Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Cold, Dead Hand

As I've remarked elsewhere, I get a lot of right-wing screeds in my email, some of which I laugh at, some of which I ignore, some of which I actually take seriously. An email I got from an NRA buddy at least had the backing of an internet link to a reliable news source: in this case, Reuters. The issue that caught my attention was the U.S. expressing willingness to support the Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, which is a UN-supported organization designed to negotiate arms control treaties. While the emphasis is on strategic (nuclear) arms, the thing that has the NRA in a twist is that it also covers sales of conventional arms (e.g. guns and ammo) overseas, saying that this would be the "first major step in a plan to ban all firearms in the United States."

Come on, people!

The point of this treaty is to bring some law and order to the process of shipping arms to overseas customers--you know: like Iran, the Contras, or the Mujahadeen. Be that as it may, the U.S. Government has some of the strictest rules for sales of arms overseas, so we could only raise the tenor of debate. I do find it interesting that a staunch ally of ours, Israel, as well as two theoretical rivals, China and Russia, all abstained on this treaty last time it came up for a vote in the UN. They don't like the idea of American standards tying their hands on who they can sell weapons to.

On the flip side, do we want our decision to, say, arm pro-freedom demonstrators in Iran, China, Cuba, or elsewhere, subject to a veto by the UN, a body that has taken great pleasure in thwarting U.S. plans at every turn? So if you're going to oppose the treaty, pick that reason. It's a lonnnnng stretch to say that this is a ban on domestic sales of handguns, and I can name half a dozen people off the top of my head who would argue the point most strenuously if any American government even tried such a stunt.

Every year I get stockholder ballots that include arguments from the Sisters of Mercy (or somesuch group) complaining that Such-and-such defense contractor is making money selling [X weapons] to unsavory characters overseas. And every year I check the box voting No, occasionally adding the comment, "If you're so concerned about making money on weapons, sell your stock. That, or write your congresscritter complaining to them about who the U.S. Government allows to receive American-made arms."

Again, the point of this treaty is to bring the U.S. into the UN process for restricting how many arms we sell overseas. If the arms dealers are cheesed off about losing money because the government restricts how much money they can make selling overseas, they can lobby like every other Beltway Bandit. That is not the same as putting a clamp on the sale of handguns and other toys to American citizens. I don't even buy the slippery slope argument on this one. In this case, the NRA is barking up the wrong tree.

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