President Donald Trump announced during a speech to the National Rifle Association Friday that he is withdrawing the U.S. from a global arms treaty that aims to restrict the flow of weapons to human rights abusers.
"As the biggest arms exporter, the U.S. signature to the ATT was an important step towards ensuring that dangerous weapons stay out of the wrong hands."
—Adotei Akwei, Amnesty International USA
The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was negotiated at the United Nations and signed by former President Barack Obama in 2013, but Congress never ratified the agreement.
Adotei Akwei, deputy director for advocacy and government relations for Amnesty International USA, warned in a statement that the president's move could open the "floodgates for arms sales with weakened human rights criteria, which could potentially fuel brutal conflicts and make everyone less safe."
"This announcement is a misguided blow to efforts to promote international peace and security," said Akwei. "As the biggest arms exporter, the U.S. signature to the ATT was an important step towards ensuring that dangerous weapons stay out of the wrong hands."
LOL -- Trump makes a big show out of signing, in front of his NRA audience, "a message asking the Senate to discontinue the treaty ratification process" for a treaty that he says will restrict gun rights in some way pic.twitter.com/jl37DHm3x6
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 26, 2019
Louis Charbonneau, U.N. director for Human Rights Watch, tweeted that the NRA has been working to undermine the treaty and mislead people about its aims from the very beginning.
I covered UN Arms Trade Treaty negotiations closely as @reuters correspondent. @NRA fought it from from get-go & misled people about what it meant. It failed. Sad but not surprising that #Trump admin is caving to NRA's false narrative. https://t.co/c7PctwihsX https://t.co/e10hnnJt6B
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— louis charbonneau (@loucharbon) April 26, 2019
The NRA has characterized the arms treaty as an attack on the Second Amendment, but Amnesty's Akwei said the ATT "in no way interferes" with the U.S. Constitution.
According to the Washington Post, the ATT "seeks to prevent illicit arms transfers that fuel destructive conflicts, making it harder to conduct weapon sales in violation of arms embargoes. About 100 countries, including U.S. allies in Europe, have ratified the treaty while more than 30 others have signed but not ratified. Countries that have shunned the treaty entirely include Russia, North Korea, and Syria."
Rachel Stohl, managing director of the nonpartisan Stimson Center and former consultant to the ATT negotiations, said Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. support for the treaty is "misguided" and potentially dangerous.
"The ATT was intended prevent the irresponsible and illegal transfer of conventional arms to commit violations of human rights and international humanitarian law," Stohl said in a statement.
"[T]he United States is instead choosing to be in the company of governments that routinely flout responsible transfer controls," Stohl added.