By David A. Keene, President
As I write this, the United Nations has begun negotiating what many of its member states and supporters hope will be a comprehensive international treaty to regulate the trade in—and in many cases the private ownership of—small arms. Gun control advocates from this country have joined literally hundreds of like-minded Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to work with international anti-gun delegates to develop a treaty that could destroy private gun ownership in this country in spite of our Second Amendment.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre has been warning American gun owners to pay attention to international attempts to gut the Second Amendment for nearly two decades and the NRA Institute for Legislative Action has been a U.N.-recognized NGO since the late nineties. This has given Second Amendment supporters a voice within the U.N. negotiations themselves and has allowed us to monitor the goings on in New York as anti-gunners meet to discuss ways in which they might strip us of our Second Amendment rights.
Until fairly recently, few American gun owners focused on Wayne’s warnings, but it has become clear in recent years that Second Amendment opponents are turning to the international community for assistance because they haven’t been able to win politically or legally here at home. We’ve managed to beat them back in Congress and in the states. We’ve prevailed at the ballot box and in the courts and thus forced our opponents to go underground at home while seeking other ways to attack our rights.
The United Nations held its first “Conference on the Illicit Trade of Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects” back in 2001. It was at this conference that Under Secretary of State John Bolton spoke in what one delegate described at the time as “a very un-U.N. like way” to warn that the United States would accept no international agreement that in any way infringed upon the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of his country.
By 2006, when the second U.N. Conference was called into session, Bolton had been named U.N. Ambassador by President George W. Bush and helped orchestrate this country’s continued opposition to an international gun control scheme that would undermine our rights under the Second Amendment to our Constitution. President Bush appointed me that year as the U.S. “Public Delegate” to the conference where I worked with Bolton, NRA representatives and the few nations friendly to our position to stymie our opponents.
But the gun grabbers are back, and this time they are dealing with an American government far friendlier to what they seek than what they confronted in 2001 and 2006. Bolton is no longer at the United Nations and the directions our State Department is receiving from the Obama White House are much different from those the department got from the Bush White House.
We can expect a real fight in New York as the new treaty is drafted over the course of the next year. Those attending the conference know that while they may have a friend in the White House right now, anything they propose will have to make it through the U.S. Senate. Some of them may believe that, as in their own countries, our legislature will rubber stamp whatever the president requests, but the more sophisticated among them know better.
Our goal is to stop them in the U.N. if we can, but to be prepared to defeat whatever they come up with in the U.S. Senate if we must. To accomplish this, ILA Executive Director Chris Cox has increased our efforts in New York and Wayne LaPierre is making it clear to all that friends of the Second Amendment must be prepared to defend our rights against international as well as domestic enemies. Thanks to his warnings over the years, NRA members around the country know the stakes and are telling their elected officials the same thing.
Meanwhile, I recently created a special International Affairs Sub-committee of the NRA Board’s Legislative Policy Committee and appointed Ambassador Bolton as its chairman. He may not be in the State Department anymore, but he’s as dedicated to preserving the Second Amendment as any NRA member and will be advising us on strategy as we confront our opponents in this newly dangerous forum.
Bolton summed up the motivations of Second Amendment opponents when he said recently, “The administration knows it cannot obtain this kind of legislation purely in a domestic context. … They will use an international agreement as an excuse to get domestically what they couldn’t otherwise.”
That may be their hope, but as long as the leadership of the NRA, our four million members and more than 80 million firearm owners remain vigilant and active, they will fail once again.