News / USA

Many US Senators Oppose Ratifying UN Arms Trade Treaty

Fifty U.S. Senators, half of the Senate’s membership, say they will not ratify a U.N. Arms Trade Treaty signed by the United States. Their opposition to the treaty was expressed in a letter to President Barack Obama.

The legally-binding treaty sets international standards to regulate the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons - from battle tanks, warships and attack helicopters to small arms and light weapons.

Ann MacDonald, head of arms control for the humanitarian group Oxfam, said the treaty also covers ammunition.

“That is really important” she said “because while arms are often recirculated time and time again, and we see this particularly in conflicts in Africa - without ammunition, they are a lot less lethal.  We have seen in some conflicts that the supply of ammunition is literally the fuel that keeps the conflict going,” said MacDonald.

The Arms Treaty

  • Approved in U.N. General Assembly by a vote of 154 to 3, with 23 abstentions
  • North Korea, Iran and Syria voted against the treaty
  • Regulates trade in conventional arms
  • Does not ban or prohibit the export of any type of weapon
  • Does not impair states' right to self-defense
The Arms Trade Treaty was passed by the United Nations last April by a vote of 154 to three with 23 abstentions. Only Iran, North Korea and Syria voted against the pact.

Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association, said the pact tries to plug many holes in the international system regulating the conventional arms trade.

“Many countries don’t have export controls. Many countries that have laws don’t have the ability to enforce.  And then there is the illicit trade, the black market that goes below the radar, below these export control systems of the national governments,” said Kimball. “So the treaty is necessary in order to establish global standards that apply to all states, so that irresponsible arms suppliers and buyers can’t exploit the holes in the national laws.”

Oxfam's MacDonald said the treaty has an important human rights provision. “For the first time, it sets up a global system that requires governments to assess every arms transfer that is leaving their country, coming into their country or passing through it,” said MacDonald. “They have to assess that transfer against the risk that arms will be used for human rights violations or violations of humanitarian law. And if those risks are very substantial, they must deny the arms transfer.”

More than 110 countries - including the United States - have signed the treaty since it was open for signature in June. But only a handful [seven] have ratified it.

In the United States, the National Rifle Association - a powerful gun lobby group - has expressed its opposition to the treaty, as well as 50 U.S. Senators, half of the membership of the upper house. For a treaty to be ratified, it must gain the approval of 67 Senators.

Opponents of the pact argue that the Arms Trade Treaty infringes on the rights of Americans to bear arms under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It is part of the Bill of Rights guaranteeing individual freedoms.

MacDonald said the treaty is “not about domestic arms control, however, it’s about international transfers. And that’s an important message for Senators to really hear, as well, because sometimes there is misinformation going around that this is a treaty that somehow will have an affect on domestic U.S. gun ownership issues, which it isn’t, because it has to do with international transfers,” she said. “The United States will not need to change its legislation to implement this treaty - the existing U.S. legislation is compatible in many areas with the provisions in the Arms Trade Treaty.”

Daryl Kimball said in the final analysis, U.S. approval of the treaty is not crucial.

“Ratification is something that this treaty deserves, eventually. But U.S. ratification is not essential or even necessary for the treaty to enter into force. It just takes 50 states [countries] - any 50 states - for the treaty to legally enter into force,” he said.

Many analysts say proponents of the treaty will have an uphill battle convincing a majority of U.S. senators to vote for ratification.


Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Five-Nation Tour to Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

Secretary of state will visit Egypt, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam to discuss security issues, Iran nuclear deal, Trans-Pacific Partnership More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
October 20, 2013 5:09 PM
The UN Arms Trade Treaty exists only in the dream world. Most of the countries cannot control arms supply and trade including the US. Even the US cannot control arms trade both within the US and internationally. Anybody, who think that UN can accomplish what other countries cannot do, is living in a dream world. The idealistic President Obama of the US has to be cautioned about the practicality of the UN control of arms trade. It is unbelievable that the US voted for such UN resolution, trampling on the free trade and sovereignty of the US.. My hats off to the US Senators, at least once!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs