Global Leadership on Global Violence: Time to Sign the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)

What three things would you wish for given the chance? One wish may be to be wealthy, another may be to have done something differently in the past, or perhaps you would wish for world peace. These are usually what you would think of given such a hypothetical because they are largely regarded as unlikely or even impossible - relegated to wishful thinking. Though world peace is often derided in popular culture as being unrealistic, analogous to anything that would be desirable but ultimately impossible; The truth is there are concrete steps that can be taken that would make the world safer. The United States could sign the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at the UN in September.

In fact, there is great support for the President to do just that. Today 33 national organizations have thrown their support behind the treaty. Amnesty International, the Arms Control Association, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam America, and, among others, have all sent a letter to President Obama emphatically urging him to sign the treaty at the United Nations in September. In search of bi-partisan middle ground, President Obama has neglected commonsense policies in the past in favor of ones more palatable to conservatives. This is not the time to listen to unfounded fears of gun grabbing when real progress can be made in quelling violence in conflict regions.

The Arms Trade Treaty intends to limit the export of conventional arms to regions of conflict. The flow of weapons into these regions exacerbates violence and makes peacekeeping infinitely more difficult. It is not a UN gun grab or any infringement on constitutional rights as critics claim and the American Bar Association confirms; it is a limitation on the willful export of weapons to the people that would use them for harm. CEO of Don Kraus says the treaty is, "...designed to help prevent the more than 500,000 deaths worldwide that happen as a result of armed violence."

Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December, the political climate has been heated surrounding gun control. The gun lobby and its supporters have resisted any attempt to limit or monitor gun sales in anyway, going as far as to accuse the administration of conspiring to confiscate privately owned weapons. The conversation becomes markedly more heated with conservatives if the United Nations is discussed - a favorite target of extremist ire. But like so much of right-wing anger, it is misinformed and misguided.

A U.S. ratification of the treaty would be a huge step in the direction of international peace. However ratification faces serious opposition in the Senate. Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced a resolution signed by 36 Senators expressing the Senate's opposition to the treaty on grounds that it did not guarantee an individual's right to bear arms - among other concerns. The ATT treaty actually has a lot to get Republicans excited. Conservatives will often bemoan foreign aid spending, intervention in armed conflicts, and the spread of extremism abroad but the treaty stands to save money and lives by tempering armed conflicts. Whatever fears these legislators have of the perceived dangers of the treaty are far outweighed by its potential to quell armed conflicts and foster greater international security.

So while it will face stiff opposition from proponents of unfettered access to weapons at home and abroad, it is a fight worth taking up; let opponents of the treaty push their conspiracy theories. The administration demonstrated strong leadership by helping develop the treaty and should follow through by signing it at the United Nations in September. The ATT is a low cost, high impact initiative that will have long lasting effect on international security and reduce the strain on international peacekeepers and humanitarian missions.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Citizens for Global Solutions.

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