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

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.