UN Arms Trade Treaty: What now?

The global disarmament of civilian shooters just took a huge leap closer to reality in the adoption of the UN’s Arms Trade Treaty. Or did it?

The adoption of the ATT by the United Nations is good and bad, and the fact is we can only speculate now on its ramifications in the future. 

The treaty was inevitable, of course, and many civilian shooters see it as another loose around recreational shooting’s neck, only this time it’s a global one.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr says Australia will be first in line to sign the treaty when the time comes on 3 June.

He’s right when he says “we’ve secured a comprehensive agreement on arms control — enforceable through public reporting to the UN and aimed at reducing the continued flow of conventional weapons to rogue groups and terrorists”.

Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t, but more importantly for you and I right now, is Carr right when he insists “it does not affect domestic arms sales”?

For many reasons, we should be deeply worried, not least because the ATT was created with the input of a lot of anti-gun fundamentalists, the kind of people who do want to impose outright bans on guns.

If the ATT really did not affect domestic firearm sales, why were efforts to exclude hunting firearms rejected during an earlier part of the negotiation process?

Despite the UN implicitly saying the ATT does not interfere with domestic commerce or the right of citizens to bear arms, we should be worried because, in true Australian fashion, our governments and police bureaucracies will use the treaty as an excuse to impose the tightest gun controls they can manage under its auspices. Hey, it’s not their fault, it’s an international obligation on the part of our great nation.

In that respect, it is irrelevant what the US does, at least for us. President Obama’s government has signed up to the UN’s deal, but he will have a very, very hard time convincing a two-thirds majority of the nation’s politicians to agree to changes that may have to be made to their laws and constitution.

We’re already so over-regulated that perhaps the treaty won’t have much additional impact on our gun laws.

There’s no satisfaction in that, though, because the ATT will make it harder to undo unwanted laws. Still keen to close down longarms registries? I’m afraid they’re even more entrenched now.

The extra reporting required for the firearms we buy may increase their prices. Same for ammo.

It may reduce the availability of some products that are already borderline expensive or low volume.

As Shooters and Fishers Party MLC Robert Borsak said in response to Carr’s claims that domestic sales won’t be affected: “Yes, not yet!”




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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.