WHITE HOUSE - In front of thousands of people in an Indianapolis sports stadium, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a document rejecting the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, calling it another threat to American sovereignty.
Trump says his action, taken during the middle of a speech to the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association, requests the U.S. Senate “discontinue the treaty ratification process and to return the now-rejected treaty right back to me in the Oval Office where I will dispose of it.”
The president told the crowd, “we will never allow foreign bureaucrats to trample on your Second Amendment freedoms. We will never ratify the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty. I hope you're happy."
Trump received a standing ovation.
The Second Amendment protects gun owners’ rights, and its rigid enforcement is the primary cause of the organization the president was addressing on Friday.
Supporters of the treaty say it contains nothing jeopardizing the rights of American gun owners, but administration officials contend potential amendments to it being proposed by activist groups could do just that.
WATCH: Trump Announces Withdrawal from UN Arms Trade Treaty
The White House says the president, after a review of the treaty, decided to revoke then-secretary of state John Kerry's 2013 signature on the document.
The treaty entered into force in 2014 and 96 countries have ratified it.
Administration officials point out that 17 of the top 25 exporters of arms, including Russia and China, have not signed it.
The United States already has significant controls in place to regulate conventional arms transfers, while other nations do not, according to officials in Washington.
Congressman Eliot Engel has announced he will convene a hearing of the committee he heads to “shine a bright light on this shameful decision.”
The House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman says “it is abhorrent to use international diplomacy for blatant political pandering. It’s even more appalling when that policy decision concerns dangerous weapons that endanger the lives of Americans and people around the world."
U.N. spokesman Stéphane Dujarric, responding to the U.S. president's action, said, "The Arms Trade Treaty is the only global instrument aimed at improving transparency and accountability in the international arms trade. It is a landmark achievement in the efforts to ensure responsibility in international arms transfers. This is particularly important in present times, when we witness growing international tensions and renewed interest in expanding and modernizing arsenals."
The former U.S. diplomat who was the country’s lead negotiator on the treaty calls Trump’s action a mistake, arguing it “threatens to make the world less safe, rather than more secure.”
“The president's announcement today was based on a number of falsehoods,” said Thomas Countryman, former assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, who led the U.S. negotiations on the treaty.
“It is not true that the Arms Trade Treaty affects in any way the Second Amendment constitutional rights of American citizens," he continued. "It is not true that the Arms Trade Treaty creates international bureaucracy that can take away Americans' guns. The treaty says very explicitly that the implementation of the treaty is a national responsibility of each country, according to its own laws and constitutions.
“What the president has done today is to put the United States in the company of the other countries that have been highly critical of the treaty — Iran, North Korea and Syria. We're the only country that voted no on this treaty in 2013. And now the United States is lining itself up with those rogue regimes,” Countryman, board chairman of the nonpartisan Arms Control Association, told VOA.
Rachel Stohl, managing director of the Stimson Center and former consultant to the treaty’s negotiations, says it is intended to “prevent the irresponsible and illegal transfer of conventional arms to commit violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. By turning its back on multilateral diplomacy yet again, the United States is disregarding global norms and allowing nefarious actors to trade weapons with impunity.”
Heritage Foundation Senior Research Fellow Ted Bromund, however, tells VOA he agrees with the president’s position that the treaty was “badly misguided,” noting the Republican Party platform in 2016 explicitly opposed the treaty, as do a bipartisan majority of senators.
Bromund predicts the un-signing by Trump “will place the entire treaty institution under serious pressure because the U.S. is its second-largest funder. Domestically, it will allow the U.S. to keep on operating its arms export control policies as it chooses, without influence from the treaty’s vague and shifting norms."