WASHINGTON — Oklahoma lawmakers have joined an effort by the National Rifle Association to fight potential limitations on gun ownership and sales in the United States as part of an international arms treaty being negotiated at the United Nations.
Both Oklahoma senators and three of the state's five U.S. House members have signed letters to the Obama administration expressing concerns about a treaty that supporters say would be aimed at restricting the flow of conventional arms to terrorist groups, criminals, oppressive regimes and insurgents linked to human rights abuses.
A letter sent last month by 130 U.S. House members, including Reps. Tom Cole, R-Moore, James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, and John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, raised concerns that the treaty could violate the 2nd Amendment, impede U.S. arm sales to allies such as Israel and Taiwan and impose “onerous” reporting requirements on defense-related manufacturers.
A United Nations conference on the Arms Trade Treaty held discussions this week; conference negotiations are expected to last through July 27.
The National Rifle Association has been raising concerns about the treaty talks since the Obama administration agreed in 2009 to participate.
The group's executive director, Wayne LaPierre, addressed the conference on Wednesday, saying that the treaty must not apply to civilian firearms.
“Let there be no confusion,” LaPierre said. “Any treaty that includes civilian firearms ownership in its scope will be met with the NRA's greatest force of opposition.”
He said that two-thirds of the U.S. Senate would have to ratify any treaty and that 58 of the 100 senators already had objected to a treaty that includes civilian arms.
Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, a member of the NRA board of directors, said Friday, “Our sovereignty and protecting the rights of American citizens must come first when negotiating any treaty. I call upon the Obama administration to swiftly reject this U.N. treaty if the final version contains provisions that infringe on the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
Some groups have accused the NRA of distorting the treaty. Adotei Akwei, of Amnesty International, suggested the NRA's true motive was “to protect the lucrative weapons industry that bankrolls the organization and benefits immensely from the current free-for-all in the global trade in weapons and ammunition.”
Akwei said, “Far from preventing hunting or other leisure activities involving guns, this treaty will instead help prevent warlords, armed militias and dictators from killing, raping, enlisting child soldiers, and otherwise abusing men, women and children around the world.”
List of conditions
The U.S. State Department has compiled a list of conditions for its support. Those include:
• No restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms otherwise permitted by law or protected by the U.S. Constitution.
• No provisions inconsistent with existing U.S. law or that would unduly interfere with the nation's ability to import, export or transfer arms in support of national security and foreign policy interests.
• Lawful commercial trade in arms must not be unduly hindered, and there can be no requirement for marking and tracing of ammunition or explosives.
• No mandate for an international body to enforce the treaty.
The State Department also has raised objections to the inclusion of ammunition in the treaty.
Donald A. Mahley, the U.S. ambassador working on the treaty, said in remarks at the conference on Thursday that the treaty should regulate only the international arms trade.
“Any attempt to include provisions in the treaty that would interfere with each state's sovereign control over the domestic use or movement of arms is clearly outside the scope of our mandate,” he said.