Kerry backs arms treaty; right preps major freak-out

Secretary of State John Kerry signs the Arms Trade Treaty as Under Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Miguel Serpa Soares looks on.
Secretary of State John Kerry signs the Arms Trade Treaty as Under Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Miguel Serpa Soares looks on.
Associated Press

Following up on a segment from last night’s show, Secretary of State John Kerry took a sensible step today that the right won’t like at all.

The United States signed a U.N. Arms Trade Treaty regulating the $70 billion global trade in conventional arms on Wednesday and the Obama administration sought to allay the fears of the powerful U.S. gun lobby which says the pact will violate the constitutional rights of Americans.

The treaty, which relates only to cross-border trade and aims to keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers and criminals, still requires ratification by the U.S. Senate and has been attacked by the influential gun rights group the National Rifle Association (NRA). […]

The United States, the world’s No. 1 arms exporter, became the 91st country to sign when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry put pen to paper on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.

The list of officials on the planet opposed to the Arms Trade Treaty (generally called “ATT”) is actually quite small. It includes the government of North Korea, the government of Syria; the government of Iran; and the Republican Party of the United States and its far-right allies.

Yep, Rand Paul, Kim Jung Un, the NRA, and Bashar al-Assad are united in their opposition to this proposal. Strange bedfellows, to be sure.

As we discussed several times in the spring, Republicans have made up some truly bizarre talking points – even by their standards – telling Americans who don’t know better that the Arms Trade Treaty would obliterate the Second Amendment and empower the United Nations to “confiscate” firearms owned by private American citizens.

So why does the Obama administration and 107 other countries support the ATT? Because the Republican arguments aren’t true. They’re also not sane.

In case anyone’s forgotten, the purpose of this treaty has nothing to do with consumer access to firearms or individual ownership of guns, but rather, it sets controls on the international gun trade based on whether the weapons “will be used to break humanitarian law, foment genocide or war crimes, abet terrorism or organized crime or slaughter women and children.”

As Kerry has explained, “It will help reduce the risk that international transfers of conventional arms will be used to carry out the world’s worst crimes, including terrorism, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

The question isn’t the Obama administration would support this; the question is why U.S. conservatives are making up truly unhinged nonsense to attack a proposal that enjoys international backing outside Syria, Iran, and North Korea.

But the right can’t help itself.

The NRA vowed to oppose ratification in the U.S. Senate, calling the treaty a threat to individual firearm ownership.

“These are blatant attacks on the constitutional rights and liberties of every law-abiding American. The NRA will continue to fight this assault on our fundamental freedom,” said Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, in a statement.

Remember, this doesn’t make any sense, and is literally contradicted by the specific language in the treaty conservatives are condemning.

And yet, here we are.

“This treaty is already dead in the water in the Senate, and they know it,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services. “The Administration is wasting precious time trying to sign away our laws to the global community and unelected U.N. bureaucrats.”

Again, this is completely divorced from reality. It’s not even close to anything resembling the truth.

But it’s because of garbage talking points that Senate ratification of the ATT is almost impossible, and the United States will join the ranks of international pariahs that refuse to honor the treaty.

It’s also a reminder as to why, thanks to the radicalization of Republican politics, the United States has entered a post-treaty phase of international diplomacy.

Arms Trade Treaty, Treaties, United Nations and Conspiracy Theories

Kerry backs arms treaty; right preps major freak-out