At the end of last week, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. is withdrawing from a United Nations global arms trade regulation.
Speaking to a crowd in Indianapolis, Trump told a cheering crowd of National Rifle Association members that the U.N.’s Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which regulates the international weapons trade, was “badly misguided” and said that the U.S. was withdrawing its signature. “We will never allow foreign bureaucrats to trample on your Second Amendment freedom,” said Trump.
It’s important for the observer to understand the full significance of Trump’s withdrawal from ATT. Far from just another pandering to the gun lobby (although Trump did admittedly run for office on a very pro-gun platform), the the move is more a rejection of the globalist agenda and how it affects national sovereignty.
The U.S. became a signatory to ATT under the Obama administration (shock) back in 2013, despite intense opposition from pro-gun organizations, civil liberties institutions, and a large bipartisan consensus in the Senate. The issues these groups had with ATT at the time were summed up with this statement of the Legislative Action (ILA), the lobby arm of NRA:
Anti-gun treaty proponents continue to mislead the public, claiming the treaty would have no impact on American gun owners. This is a bald-faced lie. For example, the most recent draft treaty includes export/import controls that would require officials in an importing country to collect information on the “end user” of a firearm, keep the information for 20 years, and provide the information to the country from which the gun was exported. In other words, if you bought a Beretta Shotgun, you would be an “end user” and the U.S. government would have to keep a record of you and notify the Italian government about your purchase. That is gun registration. If the U.S. refuses to implement this data collection on law-abiding American gun owners, other nations might be required to ban the export of firearms to the U.S.
To drive home the absurdity of ATT’s administration, consider this interesting fact. The nation chosen to vice-chair the treaty’s oversight in 2012 was none other than the Islamic Republic of Iran, a country that even then was already under international sanctions for, you guessed it, rampant weapons proliferation.
Many have pointed to Trump’s trigger-happy tendency to withdraw from international commitments. While this trend is real, it would be a mistake to throw all jettisoned treaties into one bag. The rejection of the Iran nuclear deal, for instance, was dispensed with simply because it was a really bad deal that enabled a lot of really bad things to take place all over the world. Nixing ATT is different. The decision goes beyond the efficacy of the deal and its potential consequences. As far as the Trump administration is concerned, ATT is an encroachment on U.S. sovereignty, plain and simple. Trump and his people are generally uneasy about any international legal structure that threatens Americans. This was seen in the recent controversies surrounding the International Criminal Court; it was seen last week regarding ATT, and it will likely be seen again.