long supported the Arms Trade Treaty, urging President Obama to support it, and we welcome this historic step. By signing the treaty, the United States helps set a global precedent that will encourage other countries to move the treaty to the next step: ratification.

While the treaty still needs to be approved by the U.S. Congress, the signature from the United States is significantly important to the success of the ATT because it will:

  1. Put pressure on other key arms sellers and buyers, including Russia, China, and India, to join the treaty.
  2. Add to the growing momentum for entry of the treaty into force, which will trigger transparency and national implementation steps that can cut down on irresponsible and illicit arms transfers that threaten civilians and contribute to human rights abuses.
  3. Open the way for the United States to provide assistance and cooperation with other states regarding treaty implementation, especially with the development of export control systems.

In order for the Arms Trade Treaty to be entered into force, 50 states must ratify the document, and it will then require all state parties:

  1. To set up a national control system, if they have not already done so, that regulates the exportation of certain categories of conventional arms, along with the ammunition and components of the arms
  2. To maintain national records of arms exports and provide annual reports of arms transfers

The next step in the United States would be for the Congress to vote on acceptance of the ATT. There is strong opposition to the treaty within the U.S. Congress, largely based on misunderstanding about what the treaty would mean for Second Amendment gun rights in the United States. The treaty clearly does not affect those rights. Those in opposition to the ATT should bear in mind that the only countries to oppose its adoption at the United Nations were Iran, North Korea, and Syria.

United to End Genocide welcomes the signing of the ATT and urges the United States to continue to lead the international community in efforts to abate the unregulated arms trade and to prevent human rights abusers from committing more violent killings.

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