In 2008 I sat in a Bible study in Bujumbura, Burundi, while rebels shelled the city from the surrounding hills. Our Bible study quickly became a prayer meeting! Some of our neighbors died that night, victims of the senseless violence that continues to plague so many parts of our world. Where did the rebels get the weapons and ammunition to terrorize my neighbors? From a shadowy, unaccountable network of arms dealers who exploit weak or non-existent laws and regulations in many countries on international arms transfers.
The Arms Trade Treaty, currently being negotiated in New York, would regulate the international sale of weapons. It would require other countries to enact laws similar to those the United States already enforces against arms transfers to terrorists, criminal gangs and regimes that violate human rights.
Nothing in the Arms Trade Treaty would interfere with domestic gun sales or ownership. In fact, the UN resolution establishing the framework for the treaty negotiations explicitly recognizes "the right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownership, exclusively within their territory."
The State Department has also stated that the U.S. negotiating team will reject any provisions that would "restrict civilian possession or trade of firearms, or dilute sovereign control over the private acquisition, ownership or possession of firearms."
The Arms Trade Treaty would not create any new regulatory or enforcement agency with power to intervene in national legislation. Implementation would be the responsibility of the states that sign the treaty.
Why then do critics claim that the treaty would violate the second amendment? No doubt some are simply uninformed about the clear limitations on the scope of the treaty. The United States already has some of the strictest controls on international arms exports, while maintaining unparalleled protection for the rights of individual citizens to own guns. There is nothing in the Arms Trade Treaty that is incompatible with the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Cynics claim that some organizations are manufacturing controversy in order to fuel their fundraising campaigns. I hope not. As a missionary and humanitarian worker, I have seen firsthand the destruction caused by armed conflicts in Mozambique, Congo, Sudan, Liberia and other war-torn countries. Innocent people die. Women are raped. Communities are decimated. Development and health gains are reversed. The resulting destabilization creates fertile recruiting grounds for terrorism.
Those opposing an arms trade treaty on Second Amendment grounds should rethink their strategy. The best way to protect the legal right of law abiding citizens to bear arms is to support sensible regulation of international arms sales.