The United Nations is hosting talks in New York today as more than 150 countries discuss a global arms treaty designed to lessen the illicit gun trade, especially as it intersects with international conflict zones.
The National Rifle Association, however, is using the opportunity to once again prove that their primary mission is not the altruistic promotion of individual gun rights, but rather to serve the interests of the powerful US gun industry.
In a statement put out ahead of the conference, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, "It is our collective responsibility to put an end to the inadequate regulation of the global trade in conventional weapons — from small arms to tanks to combat aircraft."
Reiterating his support for the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), Ban said agreement on the pact would "alleviate the plight of the millions of people affected by conflicts and armed violence and enable the United Nations to better carry out its mandate to promote peace, development and human rights around the world."
Describing the treaty and the nature of the negotiations, Reuters reports:
Diplomats say that if the treaty conference fails to reach the required consensus because the United States, Russia or another major arms producer opposes it, nations can still put the draft treaty to a vote in the U.N. General Assembly.
The other alternative is to amend the draft to make it acceptable to the U.S. and other delegations. But supporters of the treaty fear that could lead to a weak and meaningless pact.
"The U.S. traditionally has an allergy to treaties," a European diplomat told Reuters. "It might be better to have a good treaty without the U.S. and hope they come around later."
But as The Guardian's Karen McVeigh points out:
For years, the NRA has painted the UN as a bogeyman figure, claiming in its literature and fundraising drives that there is an international conspiracy to "grab your guns". Last July, when negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty broke down – in part because of US resistance to global regulations on gun sales – the gun lobby group claimed victory for "killing the UN ATT".
Supporters of the treaty accuse the NRA of deceiving the US public about the pact, which they say will have no impact on US domestic gun ownership as it applies only to exports.
Michelle Ringuette, chief of campaigns and programs at Amnesty International USA, said they had witnessed a resurgence in the NRA's attempts to influence lawmakers and to use its opposition to the UN treaty as an opportunity for fundraising.
"We monitor what they send out to membership and put online" Ringuette told the Guardian. "It's nothing like the efforts they put in back in June and July but we have seen them step up. They have done exactly what we expected them to do, to stir up anti-UN panic."