The UN is reportedly on track to complete the Arms Trade Treaty by its self-imposed deadline of July 27 — a treaty that could undermine the Second Amendment revival that the Supreme Court ushered in a few years ago.
Granted, the treaty does not literally require that member nations ban guns — ostensibly it’s about keeping guns from terrorists (although the UN won’t say what a “terrorist” is) — but it could lead to “death by a 1,000 cuts” for gun rights, as Heritage’s Ted Bromund points out. For example, the latest draft of the treaty applies to “all international transfers of conventional arms” but then goes on to define “international transfers” as “the transfer of title or control over the conventional arms.” So when does a transfer become “international?” Consider how the US Courts have stretched the concept of “interstate” in Commerce Clause cases, so that the cultivation of wheat (or pot) for personal consumption counts as “interstate commerce.”
Thus, anti-gun politicians (Obama, Pelosi, etc.) could push for tighter gun regulations arguing that it’s a matter of fulfilling our international obligations. Or the courts might save the politicians the work by doing it themselves. As Bromund argues, the treaty “will inspire judges and legal theorists who believe that the Constitution needs to be reinterpreted in light of transnational norms.” This is a trend that John Yoo highlights in his excellent book, Taming Globalization.
Second Amendment rights are, of course, subject to reasonable regulations. But those regulations are to be decided by state and local authorities — not the UN. Whether or not the US ratifies the Arms Trade Treaty, US courts should interpret international treaties so that they adhere to the Constitution’s scheme of rights and separation of powers.