Monday, July 16, 2012

The UN's Vital Arms Control Treaty!

You probably haven't heard of it, but at the United Nations headquarters in New York they're discussing a treaty on arms traffic which could someday make Colombia a much safer place.

Unfortunately, a few confused fanatics in the United States make the treaty's passage unlikely anytime soon.

A Swedish-made AT4 anti-tank missle launcher
like those sold to Venezuela and then transferred to
the FARC guerrillas.
Incredibly, no international treaty exists on arms trade, despite the fact that small arms such as handguns and automatic rifles kill a half million people every year, while they together with heavy weapons can destabilize governments and carry out wholesale repression and massacres of civilians, as we've seen in places like Syria, Sub-Saharan Africa, Mexico and Colombia.

Regulating the trade in weapons, which cause so much havoc and killing, seems like a no-brainer. And it would help Colombia, not only by keeping weapons out of the hands of illegal groups, but also to reduce Colombia's extremely high homicide rate.

The treaty under discussion would, according to, prohibit international arms transfers when they would cause:

  • The undermining of global, regional, local, or internal peace and security;
  • Violations of international humanitarian law or human rights law;
  • Involvement in genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes;
  • Risk of diversion to organized criminals or terrorists;
  • Impairment of socio-economic development;
  • Risk of unauthorized re-export from the recipient state.

It's predictable that authoritarian governments which want weapons to repress and kill their own people would oppose this treaty, as would the governments which earn billions of dollars selling arms to human rights trampling dictatorships. (Recent sales and attempted sales of weapons by China to Zimbabwe and Russia to Syria come to mind.)

Illegal arms seized by Colombia's military. 
Colombia has helped write the new treaty. But neighbor Venezuela, which has made huge weapons purchases and is building an AK-47 factory, abstained from a vote on the issue, as did China and Russia, two big arms exporters. The U.S. voted against the proposed treaty, altho the Obama administration has expressed support for it.

Undoubtedly, the most powerful opponents of this treaty are the United States' fanatical domestic organizations - even tho they actually have nothing to fear from this treaty (altho I wish they would). The evidence, from both common sense and scientific research, is overwhelming that more guns in circulation usually mean more crime and violence, and the drop in homicides following Bogotá's recent ban on carrying weapons is even more evidence of that. U.S. organizations like the notorious NRA choose to ignore the evidence because of their paranoia that any sort of arms registration will end up taking away their handguns. That's ridiculous. Nevertheless, for the time being, they appear to have won their war in Washington. But the proposed treaty says explicitly that it wouldn't affect nations' domestic gun laws, but regulate only international transfers. In addition, the U.S.'s controls on weapons exports are already quite strong, meaning that treaty's impacts would be small. 

The U.S., as the world's largest arms exporter, is critical to this treaty. But ratification by the U.S. would require a two-thirds vote by the Senate, and far more than one third of the U.S. senators live in fear of the NRA.

Standing in the way of sane gun laws in the U.S. is bad enough. But gun-rights fanatics should be ashamed of themselves for blocking a treaty a treaty which could save millions of lives and stabilize nations around the world. By taking this position, the NRA and its allies make themselves passive accomplices to mass murder on a global scale. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


mauricio forero l said...

Excellent Mike!!

M Foero.

Carlito said...

Homicide rate has been decreasing in Bogotá for more than a decade, so the weapon banning is not a reliable explanation. I think is more related to the current economic situation.

Miguel said...

Hi Carlito,

you are correct that a strengthening economy tends to decrease crime rates - altho not all of them. For example, with more money in their pockets, people tend to go out, get drunk and do stupid violent things.

Still, this may certainly be a factor. However, Bogotá's homicide rates have dropped so significantly from last year to this one, that it's hard to believe that gun control laws aren't also a factor.