The United Nations is attempting to establish tighter rules for regulating the international gun trade. UNDP Administrator Helen Clark explained that these weapons “fuel conflict, violence and high levels of crime in dozens of countries,” as she argued in favor of a treaty that covers all forms of international gun transfers. After a failed round of talks in 2012, this week has seen a fresh attempt in New York City to crack down on the spread of violence worldwide.
Historically, arms control treaties have been far more successful in restricting weapons of mass destruction than small arms. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty has been largely successful since its inception, and the UN wants desperately to reduce the number of deaths from armed violence worldwide, which totaled over 500,000 in 2011—largely due to easy access to firearms.
The biggest obstacle to such a treaty would likely be opposition from the United States. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment explicitly protects an American’s right to own a handgun, in the case District of Columbia v. Heller. The proposed Arms Trade Treaty would require all countries to adhere to a universal standard on regulating the sale of firearms, and while such a change is not guaranteed to force significant modifications upon US policy, the cessation of autonomy on such a divisive issue has already created a fire in the belly of American gun advocates.
– Jake Simon