Thursday, April 16, 2009

President Announces Desire to Ratify the Inter-American Convention

In Mexico City today, President Obama announced his desire to see the U.S. Senate ratify the long-titled "Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials."

As reported by the Washington Post, President Obama reiterated his support for the Second Amendment, saying: "I believe we can respect the Second Amendment of the Constitution . . . and curb the flow of assault weapons to Mexico . . . None of us are under the illusion this would be easy."

Mexican President Calderon, who seems to have tempered his own former rhetoric about the U.S. Constitutional guarantees denied to his defenseless countrymen, added: "[he] respects the Second Amendment . . . but [wants a solution that] prevents abuse of the right by criminals."

Unfortunately, the inaccurate statistic that 90% of weapons seized in Mexico come from the U.S. was again repeated in the news conference. I think reuse of this widely disproved statistic is only adding fuel to the fire and should be retired ASAP (please mention to any of the administration figures you see.) I expect that those who see any international treaty involving the U.S. and the word "Firearms" as inherently bad will use the opportunity for fund-raising via scare tactics. And in truth we do need to keep a close eye on things.

However, I am willing to take President Obama at his word when he said he will not take away (or try to) firearms in the hands of law-abiding Americans.

BUT WHAT DOES THE TREATY ACTUALLY SAY?

First, here is a link to the cited "INTER-AMERICAN CONVENTION AGAINST THE ILLICIT MANUFACTURING OF AND TRAFFICKING IN FIREARMS, AMMUNITION, EXPLOSIVES, AND OTHER RELATED MATERIALS." Please take a look at it for yourself.

I'm sure this announcement will cause alarm in various pro-RKBA forums & magazines, but my take on it is that the convention doesn't--in itself--actually say anything that should damn it at the outset. Here are some notable excerpts from the pre-amble:

  • "...STRESSING the need, in peace processes and post-conflict situations, to achieve effective control of firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials in order to prevent their entry into the illicit market; ..."
Okay...so far so good...
  • RECOGNIZING that states have developed different cultural and historical uses for firearms, and that the purpose of enhancing international cooperation to eradicate illicit transnational trafficking in firearms is not intended to discourage or diminish lawful leisure or recreational activities such as travel or tourism for sport shooting, hunting, and other forms of lawful ownership and use recognized by the States Parties...

Not as strong as it could be--and certainly not in line with the full purpose of the Second Amendment. However, the line in bold--Recognizing that states have developed differnet cultural and historical uses for firearms--is a meaningful inclusion....
  • RECALLING that States Parties have their respective domestic laws and regulations in the areas of firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials, and recognizing that this Convention does not commit States Parties to enact legislation or regulations pertaining to firearms ownership, possession, or trade of a wholly domestic character, and recognizing that States Parties will apply their respective laws and regulations in a manner consistent with this Convention..."

That seems like a complete recognition of the pre-eminence of the 2nd Amendment to me. But questions of law--as we saw with the Bush administration "signing statements"--are questions of will and of intention as much of word. So, there is nothing in the language above that commits the U.S. to bans, licensing or a national "list."

So far so good . . . But I think the potentially problematic parts are in Article XI and XVIII:

Article XI
Recordkeeping

States Parties shall assure the maintenance for a reasonable time of the information necessary to trace and identify illicitly manufactured and illicitly trafficked firearms to enable them to comply with their obligations under Articles XIII and XVII.


Article XVIII
Controlled Delivery

1. Should their domestic legal systems so permit, States Parties shall take the necessary measures, within their possibilities, to allow for the appropriate use of controlled delivery at the international level, on the basis of agreements or arrangements mutually consented to, with a view to identifying persons involved in the offenses referred to in Article IV and to taking legal action against them.


These articles could be interpreted either way. What is a "necessary measure" in "identifying persons involved in offenses"?

This convention/treaty is probably headed for the Senate. Our senators on both sides of the aisle need to ask these questions and make certain the language in the final treaty answers them in affirmation of the U.S. Constitution. Confidence in this outcome would be greatly enhanced if the statistical manipulations about where firearms are coming from and what types they really are were immediately made part of the discussion, i.e. drop the "90%" canard.

Note this excerpt from a recent L.A. Times article about the ongoing Mexican drug war:

The enhanced weaponry represents a wide sampling from the international arms bazaar, with grenades and launchers produced by U.S., South Korean, Israeli, Spanish or former Soviet bloc manufacturers. Many had been sold legally to governments, including Mexico's, and then were diverted onto the black market. Some may be sold directly to the traffickers by corrupt elements of national armies, authorities and experts say.

Acknowledgment of these facts by both the Calderon and Obama administrations--and dropping the pretense that U.S. gun shows are destabilizing the Mexican government--would be a first good step in finding meaningful solutions to solve our mutual problems.

4 comments:

brian r said...

Zak,

As you stated, those articles can be interpreted either way. I think they are either too vague, or aren't clear because they don't use "plain language" which is often a tactic to hide something from the general public (those of us not smart enough to decipher their lawyer speak :)). Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I know that Obama keeps saying that he supports the second amendment (and I hope that is true) but I'm afraid that he may interpret it a bit differently than I would like.

brian r said...

I would like to add that even though I don't know or exactly trust Obama's true stance on gun control, I am still extremely excited that he is our president. I am not a one issue voter and I truly believe that Obama was and is, our best choice to lead our country. I guess time will tell if that is true, and where he stands on gun control.

brian r said...

Zak,

As you stated, those articles can be interpreted either way. I think they are either too vague, or aren't clear because they don't use "plain language" which is often a tactic to hide something from the general public (those of us not smart enough to decipher their lawyer speak :)). Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I know that Obama keeps saying that he supports the second amendment (and I hope that is true) but I'm afraid that he may interpret it a bit differently than I would like.

JJCahill said...

The potential problems with the Inter-American Convention Against Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms start with the definitions. #6 below says that any part of a firearm, or any part or accessory that can be attached to a firearm, IS A FIREARM. Now comes the “Catch 22” that these “parts and accessories” would be illicit if not produced meeting all requirements of the Treaty.
Putting a new spring in your Smith and Wesson could be the “manufacture” of an “illicit firearm” from parts “illicitly trafficked” (manufactured by a company that only made springs and never applied for a government license as a “firearms manufacturer” - or did not mark the spring as a firearms component).

Certainly the authors of the Treaty will say this type of extreme interpretation is not intended. That’s the problem ... unintended consequences if the terms of the treaty are misapplied by an anti-rights authority. Details matter.



ARTICLE I 
Definitions

For the purposes of this Convention, the following definitions shall apply:
1. "Illicit manufacturing": the manufacture or assembly of firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials:
a. from components or parts illicitly trafficked; or
b. without a license from a competent governmental authority of the State Party where the manufacture or assembly takes place; or
c. without marking the firearms that require marking at the time of manufacturing.
2. "Illicit trafficking": the import, export, acquisition, sale, delivery, movement, or transfer of firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials from or across the territory of one State Party to that of another State Party, if any one of the States Parties concerned does not authorize it.
3. "Firearms":
a. any barreled weapon which will or is designed to or may be readily converted to expel a bullet or projectile by the action of an explosive, except antique firearms manufactured before the 20th Century or their replicas; or
b. any other weapon or destructive device such as any explosive, incendiary or gas bomb, grenade, rocket, rocket launcher, missile, missile system, or mine.
4. "Ammunition": the complete round or its components, including cartridge cases, primers, propellant powder, bullets, or projectiles that are used in any firearm.
5. "Explosives": any substance or article that is made, manufactured, or used to produce an explosion, detonation, or propulsive or pyrotechnic effect, except:
a. substances and articles that are not in and of themselves explosive; or
b. substances and articles listed in the Annex to this Convention.
6. "Other related materials": any component, part, or replacement part of a firearm, or an accessory which can be attached to a firearm.

7. "Controlled delivery": the technique of allowing illicit or suspect consignments of firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials to pass out of, through, or into the territory of one or more states, with the knowledge and under the supervision of their competent authorities, with a view to identifying persons involved in the commission of offenses referred to in Article IV of this Convention.