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UN gun grab goes bust: despite abundant anti-gun sentiment at the UN's recent Small Arms conference, anti-gunners ran into a serious--if temporary--setback.

The gun grabbers were crying in their lattes over how the United Nations Review Conference on Small Arms had "failed" because the conference had not only not led to finalized plans to end civilian ownership of guns, but U.S. government officials stood strongly on the side of gun owners, and Kofi Annan, the head of the UN, seemed to cave in to public pressure and cancel the UN's confiscation plans. Rebecca Peters, director of International Action Network on Small Arms, called U.S. government demands "crap" when she heard the news that the United States had effectively put a stop to even a follow-up conference on small arms, saying the conference had been "hijacked by a small number of states, notably the U.S."

If all were as it seems, this would be a huge victory for gun owners and their main ally, the National Rifle Association, which has been urging its millions of members to write their U.S. representatives and the UN to protest the conference. But the apple going to the apparently victorious champions of the Second Amendment will not be very tasty once it is bitten into.

Pleasing at First Glance

The tone of the conference was evident from the outset. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed in his remarks at the opening of the two-week long conference: "Let me ... note that this Review Conference is not negotiating a 'global [gun] ban,' nor do we wish to deny law-abiding citizens their right to bear arms in accordance with their national laws."

And just to stress the point, Annan added: "I would want to repeat, because there are people around who either have not heard this or do not want to hear: we are not negotiating a global ban, nor do we wish to deny law-abiding citizens their right to bear arms in accordance with their national laws. Our energy, our emphasis, and our anger is directed against illegal weapons, not legal ones." Gun banners must have been in shock because Annan's words were a complete reversal from the lead-up to the original 2001 Small Arms conference, where Annan enthusiastically endorsed a report of the UN "Group of Governmental Experts on Small Arms" which suggested that "States should work toward ... the prohibition of unrestricted trade and private ownership of small arms and light weapons."

On the second day of the conference, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert G. Joseph laid down the Bush administration line: "The U.S. Constitution guarantees the rights of our citizens to keep and bear arms, and there will be no infringement of those rights. The United States will not agree to any provisions restricting civilian possession, use or legal trade of firearms inconsistent with our laws and practices." Not an auspicious start for the gun grabbers at this conference, the five-year follow-up to the initial 2001 conference that envisioned eventual abolition of the right to keep and bear arms.

If this were the sum total of actions at the conference, this would indeed have been momentous--but it wasn't.

More Than Meets the Eye

The gun grabbers, true to form, had a trick up their sleeve. The rabbit they had hidden, waiting to be pulled out, was contained in the initial draft "outcome" document, which had a "Plan of Action" of 14 pages of deliberately crafted vagueness, which pledged to meet every two years until 2012 for "action implementation meeting[s]." In other words, the gun grabbers revised their goal for this conference and planned to walk away with guarantees for another three swings at their agenda.

Based upon an internal strategy meeting of the British-based International Action Network on Small Arms that TNA reporter Tom Eddlem attended unnoticed, hope for gun banners hinged upon a future conference with a more compliant--perhaps even sympathetic--U.S. administration. But in the end, the Bush administration took even that hope away, demanding no follow-up meetings and dooming any "Programme of Action" proposed by the conference.

But no one who has experience with the UN or any of its gun-ban advocates believes that this is the last word on the subject. Former U.S. Congressman Bob Barr, who was monitoring the conference on behalf of the National Rifle Association, told THE NEW AMERICAN that we can expect the gun-grabbing nongovernmental organizations to try again anyway: "They'll keep pushing at the United Nations like the Fabians."

The Rotten Core

The U.S. government, as represented by the Bush administration's undersecretary of state, seemed good as gold, but almost unnoticed, Joseph took an action that virtually guaranteed that U.S. citizens would be subject to a future global gun ban. While on one hand opposing U.S. inclusion in an international scheme to regulate ammunition and ban firearms transfers to insurgents (so the United States can continue arming insurgent groups), he lauded plans for worldwide controls on gun sales.

Saying that "the United States believes it is critical to our collective interests that we act to stem the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons," Joseph backed limitations on other nations. While Americans can perhaps be thankful for small favors--that the United States is still willing to act in what it sees as its national interest--the fact that the U.S. government is backing international regulation of small arms transfers abroad means that eventually the United States will not be exempt from the global controls it seeks to impose on others. Joseph engaged in hypocrisy that will come back to bite the United States and its Bill of Rights.

The unusually strong statement from the Bush administration on the Second Amendment was visibly geared toward the November elections domestically, where gun owners provide a key base of support for Bush's Republican Party. After laying down me administration's line in the sand, Joseph added: "As an officer of the Executive Branch of my government, I took an oath to protect the Constitution--a duty that is an honor to uphold." Given the Bush administration's low popularity among the Republican faithful for its failure to hew to an agenda of old-fashioned conservatism and the administration's heretofore weak stands on the behalf of gun owners (as exemplified by Bush's professed willingness to reenact the so-called Assault Weapons Ban that outlawed certain guns simply because they "looked" menacing), it's hard to see the turn of events as anything else.

The Small Arms conference proved the irrelevance of the United Nations when it comes to imposing itself over the United States. The UN is at present a tool of U.S. policymakers, rather than the reverse. For the Bush administration, the goal was to rally a key part of Bush's base for his party in the mid-term elections and prevent international controls on its plans to provide freedom fighters/insurgents in Somalia (and possibly Iran) with arms covertly. While the gun grabbers lost, the Bush administration won outright.
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Author:Williamsen, Kurt
Publication:The New American
Date:Aug 7, 2006
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