The failure of the United Nations to ratify a far-reaching international arms trade treaty following nearly a month of negotiations was generally heralded by gun owners and pro-firearms organizations as a major victory.
But despite the proliferation of news reports, the fact that the Conference on the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (UNATT) ended in an impasse was not because of the actions of merely one group or one presentation. It was instead the end result of a process that began back in 2006, when the U.N. launched talks to address the global illegal trafficking of small arms, which ultimately led to years of negotiations ending with the July 2012 stalemate.
There’s no doubt that the appearance of National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre before the U.N. in July (as well as in 2011) served as a focal point for the media and for those on both sides of the issue. Speaking as a representative of a recognized Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), LaPierre, in his trademark no-nonsense rhetorical style, made it clear that the NRA would fight any international treaty that included civilian arms.
Further, thousands of U.S. gun owners (NRA members and otherwise) contacted their senators and representatives, urging them to oppose any treaty, should one be ratified.
By law, any treaty involving the United States must be ratified by a two-thirds majority of the U.S. Senate. Days before it became obvious that treaty negotiations were stalling, 51 U.S. senators pledged to vote against any proposed treaty involving civilian arms.
But in addition to U.S. senators and the 4-million-member NRA, there were dozens and dozens of supporting actors in the effort to derail UNATT.
Back in July 2006, my friend and colleague Jim Fulmer, who was then the immediate past president of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association (NMLRA), testified before the United Nations Small Arms Review Conference as one of two-dozen industry and organization representatives who were mobilized by the World Forum on the Future of Shooting Sports Activities. In testimony and presentations, speakers stressed that while the misuse of firearms might be problematic in some countries and regimes, the U.N. should not unfairly target firearms and those who use them for hunting and recreation. (Full disclosure: This writer served as public relations director for the NMLRA).
“Although we use muzzleloading antique or replica firearms that have long since ceased to be used in conflicts, we are not any less concerned by what you do here than our brother and sister organizations that use more modern arms,” Fulmer said during his testimony. “If you do something … that impacts even a few hunters, sport shooters or legal firearms owners, you do it to all of us.”
The fact that the effort to pass the UNATT failed was a victory for all individuals who own and use firearms for a multitude of reasons. It was indeed a united effort, and there’s plenty of credit to go around.