At last count, a full half of the U.S. Senate had signed onto a letter to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton declaring their opposition to any United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, or ATT, which includes infringement on U.S. citizens’ rights to possess firearms.
While I applaud this effort, I have to say that I’m disappointed in the senators’ narrow focus in the letter. Protecting the Second Amendment and warning Obama and Clinton not to agree to any treaty that might infringe on the rights of Americans ignores what the U.N. is doing to citizens of other countries.
The right to arms is not just an American right, it is a basic human right extrapolated from the right to self-defense. Human beings have an individual right to defend themselves and their families and citizens – regardless of what country – have a moral obligation to also defend others who are unable to defend themselves.
If the U.N. were forwarding a plan to limit voting to males only or to institute broad government controls over the press, our senators would not stop at our Constitution and our borders in their denunciation of the plans. Instead they would expound upon the importance of universal suffrage and the necessity of a free press – for all people everywhere.
They would not just “strongly encourage” the administration to “uphold our country’s constitutional protections,” they would demand that the administration reject and actively oppose any treaty which could be in any way construed to support such restrictions on basic rights in any nation.
The right to arms is just as important a concept as the right to vote, the right to express oneself freely and publicly and the right to a fair trial before a jury of ones peers. It is part of the progressive, liberal heritage of our nation (from a time before the words “progressive” and “liberal” were co-opted by communists and socialists to mean government controlled).
The constitutional right to arms has roots in English Common Law, but the philosophy runs much deeper and broader than the English could ever manage, because they were tied to a monarch. When America broke away from the monarchy, we also cut the restraints that system placed on our understanding of liberty. We became the cutting edge – and embodiment – of liberal (libertarian) philosophy, and we reaped the rewards of that philosophy. It is part of what made America so exceptional for most of the past 200 years, and the right to arms is as much a component of that revolutionary and successful philosophy as free speech or the right to assembly. It was seen as even more important than the right to vote, as that right was originally limited to only White, male, property holders while the right to arms carried no such limitations.
The U.S. should be encouraging the philosophy of individual rights – including the right to arms – all over the world just as we encourage principles of democracy, a free press, educational opportunity and equal rights for women. And we should discourage any effort to limit those rights in any way anywhere in the world.
Freedom is a religion that demands evangelism. We don’t have to require that other nations meet all of our standards before we will recognize them or do business with them, but we should reward movement in the right direction and balk at movement in the wrong direction. And we should most definitely object, reject and oppose any effort by any international body to impose or encourage any anti-liberty, anti-rights, or anti-individual rules, laws or regulations – not just on us, but on anyone, anywhere.
Members of the U.S. Senate should understand the philosophical significance of the right to arms and the importance of promoting U.S. philosophy and principles of freedom. Their letter focusing on only the potential impact of the proposed U.N. Arms Trade Treaty on U.S. citizens is much too narrow and shortsighted. It’s a start, and it’s a shot across Obama and Hillary’s bow, but they really need to return to the solid, principled, positions spelled out in our Constitution, and push for recognition and support of those fundamental rights. While it is doubtful that the Obama administration will ever actively push such an agenda, pro-rights, pro-Constitution U.S. Senators should be.
The U.N. ATT has been a distant rumble for the past several years with little progress being made and little exposure to the public outside of over-hyped rhetoric in fundraising letters from pro-rights groups. I have tended to downplay concern about the ATT, but now the treaty is getting closer to reality, and it’s time to start worrying about something actually being passed by the middle of next year. The best way to keep that from happening is to keep pressure on the politicians encouraging them to return to principled arguments and to demand that Obama and Clinton actively oppose any ATT that includes restrictions on any personal firearms, ammunition or components – not just in the U.S., but anywhere in the world.
The right to arms does not begin and end at our border just because our Founding Fathers were smart enough to write it down. It is a fundamental human right that should never be infringed in our nation or any nation.
Look at the signed letter to see if your senators signed it (note: Some late-signing senators are not listed on this page). Thank senators who signed, but encourage them to broaden their view – freedom is for everyone – and push those who didn’t sign to get with the program.
While you’re at it, if you’re a member of the NRA, you might drop them a line asking why they are focusing only on the potential impact of this ATT on U.S. gun owners rather than espousing and defending the principles of freedom for all people everywhere.