Monday, September 30, 2013

There has been a recent resurgence of stories about how the UN is trying to ban guns in the US. Apparently, according to the most recent revival of the canard that somehow our participation in the UN Arms Trafficking Treaty will be used to circumvent the Second Amendment and prevent gun owners from legally exercising their right to keep and bear arms. It also goes so far as to suggest that somehow the Executive Branch has no legal right to sign treaties. What!? This newest incarnation is wrong on more levels than ever before.

On the constitutional point, you may wish to review article two of the constitution (which defines the powers of the executive branch) that specifically states that the executive has the power to make treaties. (See Article II, Section 2, Paragraph 2) The only limitation of this power is the advice and consent of the US Congress. This usually takes the form of the post-facto ratification of the treaties. This is HOW the constitution REQUIRES us to entry treaties.

As to the second amendment point, this is a treaty between governments. It mandates that arms not be sold to foreign powers that have been found to deny human rights to their populations – on that point alone, this would not be anything that runs afoul of the second amendment. The argument that this is somehow an end-run around the second amendment has been debunked repeatedly.

Don't get me wrong, some of my friends and relatives are members of the gun-owning public… I support second amendment rights; I just disagree with most of the right as to the applicable extent of those rights. And I LOVE the logistic arguments they attempt to deploy to defend their view. My favorite is the one that claims Cars are more dangerous than guns, why not outlaw them.

This is what is called in logic and debate “a straw-man argument.” That is to say an argument that on its face appears reasonable and would seem to draw a logical conclusion, but which is drawn on a false premise. “Yes cars are dangerous so why not ban them.” the argument goes, but that is not a logical equivalence. Cars, when used properly, are of no threat to anybody. It is only their use as a weapon or their blatant misuse (as under the influence or with excessive speed) that makes them lethal. A gun, on the other hand, is lethal by its very design. There is no purpose of a gun – when used for its manufactured intent – other than to be lethal. This is equally true of the hunting rifle that is designed to kill prey, the self-defense weapon that is used to kill an attacker, or the military weapon that is used to kill the enemy. Weapons are designed to kill; if they weren’t they would not be much of a weapon. That takes care of the premise – what about the conclusion?

There are all sorts of preemptory laws against the use of a vehicle in the circumstances under which they would be lethal! There are laws against excessive speed. There are laws which enforce basic safety standards. There are even laws that control what can you do while you are driving. Heck, if you want to extend the straw-man to include all vehicles. There are also laws about the amount of time you may spend operating big rigs within a single contiguous 24-hour period.

So there is the premise and conclusion of the car-gun equivalence shown to be a non-sequitur. But as it has been raised, let’s look at it from the other end. We have laws about how, who, and under what conditions you can operate a car so as to make the car non-lethal, why should we not have the same for guns?

Well, alas, there again we run afoul of the constitution. The second amendment states that "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." I have no problem with this whatsoever - the only issue that I have is the recent re-interpretation of the amendment that disregards the circumstances under which it was written, the obvious intent of its authors and the meaning of the words and the construction that clearly equates the need for weapons in a well-regulated militia to the reason for the availability of guns.

Historically, the militia was raised by the state when needed. There was no standing army. The militia was raised whenever the need arose. In order to raise a militia, the populace had to be armed. This is no longer the way we defend the state – which is not to say that the second amendment has no purpose in the modern day. As long as the second amendment remains the law of the land, I believe that we must defend the rights of people to have guns. I do believe that reasonable limitations should be allowable – and there is plenty of case law to support this. But as this s a discussion of the UN Treaty and not of the second amendment specifically, I digress.

Finally, the treaty itself states that the treaty will be adopted and enforced by each of the signatories in accordance with the respective constitutional processes of each. (See Arms Trade Treaty A/RES/67/243B) As with all UN treaties, participation is voluntary. This theory that the treaty somehow is a doorway to repeal of the second amendment is not even supported by Fox news that buys into a lot of the right-wing talking points. As a matter of fact, the only objection to it that they have mentioned is one of international commerce. They expressed a fear that Arms Manufacturers may have to keep better records about to whom they sell their weapons.

Wherever you are today, I hope you will research things before you forward them.

Don Bergquist – September 30, 2013 – Lakewood, Colorado, USA

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