The UN is the gun-owner’s friend

There was an interesting piece on The Volokh Conspiracy by Dave Kopel (July 21st, 2008.) on the United Nations and their anti-gun ownership activities.

Kopel references a posting by Kenneth Anderson over at Opinio Juris who critiques an article by CJ Chivers, titled “US Position Complicates Global Effort to Curb Illicit Arms“.

Chivers reports on a UN sponsored meeting held recently with Diplomats from the world’s governments discussing agreements to reduce the “global illicit trade in small arms”, but notes that their “work was curtailed in part by the near-boycott of the meetings by the United States”.

Chivers writes:

…. initiatives toward a more comprehensive and binding agreement have been vehemently opposed by gun-owner organizations. The National Rifle Association, America’s largest gun lobby, has labeled the process a thinly masked effort to undermine lawful civilian gun ownership and urged the United States to resist the measures.

The United Nations and advocates of gun control have said that such fears are unfounded, and that there is no effort to impose standards on nations with traditions of civilian ownership, or to restrict hunting. The programs, they said, apply largely to areas suffering from insurgencies or war.

“States remain free to have their own national legislation,” said Daniel Prins, chief of the Conventional Arms Branch of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. “This document does not try to regulate gun ownership in the whole world. This is an instrument that allows states to focus on regions in conflict and the weapons that illicitly get there.”

But Anderson rightfully points out that to accept this statement from the UN official is to ignore the history of other other actions by the organization.

If one goes back to many of the broader documents that have been produced by the UN itself, it is pretty hard to avoid the conclusion that the intention over the long term is gun control at the domestic level. To refer to “this document,” while leaving aside all the other documents of which “this document” is one in a series is, well, not reportage as I understand it, but artful brief-writing. The article quotes Rebecca Peters, head of one of the leading international advocacy organizations favoring restrictions; but it does not quote perhaps her most famous comment in recent years that “we want to see a drastic reduction in gun ownership across the world.”

As well, Anderson has been there personally.

The movement toward a small arms and light weapons treaty got going in the wake of the landmines ban treaty; it was a natural follow-on for the then-ascendent global civil society movement. But I recall sitting in meetings of landmines advocates talking about where things should go next; I was director of the Human Rights Watch Arms Division, with a mandate to address the transfer of weapons into conflicts where they would be used in the violation of the laws of war, and small arms were the main concern. I was astonished at how quickly the entire question morphed from concern about the flood of weapons into African civil wars into how to use international law to do an end run around supposedly permissive gun ownership regimes in the US. I recall remarking with dismay in all those early meetings, back when it was still closely linked to the landmines ban community, that this treaty had a reasonably good, if still small, chance of accomplishing something worthwhile, provided that it was identified as being about exceptional situations – civil wars and failed states – and was not about domestic laws in countries that were perfectly capable of setting their own terms.

That was good strategic advice, regardless of what one thought of the substantive issue – but it was swept away in the lemming-like tendency of advocacy movements to grow their appetites with the eating. The craziest person in the room all too often winds up controlling the agenda; this is sometimes true of global civil society and advocacy movements as well.

“The craziest person in the room all too often winds up controlling the agenda”? Seems to me I’ve sat in on some of those meetings myself!

Kopel goes on to detail some of the UN’s pro-gun statements on gun ownership.

Despite protestations to the contrary, the U.N. remains quite interested in constricting lawful gun ownership. Consider, for example, the United Nations Disarmament Programme’s publication, How to Guide: Small Arms and Light Weapons Legislation. The publication touts the importance of international “harmonisation” of gun laws. According to the United Nations:

Citizens should only be allowed to own guns if they are given a government permit, and the permit should only be issued if there is a “good reason” for posssession or or “genuine need.” In particular, permits to own guns for self defense should not be issued unless the applicant proves taht he is in immediate danger.

The law require “safe storage”, which means that firearms should be disassembled and the ammunition ammo stored separately.

There should be frequent renewal procedures to assure the owner’s continued eligibility. A good example is provided by Australia, which for most gun owners (except farmers) requires membership in a sports club, and participation in a minimum number of shooting events annually.

A firearms license should be contingent on the consent of the person’s spouse or former partner.

All firearms should be registered on a centralized computer system.

The home and vehicles of a gun owner should be subject to official inspection “at will.”

He ends with the comment:

It was certainly a relief to find out that the U.N. has no interest in restricting the gun rights of Americans.

Unfortunately the propensity for speaking out both sides of the mouth is not limited to the UN. Domestic anti-gun groups (including government bureaucrats and politicians) do it equally well and animal rights groups do it regarding hunting issues without a trace of embarrassment.

There are a lot of devious people out in the world spinning their own agendas. A good rule to follow is to listen but always investigate.


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