WASHINGTON - June 26 - Today marks the opening of a two-week UN Conference on Small Arms, where UN member states are reviewing progress made on a Program of Action (PoA) agreed to by all states, including the United States, in 2001. The PoA is a voluntary agreement and is the primary international accord on preventing and combating the illicit trafficking, misuse and proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
The U.S. delegation to the UN conference has representatives of various government agencies, as well as three public delegates to represent U.S. citizens at the meeting. The three public delegates selected for the 2006 review conference are former Gov. James Gilmore, III, R-Va., former Rep. Christopher John, D-La., and Chairman of the American Conservative Union, David A. Keene.
Center for Defense Information Senior Analyst, Rachel Stohl, was nominated by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to serve as a public delegate as well. Stohl has over 10 years experience researching and working on small arms issues and is an internationally renowned expert on U.S. small arms policy. She has published numerous studies on the topic. She is also intimately familiar with the UN Program of Action and the United Nations system, having worked for the UN Centre for Disarmament Affairs and the first UN Panel of Governmental Experts on Small Arms in 1996. However, Stohl’s qualifications were missing something more important to the U.S. government than a fair, balanced, and analytical approach to the small arms issue: the views and support of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
All three of the public delegates chosen by the U.S. government are strong NRA supporters. In fact, two of the three delegates (Keene and Gilmore) are current board members of the NRA. The third, former Congressman John, received an “A+” rating by the NRA while in office. The NRA has vociferously spoken out against the UN process and sent 100,000 postcards to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the chair of the review conference, Amb. Prasad Kariyawasam, claiming that the United Nations is trying to take away the guns of Americans by passing a global treaty banning gun ownership – claims that are pure fiction.
The appointment of the three public delegates is a symbolic reminder of the U.S. attitude towards the UN process – that the views of one interest group dominate the agenda. In a letter dated June 16, 2006, Feinstein was informed that Stohl was not selected to the delegation, because the State Department was “working hard to minimize delegation size,” although Stohl’s qualifications were duly noted. However, there were also three public delegates appointed to the U.S. delegation at the UN Small Arms Conference in 2001 – thus, the number of public delegate slots were not cut.
“Rather than appointing public delegates representing the wide swath of U.S. views on this issue, the U.S. government has chosen to pander to one of the most powerful interest groups in the United States,” said Stohl. “Although the UN Conference will do nothing to infringe the rights of American citizens to keep and bear arms, the U.S. government has given a louder voice to those already with access and more power than those working to help those silenced by these weapons every day.”