By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer
MERCER COUNTY —
Congressman Mike Kelly is leading the chorus of legislators who oppose the proposed United Nations Arms Trade Treaty.
Rep. Kelly, Butler, R-3rd District, is against the pact on grounds it threatens the country’s “national security, foreign policy and economic interests,” according to a news release issued Friday by Kelly’s office.
Kelly’s led the charge against the treaty since July, when he drafted a letter signed by 129 other legislators that was sent to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to oppose the treaty then.
U.N. talks about the treaty collapsed that month, but hours after Obama’s re-election, the issue resurfaced when the Obama administration backed a U.N. committee’s call to renew debate on the measure.
A new round of U.N. talks on the topic is set for March 18 to 28.
On Friday, Kelly introduced a resolution urging the president not to sign the treaty and warns the president that if he does indeed sign the ATT, it will not be binding and no federal funds will be appropriated to implement it unless it has consent in the Senate and has been the subject of implementing legislation by the Congress.
“There is considerable cause for alarm regarding the UN’s renewed efforts to forge an Arms Trade Treaty that could trample the constitutional rights of Americans, and could seriously compromise our national security and the security of our allies, whom we will be less able to arm and less quick to defend due to the restrictions placed on us by the ATT,” Kelly said in a prepared statement. “My colleagues and I stand committed to fighting this threat to our sovereignty and to standing up for the U.S. Constitution, which we are all sworn to support and defend.”
The treaty wasn’t on the minds of Doug Edney and Joe Mason, both of Lackawannock Township, but they share a sentiment espoused by many that Obama’s second term may bring with it attempts to limit American gun rights.
Edney’s president of the Western Reserve Sportsman’s Club and he and Mason were target shooting for fun on Sunday afternoon.
Both said they’re staunch supporters of Second Amendment rights and they’ve bandied about fears of gun-control laws being enacted in Obama’s second term.
There’s also a move here for people to arm themselves in the wake of a perceived increase in violent crimes, according to Edney, who noted that after Farrell bar owner William Basilone was gunned down Dec. 30, 2011, people swarmed to get conceal-and-carry applications.
In light of that local sentiment, Kelly is playing to his local constituency when he criticizes things like the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).
The constitutional rights to keep and bear arms are “as dear to me as they are to the folks I represent back in northwest Pennsylvania,” Kelly said in a news release.
The treaty would place “free democracies and totalitarian regimes on the same footing.”
“Unfortunately, this treaty poses major risks to rights protected by the Second Amendment,” Kelly said in a news release.
Kelly was unavailable for comment Sunday, according to his press secretary, Julia Thornton.
The treaty is also opposed by the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups that argue the treaty could eventually lead to the registration of all firearms.
Advocates of the ATT, including the International Action Network on Small Arms, say the treaty is needed because “every day thousands of people are killed, injured, raped and forced to flee from their homes” because of the “poorly regulated global arms trade.”
The treaty would regulate the global arms industry and ban arms transfers to countries suspected of violating international laws.
“In practice, this should mean that a transfer of weapons will be stopped if there is evidence that the weapons are likely to be used for grave violations of international human rights, humanitarian law or will adversely affect sustainable development,” according to Oxfam International, a confederation of 17 human rights organizations that’s lobbied for the treaty’s ratification.
Another group that supports the treaty, the aptly named Arms Control Association, argues that the treaty “has the potential to significantly and positively change behavior” by putting into place “commonsense criteria” to reduce irresponsible arms transfers.
The conflict in Syria, and recent wars in Sudan, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Congo “underscores the urgent necessity” for global regulation of the small-arms industry, according to a paper published by the group.
“Arms brokers can exploit these conditions to sell weapons to criminals and insurgents, including those fighting U.S. troops,” the paper said.
Once drafted and adopted by the UN, the treaty would have to be ratified by Congress to be enforced in the U.S.