US signs treaty to regulate global arms trading
UNITED NATIONS — The United States, the world’s largest arms dealer, has joined 106 other nations in signing a treaty that regulates global arms trading, but there is strong resistance in the Senate, which must ratify it.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who signed the Arms Trade Treaty on Wednesday, said it was a “significant step” in keeping the world safe and preventing terrorists and others from obtaining conventional weapons.
The U.S. was the 91st country to sign, but the treaty will not take effect until 50 nations have ratified it. Only six had ratified the treaty as of Wednesday.
Opposition in the Senate, backed by the powerful National Rifle Association, means U.S. ratification will be difficult. A two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate, where Democrats now hold a slight edge, is needed to ratify a treaty.
“This is about reducing the risks of international transfers of conventional arms that will be used to carry out the world’s worst crimes,” Kerry said. “This is about keeping Americans safe and keeping America strong, and this is about promoting international peace and global security.”
Add-ressing U.S. critics of the treaty, the former senator said fears that it would undermine Americans’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms are not grounded in reality. For one, the treaty does not regulate domestic weapons sales.
“This treaty will not diminish anyone’s freedom,” he said. “It recognizes the freedom of both individuals and states to obtain, possess and use arms for legitimate purposes.”
Kerry said the U.S. “would never think about supporting a treaty that is inconsistent with the the rights of American citizens to be able to exercise their guaranteed rights under our Constitution.”
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is one of several conservative lawmakers who have concerns about the treaty, which he said raises “significant legislative and constitutional questions.”
In a letter sent Tuesday to President Barack Obama, Corker warned the administration against taking any steps to put the treaty in place unless and until the Senate ratifies it.
The treaty prohibits the transfer of conventional weapons if they violate arms embargoes or if they promote acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, and if they could be used in attacks on civilians or civilian buildings such as schools and hospitals.
The treaty covers battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms and light weapons.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and numerous human rights and humanitarian groups hailed the U.S. move, saying it sent a powerful signal to countries that have yet to sign.
“It is of particular significance that the largest arms exporting country in the world, the United States, is now also among those countries who have committed themselves to a global regulation of the arms trade,” Ban said in a statement.