Monday, July 9, 2012

Rene King Thompson: A Sense Of Deja Vu About the U.N. Small Arms Treaty And The NRA

Today we have a guest blogger...  Rene King Thompson.  Ms. Thompson is one of the original 10 founding moms of the Million Mom March and works passionately to reduce gun violence as well as teen suicide.  As you read her thoughts, please also consider the current U.N. Small Arms Treaty talks and the NRA's close ties to gun manufacturers, who both profit from the international arms trade and donate tens of millions of dollars to the NRA.

Below is from Ms. Thompson:

When I hear Wayne LaPierre’s ranting that a UN treaty concerning the regulation of small arms imports and exports would strip Americans of their Second Amendment rights, I feel a sense of déjà vu.  I feel this because 11 years ago, when I was a member of the first Million Mom March NGO to attend the United Nations, I heard the same BS.

Mary-Leigh Blek, Vicky Keller and I had the honor of representing the March in July 2001 at the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects and it was an extraordinarily educational experience and a fantastic chance to network with others internationally.  For someone like me, who had come to the issue after the Columbine and Jewish Community Center shootings, I had tended to concentrate on what occurred here in the U.S.  This was a chance to understand the issue and the problems globally.

I learned of the problems with gun running and the circulation of illegal guns from one war zone to the next, from one criminal cartel to the next.  I learned about the ties between gun running and the use of kidnapped children being used as child soldiers, drug trafficking, blood gems, and human trafficking.  I came to recognize that this problem wasn’t just our problem. It was a global problem in which our country played both a positive and negative part.

For those who have never had the chance to listen to, let alone participate in a UN conference, it was awe inspiring.  Men and women from every corner of the world coming together respectfully to work to solve an issue, it was magnificent.  While acknowledging state’s (countries) sovereignty and laws, it made several rational recommendations which would help deal with the problems including:

Suggesting to member countries that do not have laws concerning production, importation and exportation of small arms that they enact such laws;

Suggested to member countries that do not have laws concerning illegal stockpiling of firearms that they create such laws, so that small arms cannot move into illegal hands;

Identify and take action against those individuals and organizations who are illegally stockpiling and gun running within individual countries;

Request that licensed manufacturers apply reliable markings on their firearms so that nations can track firearms that are moving into illegal hands;

Insuring that all confiscated or seized small arms are destroyed, so that they cannot be deviated into criminal hands.

Reasonable, rational strategies made so as to deal with crime, terrorism and war.  Efforts made to make it harder for illegal arms dealers to supply weapons to criminal gangs and terrorists and for small arms to move from one war to the next.

And all you heard from the NRA was “No.  It will strip away our Second Amendment freedoms.”  They couldn’t quite understand that (a) none of the suggestions would remove a single legal firearm from a single legal gun owner (b) it didn’t in any way effect legal gun ownership, production or export and (c) the problems being discussed were bigger than just our country.

I watched and listened to several more experienced activists attempt to explain to the NRA NGO members that sovereign countries requesting that gun manufacturers and gun import/exporters working within their countries to register had no effect whatsoever on the U.S. because the U.S. had its’ own laws in place.  They explained the problems and the needs caused by the problems and the solutions that would have a positive effect to resolve said problems.

It didn’t matter to the NRA.  To paraphrase the Marx Brothers, “Whatever you say, we’re against it.” No solution which allowed firearms to be identified, regulated or destroyed was going to be approved by the NRA.  The victims didn’t matter.  The terrorism didn’t matter.  The crime syndicates didn’t matter.  More than once I heard members of their group use the term ‘collateral damage’ after hearing about human beings who had died or had been wounded.  They were more emotionally distressed by the thought of the confiscated firearms being destroyed than they were by the human beings whose lives were destroyed.  They were more incensed that illegal arms dealers might lose business than they were about the terrorist acts committed by those who bought the firearms.  It was apparent to all at the conference that their priorities were not the same as the rest of those in attendance.

And so, here we are, 11 years later and as we continue to work to solve the problem, we note that the NRA and their ilk still fight for the rights of gun runners, arms dealers and those who make money off of the suffering that war, crime and terrorism inevitably bring, all the while claiming that they want to make people free.  Luckily, even the most conservative groups are now starting to question the NRA’s rants since their leaders have made some outrageous claims such as supporting those who have acted treasonously against this country in the past and the NRA’s writing and supporting legislation which would have placed guns back in the hands of convicted felons.  

It would seem that as the rest of us work to take the weapons out of the hands of criminals and terrorists, we were right to let the NRA just keep speaking, as, left to their own devices, they shot themselves, without any assistance, in the foot.

ADDENDUM (added by Baldr):  A related article from the New York Times:
From the NYT Opinion piece: 
The United States is the world’s main arms exporter, and President Obama deserves credit for reversing American policy in 2009 and agreeing to back an arms trade treaty. Now he must lead the way in ensuring that the final document is robust enough to make a difference. Predictably, the administration is under pressure from the gun lobby even though it has vowed that it will not approve any treaty that impinges on Second Amendment rights. 
Only 52 of the world’s 192 governments have laws regulating arms brokers, and fewer than half of those penalize violators. The United States and a few others have good national controls, and there are 26 United Nations, regional and multilateral arms embargoes in place.
ADDENDUM (7/15/12):  Amnesty International USA also denies the NRA's distortions: