By Paul Gallant, Sherry Gallant, Alan Chwick, & Joanne D. Eisen
New York, NY –-(Ammoland.com)- In a matter of days, officials and activists will descend upon the U.N. in NYC to create a finished version of an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).
The stated goal of an ATT has always been to reduce weapons-related violence by controlling the global trade in arms.
The Treaty will never accomplish that laudable goal. It will succeed only in strengthening the power of thieves and tyrants.
Proponents of the ATT will likely accept any treaty at all —weak or strong— in order to have something for President Obama to sign. Obama’s signature is their goal, and they will beg, intimidate and lie shamelessly in order to set to paper an ATT prior to his departure from office, and obtain that essential scrawl.
As it now stands, in order for an ATT to be accepted, there is a requirement for unanimous agreement for the Treaty’s provisions, which was the only way to get States to agree to enter into negotiations. Therefore, the primary goal of the weapons-prohibitionists is to change the meaning of the word “consensus.”
A February 2012 ControlArms briefing paper urged participating States to “Define consensus in line with most common U.N. practice in a way that does not give every country veto power, but rather only requires ‘wide agreement’ on the final treaty text.”
Don’t Forget the Ammo
But since they may not be able to change the meaning at this late date, the weapons-prohibitionists have kept up a barrage of propaganda intended to get their demands heard and enacted. For example, they have been attempting to get ammunition covered by the Treaty in order to eliminate the crucial component of small arms.
- In 2011, Hilde Wallacher, an anti-gun researcher, whose focus is on the international arms trade, complained: “attempting to exclude any type of small arms ammunition will cause significant loopholes to the treaty, and leave it significantly weakened in its ability to prevent arms transfers that risk contributing to human rights violations or other humanitarian problems.”
- A May 2012 Oxfam paper stated the obvious: “Guns are useless without bullets….”
- And a UNIDIR (United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research) paper commented that “while some states may have legitimate concerns about including ammunition in an ATT, ultimately there is no compelling reason for its exclusion.”
However, there is no point in including ammunition in an ATT, since about 50% of the world’s countries produce arms and ammunition, and can supply themselves regardless of any global restrictions.
What such inclusion of ammunition into the treaty will do is mandate laws for the use of special markers known as “taggants.” These taggants are added to the round’s powder, and they are used to identify the place of manufacture, just like a serial number. The use of such taggants will increase the price of ammunition and will increase the difficulty of lawful acquisition of ammunition and components by civilians. But an even greater issue with these is the danger of creating ammunition with both too much or too little powder, as the taggants will change the powder weight and volume density, thus greatly affecting the quality of the ammunition and its accuracy. And this leads to possibilities of all kinds of personal injuries or even deaths—to the shooter and innocent bystanders if the barrel should blow up because the pressure of a round is higher than a firearm can withstand, and to the intended target (e.g. rapist or other violent perpetrators) by impairing the accuracy of the firearm, and where that bullet will end up.
Guns Impeding Economic Development
Lately, we’ve been hearing of a push to incorporate the concept of “development” into the Treaty. For example, a UNIDIR paper stated: “An ATT with strong criteria will help establish the necessary security conditions for economic and social development to flourish while helping to stem the flow of arms that has prevented such progress in the past.”
This recent “concern” —impeded development by the mere presence of firearms— is an indication of the degree of frustration felt by proponents of a strong Treaty. Since they are unable to control tyrants directly, they need to blame weapons for the lack of social and economic development seen in many countries. Yet despite years of futile attempts to control weapons and weapons-related violence, they have failed. So they changed strategy to push for a global, legally binding treaty that —they hope— will finally lead to some relief from the ills of the world.
What they will discover, instead, is that a treaty attempting to control weapons will never control tyrants or violence, or lead to productive human development.
However, this factoid —that the presence of arms impedes development— was put to rest in a paper published in a 2005 issue of Engage, by David B. Kopel, Paul Gallant & Joanne D. Eisen, entitled “Does the Right to Arms Impede or Promote Economic Development?”
The paper’s authors show how and why a corrupt dictatorial government is a much better explanation for the failure of development than the presence of weapons:
At the simplest level, there is an obvious connection between SALW and underdevelopment: SALW are among the weapons used in war. Although wartime can be a period of economic development in countries which are producing goods for the war…it is rare for countries where combat is taking place to advance economically during the fighting….Blaming SALW for development failure serves several political purposes.
The rhetoric attempts to enlist the development community in the arms prohibition movement, and even to divert development funds into arms confiscation projects….We suggest instead that corrupt and dictatorial government is a better explanation of underdevelopment….The 2004 annual report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) highlights the manmade tragedy of underdevelopment: “Chronic hunger plagues 852 million people worldwide…Hunger and malnutrition cause tremendous human suffering, kill more than five million children every year, and cost developing countries billions of dollars in lost productivity and national income”….The governments which keep their victim populations hungry and diseased are the true obstacles to development.
Empowering victim populations is an essential precondition to development, and disarming victim populations, leaving them helpless against tyrants, simply makes things worse.
Doomed To Fail, Just Not In The USA
It should be obvious by now that an ATT is doomed to fail because the only States which will abide by its terms are those States which are law-abiding in the first place. Those States governed by dictators and human rights abusers may sign onto an Arms Trade Treaty but are not likely to obey its terms, placing the U.S. in a much more vulnerable position than before the Treaty was enacted.
Ted Bromund, Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, and an expert on ATT affairs summed it up when he cautioned in his June 4, 2012 issue brief, “The Risks the Arms Trade Treaty Poses to the Sovereignty of the United States”:
All treaties impose limits on U.S. freedom of action….But the ATT will effectively bind only the democracies that accept it. The failure of other states to live up to their commitments under the ATT will not cause its restrictions on the U.S. to lapse. In a world of states that do not respect human rights, a universal treaty based on the vague and wide-ranging human rights criteria that the ATT will seek to apply to arms transfers will always apply with more force to the law-abiding [e.g. the U.S.] than it does to the lawless. It will always be used by the naïve and the evil to apply the powerful weapon of shame against those with a deeply ingrained respect for the rule of law.
About the authors
Dr. Paul Gallant and Dr. Joanne D. Eisen practice optometry and dentistry, respectively, on Long Island, NY, and have collaborated on firearm politics for the past 20 years. They have also collaborated with David B. Kopel since 2000, and are Senior Fellows at the Independence Institute, where Kopel is Research Director. Most recently, Gallant and Eisen have also written with Alan J. Chwick. Sherry Gallant has been instrumental in the editing of virtually all of the authors’ writings, and is immensely knowledgeable in the area of firearm politics; she actively co-authored this article. Almost all of the co-authored writings of Gallant, Eisen, Kopel, and Chwick can be found at http://gallanteisen.incnf.