News / USA

New UN Arms Treaty Faces Rough Road in US Senate

FILE - U.S. Capitol
FILE - U.S. Capitol
Reuters
The new global arms trade treaty was overwhelmingly approved by the United Nations, with U.S. backing, but it was clear on Wednesday it faces a tough fight for ratification by U.S. senators who contend it could affect Americans' gun rights.

The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly approved the pact by a vote of 154-3 on Tuesday, with 23 abstentions, many by major weapons exporters.

Washington was one of the 'yes' votes, but to go into effect for the United States it must win at least 67 votes - a two-thirds majority - in the 100-member Senate. Last month, the Senate supported a measure calling for the treaty's rejection even before U.N. negotiations on its text were completed.

The powerful National Rifle Association gun industry lobby promised to fight against ratification. Several senators, mostly Republicans, quickly issued statements opposing the pact.

The United States is the world's largest gun exporter, accounting for 30 percent of global volume. Russia, No. 2, accounts for 26 percent. Moscow, which along with China abstained from the U.N. vote, said it would take a hard look at the treaty before deciding whether to sign it.

The treaty, the first of its kind, seeks to regulate the $70 billion business in conventional arms and keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers.

A U.S. commitment to the treaty is important to get China, Russia and other big arms producers on board, diplomats and activists say.

The United States is already in compliance with the treaty's terms because of its weapons export and import laws, they said, but U.S. approval could put pressure on other nations to adopt similar limits.

The White House said on Wednesday it had not yet decided whether President Barack Obama would sign the pact, and gave no timeline for doing so. Such a signing seems likely, however, given White House support for the pact at the United Nations.

If Obama signs, government agencies would review the treaty before the administration decides whether to seek ratification by the Senate.

"Timelines for the treaty review process vary and given that we're just beginning the review, I wouldn't want to speculate about when we'll make a decision," said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council.

The Senate voted 53-46 on March 23 for a nonbinding amendment to its budget resolution calling for the treaty's rejection. Supporters said they were worried it would infringe on U.S. gun rights.

'Don't Expect a Cakewalk'

Winning 67 votes for ratification would require the support of all Democrats, including eight who voted for the amendment, as well as at least 12 Republicans, or a quarter of the entire Republican caucus, which strongly opposes almost any limits on gun sales.

"Don't expect a cakewalk," one Democratic Senate aide said.

The U.S. Senate has often been skeptical of international treaties, seeing them as limiting U.S. power. Among the unratified pacts signed by a U.S. president is the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear explosions.

As with some other unratified treaties, however, Washington has implemented that treaty's terms, refraining from nuclear testing.

Several senators issued statements after the U.N. vote reiterating their opposition.

"The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty ... would require the United States to implement gun-control legislation as required by the treaty, which could supersede the laws our elected officials have already put into place," said Senator James Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who sponsored the budget amendment.

He, fellow Republican Jerry Moran and Democratic Senator Max Baucus issued a press release objecting to the treaty after the U.N. vote. It also included a statement from Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action.

"We have always been clear that any treaty which does not expressly exclude civilian firearms ownership from its scope will be met with the NRA's greatest force of opposition," Cox said in the statement.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, would decide whether to take up the treaty if it were sent to the Senate. He applauded the U.N. vote and promised a "vigorous and fair review," if the treaty is eventually submitted to the Senate.

Menendez echoed Secretary of State John Kerry and the White House in insisting that the treaty would not affect Americans' gun rights.

"I commend the U.S. negotiating team for crafting what appears to be a strong, effective and implementable treaty that would in no way infringe on the rights of American citizens under our domestic law or the Constitution to bear arms," Menendez said in a statement.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More