The United States has long been one of the most resistant nations to signing global treaties through the United Nations. However that is starting to change.
The U.S., along with 154 other countries, have voted for a global treaty regulating the export and import of weapons. Essentially all conventional weapons are regulated under the treaty, from hand guns to assault rifles.
The global arms trade is now a $70 billion industry, so the implications could be wide sweeping. This marks the first passage of a legally binding conventional arms trading bill, an important milestone in world where gun proliferation has helped fuel conflicts around the world.
The treaty will require nations to adhere to U.N. arms embargoes and also to ensure that weapons are not falling onto the black market. Still, NGOs and others calling for even tougher gun regulations say that the bill will do little to stop leading arms exporters, such as the U.S., from exporting to repressive regimes.
While the Bush administration was always strongly opposed to any such measures, the Obama administration has been more open to discussions since the beginning. Still, an early attempt to pass the bill in mid 2012 failed largely on U.S. opposition to specific portions of the original bill.
The NRA and other gun rights groups fear that the U.N. bill will infringe on domestic rights of American gun owners. No portions of the bill, however, will affect the rights of Americans to bear arms. The bill only deals with global international trade and targets limiting the sale of guns to human rights violators and others who could misuse the weapons.
The treaty also has nothing to do with the sale of legal guns and only seeks to prevent the sales of weaponry on black markets. In most advanced nations, even ones with liberal gun laws, such as the U.S., gun sales are still closely monitored. Only nations with major black markets will have to change domestic policies to curb black market trade.
The bill will be signed on June 3, 2013 and will come into force about 90 days later. From a practical sense, it usually takes between 2 to 3 years for the bill to come into full affect.
Iran, Syria, and North Korea were the only nations to vote against the bill. Russia, India, and others are abstaining do to reservations over certain portions of the bill.
India abstained due to the belief that the treaty favors exporting nations, such as the U.S., over importing nations, such as itself. Russia’s abstention is important as the nation is the world’s second largest exporter of weaponry.
As Russia is one of the major suppliers of weapons to rogue regimes, such as Iran and Syria, unless the country changes course and signs the bill, there could be little actual change.
Still the bill does mark a major step forward to the United Nations and could provide groundwork for future efforts to curb the sale of guns to rogue regimes and human rights abusers. Whether or not the bill will actually prove effective or not remains to be seen. Beyond the fact that key nations are abstaining, the U.N. has a long track record of passing ineffective bills stuffed with loopholes.