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Guess Who Brought a Gun to the Treaty Fight?

Negotiations begin tomorrow for a UN treaty that would track global arms sales and shipments aimed at stopping the flow of weapons into conflict zones. The NRA’s lobbyists have been working overtime recently to oppose domestic gun control legislation, but they are preparing to open up an international front to oppose this treaty. Though the lobby expects the treaty to pass at the UN, they are prepared to kill it when it returns home for ratification. The Washington Post reports:

The treaty, which has been years in the making, would cover battle tanks, artillery, combat aircraft, warships and missiles as well as small arms and light weapons. Global sales of conventional arms reach tens of billions of dollars annually, and the biggest players are the United States, China and Russia. […]

The gun lobby fears that the treaty would be used to regulate civilian weapons. Human rights activists counter that it would reduce the trafficking of weapons, including small arms such as the ubiquitous AK-47 assault rifle, to outlaw regimes and rebel groups engaged in atrocities against civilian populations.

American history is full of examples of internationally minded, humanistic types coming up with good ideas for treaties—which the US Senate never ratifies. The classic example was Wilson’s Treaty of Versailles which set up the League of Nations. This one may very well be heading down the same well-trod path. Treaties take the support of a 2/3 majority of the Senate to be ratified, and there are almost certainly 34 senators to be found who are ready to stand with the NRA against the UN.

To an administration, doing things like this can appear to make sense: pander to the idealists and the Wilsonians, and get international brownie points for trying to go along with the ‘global consensus’. But this one could be a real loser: the belief that the Obama administration is trying in some way to give the UN control over Americans’ right to bear arms will galvanize the Jacksonian vote in 2014 in a big way.

The Obama administration should realize that without at least grudging Jacksonian support, this treaty—or any international treaty for that matter—is DOA in the Senate. So what is an administration to do? Negotiate with the Jacksonians first to get them on board. Then have a couple of people they trust closely involved in the negotiations and pay close attention to their views as negotiations with foreigners proceed.

If that doesn’t happen in this case, a car crash is almost a sure thing.

[Andrew Jackson portrait courtesy of Wikimedia]

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