On Wednesday, September 26, 2013, the United States joined 106 other countries in signing the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). As we wrote in a previous post, the ATT is the first global attempt to regulate the multi-billion dollar trade in conventional weapons. Signature of the treaty by the United States — the world’s number one exporter of these weapons — is progess to be celebrated!
The ATT creates common standards and rules to improve the control by states of the flow of arms. It regulates all conventional arms, and prohibits the transfer of arms that would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, and certain war crimes. The treaty will require that signatory countries establish national regulations to control the international transfer of conventional arms and components and to regulate arms brokers. It also institutes an annual reporting system as well as regular meetings between heads of states to monitor implementation.
The treaty enters into force after 50 countries have ratified it. The treaty ratification process varies in each country, depending on its domestic law. In the United States, treaty ratification requires the consent by a two-thirds majority of the U.S. Senate. Most of us are aware of the disproportionately strong hold that the National Rifle Association (NRA) holds over the U.S. legislature, leading to the defeat in April, 2013 of the latest attempt to ban assault rifles. Not surprisingly, the NRA opposes the ATT. It lobbied against the US vote to pass the treaty, and against the US signature of the treaty. It will lobby against attempts to get the treaty ratified.
US signature of the Arms Trade Treaty sends a powerful message to the world and other arms exporters that it is time to regulate the arms trade. Those of us who support this progress must do all that we can to support the next phase – the inevitable battle for its ratification by the US Senate.