The US government on Wednesday signed a UN Arms Trade Treaty [text, PDF] that regulates global trade in conventional arms. US Secretary of State John Kerry [official website], while signing the treaty on behalf of the US government, stated [Reuters report] that the signature would affect US manufacturers and exports only minimally given the already strict export controls for weapons. The treaty still has to be presented to the Senate before it can be ratified. The National Rifle Association (NRA) [advocacy website] opposed the signing, arguing that it threatens American sovereignty and is an unconstitutional violation of the Second Amendment.
In May JURIST Guest Columnist Clare da Silva of Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] argued [JURIST hotline] that the treaty showed remarkable progress in the international regulation of arms transactions. The treaty was approved [JURIST report] by the UN General Assembly [official website] in April with 154 member states voting in favor and only three opposed. Twenty-three countries abstained from voting, including Russia and China. The treaty prohibits states from exporting conventional weapons to governments in violation of UN arms embargoes and from exporting conventional weapons which may be used in genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or terrorism. It also requires that states prevent conventional weapons from reaching the black market. The treaty does not control the use of domestic weapons. Restrictions on ammunition were considered, but the US struck down the idea. The UN voted [JURIST report] to re-enter negotiations over an international arms treaty in December. Previous negotiations had fallen apart, and many blamed the political climate in the US and the substantial pressure from the NRA to veto any international arms treaty. In July of last year the UN allowed [JURIST report] the deadline for an arms treaty to pass without reaching a consensus. Earlier that month UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] had called on [JURIST report] the UN member states to establish a comprehensive arms treaty to limit the flow of conventional arms to terrorists and criminal networks.