Sens. Inhofe, Moran, Manchin and Half of Senate to White House: U.S. Will Not Be Bound By U.N. Arms Trade Treaty

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) joined Sens. Jim Moran (R- Kan.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) in leading a bipartisan group of 50 U.S. Senators in reiterating to President Obama that the Senate overwhelmingly opposes the ratification of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and will not be bound by its obligations.

“The Senate spoke out against the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty this past March when 53 Senators voted for my amendment to the Senate budget resolution to block U.S. involvement in the treaty,” Sen. Inhofe said. “Despite clear opposition, the Obama Administration proceeded in misleading the U.N. and making the United States a signatory nation of this treaty. It is time that the Administration puts this failed effort to rest once and for all and instead focus on the serious economic and national security problems that threaten our country.”

“The Administration’s recent signing of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty was a direct dismissal of the bipartisan Senate majority that rejects this treaty,” Sen. Moran said. “Throughout this process, it has been disturbing to watch the Administration reverse U.S. policies, abandon its own ‘red line’ negotiation principles, admit publicly the treaty’s dangerous ambiguity, and hastily review the final treaty text. Today I join my colleagues in upholding the fundamental individual rights of Americans by reiterating our rejection of the ATT. The Senate will overwhelmingly oppose ratification, and refuse to uphold the treaty’s object and purpose.”

“Under no circumstances should this country surrender our gun rights to the control of the United Nations,” Sen. Manchin said. “While we can work toward improving the regulation of the international trade of weapons, I am very concerned that the rights of law-abiding Americans would be violated by entering into this agreement. I strongly oppose any treaty that infringes on our Second Amendment rights.”

In the letter to the president, the Senators outline six reasons why they will not give advice and consent to the treaty and are therefore not bound to uphold the treaty’s object and purpose.

“We urge you to notify the treaty depository that the U.S. does not intend to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, and is therefore not bound by its obligations,” the 50 Senators wrote to President Obama.

The six reasons for opposing ratification of the ATT include:

  1. The treaty failed to achieve consensus, and was adopted by majority vote in the U.N. General Assembly. This violates the red line drawn by the Obama Administration;
  2. The treaty allows amendments by a three-quarters majority vote, circumventing the power and duty of the U.S. Senate to provide its advice and consent on treaty commitments before they are assumed by the United States;
  3. The treaty includes only a weak non-binding reference to the lawful ownership, use of, and trade in firearms, and recognizes none of these activities, much less individual self-defense, as fundamental individual rights. This poses a threat to the Second Amendment;
  4. The State Department has acknowledged that the treaty is “ambiguous.” By becoming party to the treaty, the U.S. would therefore be accepting commitments that are inherently unclear;
  5. The criteria at the heart of the treaty are vague and easily politicized. They violate the right of the American people, under the Constitution, to freely govern themselves. The language restricts the ability of the United States to conduct its own foreign policy and allows foreign sources of authority to impose judgment or control upon the United States; and
  6. The State Department has acknowledged that the treaty includes language that could hinder the United States from fulfilling its strategic, legal and moral commitments to provide arms to key allies such as the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the State of Israel.

The letter is signed by a bipartisan group of 50 U.S. Senators including: Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Jeffrey Chiesa (R-N.J.), Daniel Coats (R-Ind.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Jim Risch (R-Ind.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), David Vitter (R-La.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

Inhofe has helped lead Senate efforts to express concerns to the Administration about the ATT including:

  • On March 22, Inhofe introduced an amendment to the Senate budget resolution that would uphold American's Second Amendment rights and prevent the United States from entering into the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty. The amendment passed by a 53-46 vote. Inhofe's speech on the Senate floor introducing the budget amendment can be viewed by clicking here
  • On Sep. 24, Inhofe sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry warning him about making the United States a signatory nation on the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty. 

Please click here to view the letter to the president, or find the full text below:

 

September 25, 2013

 

President Barack Obama

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear President Obama:

We write to express our concern and regret at your decision to sign the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty. For the following reasons, we cannot give our advice and consent to this treaty:

First, the treaty was adopted by a procedure which violates a red line laid down by your own administration. In October 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the U.S. supported the negotiation of the treaty only by “the rule of consensus decision-making.” But in April 2013, after the treaty failed to achieve consensus, it was adopted by majority vote in the U.N. General Assembly. We fear that this reversal has done grave damage to the diplomatic credibility of the United States.

Second, the treaty allows amendments by a three-quarters majority vote. As the treaty is amended, it will become a source of political and legal pressure on the U.S. to comply in practice with amendments it was unwilling to accept. This would circumvent the power and duty of the Senate to provide its advice and consent on treaty commitments before they are assumed by the United States.

Third, the treaty includes only a weak, non-binding reference to the lawful ownership and use of, and trade in firearms, and recognizes none of these activities, much less individual self-defense, as fundamental individual rights. It encourages governments to collect the identities of individual end users of imported firearms at the national level, which would constitute the core of a national gun registry, and it creates a national “responsibility” to “prevent . . . [the] diversion” of firearms, which could be used to justify the imposition of controls within the U.S. that would pose a threat to the Second Amendment and infringe on the rights protected therein.

Fourth, the State Department has acknowledged that the treaty is “ambiguous.” By becoming party to the treaty, the U.S. would therefore be accepting commitments that are inherently unclear. The Senate cannot effectively provide advice on an ambiguous treaty, and it should never provide its consent to such a treaty.

Fifth, the criteria at the heart of the treaty are vague and easily politicized. They will restrict the ability of the U.S. to conduct our own foreign policy, and will steadily subject the U.S. to the influence of internationally-defined norms, a process that would impinge on our national sovereignty.  We believe that treaties which allow foreign sources of authority to impose judgment or control upon the U.S., as this one does, violate the right of the American people, under the Constitution, to freely govern themselves.

Sixth, the State Department has acknowledged that “specific . . .  country concerns, including Taiwan, China, and the Middle East, create challenges for establishing [treaty] criteria that can be applied without exception and fit U.S. national security interests. These concerns would make Senate ratification difficult.” We are indeed deeply concerned that the treaty criteria as established could hinder the United States in fulfilling its strategic, legal, and moral commitments to provide arms to key allies such as the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the State of Israel.  

We urge you to notify the treaty depository that the U.S. does not intend to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, and is therefore not bound by its obligations. As members of the Senate, we pledge to oppose the ratification of this treaty, and we give notice that we do not regard the U.S. as bound to uphold its object and purpose.

We appreciate your consideration on this issue and look forward to your response.


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