“Ever since its founding 65 years ago, the U.N. has been hell-bent on bringing the U.S. to its knees,” U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, said in a recent fundraising letter.
The letter, forwarded to us by a reader, said that a new U.N. treaty includes provisions “mandating a new international gun registry,” among other things. Stockman also wrote that the treaty “sets the stage for confiscation on a global scale.”
We wondered whether the treaty really creates a registry.
PolitiFact has looked at similar claims about the United Nations before, most recently finding that a letter supposedly outlining a U.N. plan to “disarm civilians” was fake. In December 2012, we rated as Pants on Fire a chain email saying the Obama administration planned to use international treaties to ban all U.S. weapons.
And in August 2012, PolitiFact Georgia tackled a claim very similar to Stockman’s. Georgia Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Broun said, “If passed by the U.N. and ratified by the U.S. Senate, the U.N. Small Arms Treaty would almost certainly force the United States to … create an international gun registry, setting the stage for full-scale gun confiscation.”
PolitiFact Georgia rated that claim, including its implication of confiscating guns, as False.
The United Nations has been working on an Arms Trade Treaty to regulate the global arms trade — not just small arms — for years. Backers say it would curtail mass killings and terrorism and would keep dictators from killing their own people.
The U.N. General Assembly adopted the treaty April 2. The United States voted for it, and White House spokesman Jay Carney said that President Barack Obama planned to sign the treaty “before the end of August,” saying it was “in the interest of the United States.” For the treaty to take force in the United States, though, it would need to be ratified by the U.S. Senate, which March 23 voted 53-46 to insert its formal opposition to the treaty into Senate spending legislation.
The text of the treaty says its purpose is to regulate the international arms trade and prevent illicit sales and transfers. It applies to arms, ammunition and armament parts moving across a national border, specifically conventional arms in categories such as “warships,” “combat aircraft” and “small arms and light weapons.”
The treaty requires nations to deny authorization for exports of such armaments if they will be used for terrorism, to commit genocide, to attack civilians or in other war crimes and to take “appropriate measures” if they detect that a shipment has been diverted.
Nations are required to maintain a “national control system, including a national control list,” report exports and imports to the U.N. each year and regulate brokering with measures that “may include requiring brokers to register,” but the treaty doesn’t specify how countries must carry out these directions.
Daniel Prins, chief of the Conventional Arms branch of the U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs, told us that the national control list will be “an enumeration of the types of weapons you will report,” starting with the categories in the treaty (warships, combat aircraft, etc.).
Then, each year, nations will report imports and exports in the categories on their lists, Prins said: “35 tanks to Germany,” for example.
Countries can be more specific, but it’s up to them, he said.
The treaty emphasizes that the U.N. is leaving regulation of the arms trade within a country entirely up to that country. The preamble says the parties to the treaty reaffirm “the sovereign right of any state” to regulate arms in its own territory “pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system.” It also says the parties are “mindful of legitimate trade and lawful ownership.”
Prins said there should be no effect on, for example, a U.S. citizen buying a gun from a foreign broker because “whatever broker you engage will need to be registered already with the U.S. government to be able to function as an arms broker.” That’s because the U.S. has some of the strongest arms import and export legislation in the world, he said.
With this treaty, Prins said, “we’re trying to get the world to adopt a transfer system that comes closer to what the U.S. already has.”
Our ruling: Stockman said a U.N. treaty is “mandating a new international gun registry.” His claim takes a treaty intended to curtail illicit weapons trade between countries and describes it as a step toward confiscating gun owners’ property.
Nations that ratify the Arms Trade Treaty must track conventional arms that move across their borders, share some information about the transfers with the U.N. and other countries, then report the imports and exports in broad categories such as “battle tanks” to the U.N. each year. They must also regulate brokers, but requiring them to “register” is optional. Recording details such as the quantity and model of weapons in a shipment is also optional.
We rate Stockman’s claim as False.
Statement: A new U.N. treaty is “mandating a new international gun registry.”