The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to approve the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, which aims to regulate the international sale of weapons. The United States was one of the 154 votes in favor.
The American National Rifle Association opposes the treaty. In a February interview with The Daily Caller, NRA President David Keene said the treaty would "end-run the Congress, end-run the Constitution, end-run the state legislatures and the federal courts." Among the NRA's objections are record-keeping requirements for imported guns.
It's unlikely that the treaty is supported by the two-thirds majority in the U.S. Senate required for ratification.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kans., told The Washington Times Tuesday that senators are "united in strong opposition to [the] treaty." Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., told the paper, "Americans will not stand for internationalists limiting and infringing upon their constitutional rights."
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday the Obama administration is "pleased to join with the consensus" and Secretary of State John Kerry said the treaty would "strengthen global security while protecting the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade."
A final draft of the document from late March calls for countries to regulate the import and export of arms. Although the treaty specifically names warships, combat helicopters, battle tanks and other weapons of war, it also lists "[s]mall arms and light weapons" as covered by the treaty.
The treaty says that individual countries must maintain records of listed weapons that have been imported from overseas for a minimum of ten years.
Under the treaty, a "Conference of States Parties" would be established within one year to administer and amend the document. Amendments could be adopted if seventy-five percent of countries that signed on to the treaty vote in favor, a potentially alarming prospect for supporters of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
"The States Parties shall make every effort to achieve consensus on each amendment," the final draft of the treaty says. "If all efforts at consensus have been exhausted, and no agreement reached, the amendment shall, as a last resort, be adopted by a three-quarters majority vote of the States Parties present."
The treaty, if enacted by states, would ban weapon sales to importers that may use them for human rights violations.
In practice, the treaty may be used to cut off arms to international pariahs. That was the fear of the three countries—Iran, North Korea and Syria—that voted "no" on Tuesday.
Iran argued the treaty was "hugely susceptible to politicisation and discrimination," The Associated Press reports. Syria cited the lack of a ban on weapon sales "to terrorist armed groups and to non-state actors" in a clear reference to the anti-government Syrian rebels receiving international assistance.
Twenty-three countries abstained, Reuters reports, including Bolivia, China, Cuba, India, Nicaragua, Russia and Venezuela. The treaty will go into effect 90 days after 50 countries sign onto it.
The U.S. Senate has blocked other proposals to put policy issues under the purview of the U.N. Last year Republican senators blocked ratification of the U.N. agreement known as the Law of the Seas treaty, which went into effect in 1994. Even when the U.S. signs on to such agreements, the U.S. government can ignore admonitions from the U.N., as it has done with marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado—policy changes the U.N. says violate treaties ratified by the U.S.