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This week, Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan presided over the latest U.N. conference attempting to denigrate legal civilian access to firearms. The conference has a rather elaborate official title:


United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects

But this is par for the course with the U.N.: Never use one word when 10 will do. Mix in a hefty dose of bureaucratic-sounding buzzwords, the obligatory two-week preparatory committee, and a Hollywood superstar, and they’re good to go. The U.N. proudly boasts Oscar-winning actor Michael Douglas on its homepage, loudly proclaiming: “Wherever arms flow, violence follows.” I must have missed the part when highly paid globetrotting entertainers became public policy experts.

Of course, Kofi Annan has (reluctantly) said that this conference is not about a global gun ban – but you better believe that’s exactly what it’s about. The program’s preamble “reaffirming the right of self-determination of all peoples” is nothing more than a cosmetic cover for what is shaping up to be blatant attack on America and its freedoms. One can only speculate about the genius behind timing the New York-based conference to coincide with America’s July 4 Independence Day celebrations.

In every respect, there is an attempt to clump together the concepts of legal gun ownership and the illegal trafficking of small arms – as if more people legally owning firearms is the same as international gun smuggling. The conference’s preceding Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development calls specifically for “practical measures that … stem the proliferation, illegal trafficking and misuse of small arms and light weapons and ammunition, and lead to effective weapons reduction. …” It goes on to say, “We will take further action to deal effectively both with the supply of and the demand for small arms and light weapons.” What if that demand is for legally owned weapons, though? The language, tone and insidious nature of the meticulously detailed regulatory approach in this program are as much a comment on legal gun ownership as you’ll find in the international arena. Indeed, how else can we interpret plans for a registry of all small arms?

Perhaps most telling of its Machiavellian intentions toward legal gun ownership is Fact Sheet 2, “Efforts to tackle illegal small arms,” contained in the official press kit for the conference. This “fact sheet” is anything but the innocuous-sounding document it seems. It is a blatant piece of political propagandizing that links tough gun laws and gun bans to dramatic reductions in firearms-related deaths. It tells us without any uncertainty that following the United Kingdom’s 1997 gun law reforms (which banned the ownership of handguns), homicide rates for men have dropped by 33 percent and for women 48 percent.

This is a completely false picture. According to the Home Office’s own statistics, during the six years from when the ban was introduced, firearms offenses more than doubled, from 4,903 to 10,338. The number of firearm crimes involving any type of injury has more than doubled from 2,378 to 5,358. And to completely de-gloss the picture in the U.N.’s fact sheet, the number of UK homicides resulting from firearms actually increased from 68 to 78 from 2003/04 to 2004/05. While representing a 15 percent increase, it is somewhat misleading to talk in percentile terms for gun-related homicides in the UK, since the number has always been exceptionally low.

Another distortion the U.N. presents as fact is that gun law reforms in Canada have been responsible for a 46 percent decline in gun homicide rates. Perhaps they should go to the Canadian government’s own public safety website, which says, “Studies [also] show that the proportion of homicides resulting from gun violence is rising in Toronto and in other major urban centers. In 2004, Statistics Canada reported 172 homicides in Canada as a result of shootings (representing 28 percent of total homicides), which is 11 more than in 2003 and 20 more than in 2002.”

So much for the U.N.’s honest approach to this debate. In fact, the U.N. has 16 separate departments, agencies, funds and programs engaged in “Coordinating Action on Small Arms.” While one may question the ability of six U.N. departments to cooperate on one action plan, let alone 16, the question isn’t about the determination to stamp out the illegal arms trade; that in and of itself is a laudable aim, although probably unachievable for such a bureaucratic structure. It’s the linkages to legal gun ownership, the skewering and misrepresentation of the facts and the interference in the rights of individuals to legally bear arms that are objectionable.

It’s not just Americans who should be concerned. Again contained in its press pack, the U.N. wildly enthuses about Brazil’s tightening of gun ownership laws in 2003, but admonishes the results of a 2005 democratically conducted referendum where Brazilians voted overwhelmingly against a countrywide ban on the sale of guns and ammunition. What right does the U.N. have to even make comment on the results of a freely and fairly conducted referendum in a sovereign, democratic nation state? The haughty “enlightenment” of the U.N. strikes again.

From the evidence available, it is nearly impossible to find a correlation showing that gun controls reduce crime. In fact, evidence from the U.S. shows exactly the opposite: Increases in gun ownership have directly correlated to reductions in violent crime rates. But this debate shouldn’t just be about America or the Second Amendment. A constitution, bill of rights, charter of rights, or whatever instrument a sovereign state employs to afford rights to its citizens are all designed to empower the citizen vis-?-vis the state, to protect the citizenry from the over-extension or abuse of power by the state. Indeed, tyrannical regimes such as the USSR and Rwanda enthusiastically disarmed their populace, right before enacting some of the worst state-sponsored human-rights abuses ever recorded.

But who wants to rely on the state for protection either? As Dr. Sean Gabb says, “Our authorities have so far done nothing to disarm violent criminals. There is nothing they can do in the future to disarm them. This being so, can you seriously agree with the argument that you should be disarmed, and therefore powerless to defend yourself and your loved ones?”

If having to fight a broad front against your government for your rights seems unfair, how dangerous is it that we must also fight the unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats of the United Nations? Surely this is as much an abrogation of our rights as anything our nation-state could do.



Related special offer:

“The Global War on Your Guns”



Sally McNamara is the director of international relations at the American Legislative Exchange Council.

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