By Bob Barr
The folks at United Nations headquarters in New York City, and our “allies” at Number 10 Downing Street in London, must be rubbing their hands with glee. Gun control groups here and abroad likewise are at last quietly cheering. Why? After a decade and a half of pushing unsuccessfully to secure America’s support for a legally-binding, international instrument to regulate the marketing, transfer and brokering in firearms, they are now on the brink of success. The process of formally negotiating an Arms Trade Treaty (“ATT”) now has Washington’s seal of approval; announced October 14th by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
It was not always thus.
In the summer of 2001, the UN formally launched its multi-year effort to institutionalize its role as regulator of international transfers of firearms; something it had coveted openly since the mid-1990s. In July 2001, John Bolton had been serving as President George W. Bush’s undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs for barely two months. It is this office at the state department that is responsible for issues ranging from nuclear disarmament to land mine eradication. When the UN began its foray into “small arms and light weapons” (a term that incorporates virtually every type, size and model of firearm) in the mid-90s, the issue fell into the lap of whoever occupied that office.
In one of his first public addresses after being sworn in as undersecretary, Bolton delivered the opening statement for the United States at the UN arms conference on July 9, 2001. His blunt words shocked many of the delegates present. The message he delivered made crystal clear, with reference to our constitutionally-guaranteed “right to keep and bear arms,” that the US would not be a party to any international effort that would directly or indirectly infringe that fundamental right.