ELECTION 2010: Your Rights vs. The World
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
With Mexico's president calling for new U.S. gun laws, and
international treaties waiting in the wings, this year`s elections
may be a turning point for our Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
Mexico's president, Felipe Calderón, addresses a joint session
Wrongly claiming that Mexico's murder rate has increased since
the U.S. "assault weapon" ban expired in 2004, as well as
complaining about the number of firearm dealers in the southwestern
United States, Calderón urged Congress to reinstate the ban.
It's hard to keep a secret in Washington, D.C.--especially on
Capitol Hill. So, within a matter of hours after Mexico`s
president, Felipe Calderón, visited Washington in May, word began
to spread that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John
Kerry, D-Mass., was planning to push for Senate ratification of the
dormant, but smoldering and very dangerous, Organization of
American States (OAS) small arms treaty, known by its Spanish
Separately, we heard that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.--who
last year said she would "pick the time" to renew her push for
reinstatement of the federal "assault weapon" ban--was thinking the
"time" had come.
What sparked all of this was Calderón`s address to a joint
session of Congress after meeting with President Barack Obama, and
the way anti-gun lawmakers reacted to the speech. Wrongly claiming
that Mexico`s murder rate has increased since the U.S. "assault
weapon" ban expired in 2004, as well as complaining about the
number of firearm dealers in the southwestern United States,
Calderón urged Congress to reinstate the ban.
A foreign head of state lecturing Congress about American laws
is out of bounds, and many members of Congress met Calderón`s
statement with the silence it deserved. Besides pushing the limits
of protocol, Calderón didn`t have the facts on his side.
The Mexican drug cartels that are responsible for much of
Mexico`s violent crime problem have military-grade weapons and
explosives they cannot get in the United States. That fact was
dramatically demonstrated in April, when cartel thugs launched a
series of coordinated attacks on Mexican Army posts using armored
vehicles, machine guns and grenades. Making the same point, the
Houston Chronicle reported that Mexico`s Zetas drug cartel, which
is "known to have stolen bulk quantities of gunpowder and
dynamite," and the ranks of which include "Mexican military
defectors who were trained in special forces tactics, including
demolition," had plotted to blow up the Falcon Dam, located on the
Texas-Mexico border, and "unleash billions of gallons of water"
into a heavily populated area.
In addition, despite highly concentrated areas subject to drug
violence, Mexico`s overall murder rate--like the murder rate in the
United States--is lower today than it was when the ban was in
effect. Making a similar point, the murder rate in Juarez, Mexico,
where "assault weapons" are banned, is nearly 70 times higher than
the rate just across the border in El Paso, Texas, where, despite
Calderón`s disapproval, firearm dealers are common and no gun ban
is in effect.
Finally, Calderón didn`t explain how the expired "assault
weapon" ban could possibly have made a difference. For 10 years,
this law prohibited placing external attachments such as
adjustable-length stocks, flash suppressors and bayonet mounts on
semi-automatic firearms such as the AR-15-type rifles. It also
prohibited the manufacture, for private individuals, of magazines
that held more than 10 rounds, regardless of the firearm for which
the magazines were designed.
Naturally, Calderón didn`t mention that violent crime has
declined significantly in the U.S. since the ban expired, or tell
Congress how a ban on flash suppressors and bayonet mounts relates
to drug thugs in Mexico or anywhere else. A study mandated by
Congress found that "the banned weapons and magazines had never
been used in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders" before
or during the ban. Congress refused to renew the ban and the
nation`s murder rate, which began declining before the ban was
imposed, continued to decline after it expired. Even the anti-gun
Violence Policy Center described the ban as a "charade."
Facts like these are easily ignored when they clash with
ideology, of course, so anti-gun members of Congress gave
Calderón`s plea for gun prohibition a standing ovation. For anyone
who thought our opponents had given up on gun control due to the
nation`s preoccupation with other issues, the insulting spectacle
put that thought to rest. Along with the rumblings from Sens. Kerry
and Feinstein, it should also remind all NRA members why we must go
to the polls and vote in November.
The OAS treaty is another matter. Even when the subject turns to
international efforts to destroy our right to arms, CIFTA is often
overshadowed by discussions of the United Nations Programme of
Action on Small Arms, UN Firearms Protocol and Arms Trade Treaty.
However, while the others are still in the development stage, CIFTA
inspired all of them. It was signed by President Clinton in 1997
and submitted to the Senate for ratification--so it could be pulled
off the shelf and voted on at will, whenever our opponents think
the time is right.
If ratified, CIFTA would create new U.S. obligations toward
countries that include Hugo Chávez`s dictatorship in Venezuela and
would force new restrictions on U.S. gun owners. Among many other
things, it would require Congress to prohibit you from making
modifications or repairs to a personally owned firearm--even
something as minor and commonplace as attaching a scope, bipod or
sling to a rifle--without a manufacturer`s license. Handloading
your own ammunition would also be treated as "manufacturing."
Treaties do not supersede the U.S. Constitution, but Second
Amend-ment protections against the treaty`s requirements would be
interpreted by federal courts. Those courts would often look to the
State Department for guidance on how the treaty should be
That would have frightening implications, given that CIFTA is
endorsed by the senior legal adviser to Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton, former Clinton administration official and law professor
Harold Hongju Koh. Koh has a long record as an activist who sees
U.S. sovereignty as an obstacle to a gun-free utopian world.
Koh, who once called the United States, North Korea and Saddam
Hussein`s Iraq an "axis of disobedience" against world opinion, is
offended that America disobeys world opinion by respecting the
right of free people to keep and bear arms to protect their lives
and liberty. In a 2003 Fordham Law Review article entitled, "A
World Drowning in Guns," Koh proposed to right our supposed wrongs
against the world.
He proposed to do this by first supporting scholarship to attack
the Second Amendment itself. Koh called former U.N. Ambassador John
Bolton`s strong declaration of the right to arms "needlessly
provocative" and backed a view of the Constitution that was--thank
goodness--rejected by the Supreme Court in the 2008 case of Heller
v. District of Columbia.
The undermining of the Second Amendment would be followed by
"internalization of the emerging global norms" developed by
governments and activist groups that are not answerable to the
American people at the polls. Eventually, those "global norms"
would lead to controls such as "'perishable ammunition` … that
would degrade and become unusable over time."
Under Koh`s plan, "global norms" would be largely determined by
foreign governments and "non-governmental organizations" (NGOs).
Most NGOs involved in this issue are social activist groups funded
by foreign governments and wealthy foundations that don`t have
America`s or American gun owners` interests at heart.
The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA)--the
inter-national umbrella group for the world`s anti-gun NGOs--is a
prime example. IANSA is heavily funded by the United Nations,
several foreign countries, Hungarian leftist billionaire George
Soros` Open Society Institute, the left-leaning John D. and
Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and other foundations and
individuals of like mind. IANSA`s membership includes virtually all
anti-gun groups worldwide, including most of those that are active
in the United States, such as the Brady Campaign, the Million Mom
March, the Legal Community Against Violence and the Coalition to
Stop Gun Violence. Not coincidentally, in February 2008, IANSA`s
leader, Australian gun ban activist Rebecca Peters, made a major
presentation to the Organization of American States in Mexico
In short, Koh believes that foreign governments and activist
groups that are in most cases non-American, in some cases
anti-American and in all cases opposed to our right to arms, should
devise gun controls they consider acceptable, get countries to
incorporate those controls into treaties and other transnational
agreements, and finally use those agreements to get the controls
incorporated into domestic law.
Most NRA members, gun owners and other Americans I`ve met since
President Obama took office have lots of reasons to vote this
November. This international threat is yet another. Between the
already-signed OAS treaty and the UN Arms Trade Treaty being
negotiated between now and 2012, the upcoming congressional
elections will be critical to the future of our right to arms.
Will Sens. Kerry and Feinstein, and other adversaries in
Congress, have enough votes to move their agenda forward next year?
If we all work together and make sure that as many gun owners as
possible go to the polls in November in support of pro-gun
candidates, the answer to that will be a resounding "no."