In an attempt to avoid public scrutiny, President Obama plans to sign the controversial United Nations gun treaty in August, when Congress is in summer recess. According to White House press secretary Jay Carney, Obama will sign the treaty “before the end of August,” even though legally he could have done so next week.
The treaty is problematic for a variety of reasons ranging from the substantive to the procedural. On substance, the treaty is designed to regulate arms importers and exporters, which the United States already does. The treaty, however, does not properly regulate foreign countries, leaving the United States on the hook while leaving actual wrongdoers alone. Meanwhile, signatories are supposed to keep information on “end users” of arms imported into their country and to give that information to the supplying country. In other words, it makes it more difficult for American citizens to import arms, and guarantees the solid chance that foreign governments have information about domestic gunowners.
Procedurally, the United States originally insisted that the treaty go through consensus decision-making, meaning that everyone sign on. But when a conference to do so failed, the US decided that the treaty did not need to apply to all countries. Countries abstaining from the vote include China, Russia, India, and Egypt.
While the Obama administration openly supported the treaty when it was first proposed, it has changed its view since the failure of domestic gun control legislation. Now, it appears that the White House wants the benefit of being on the record with regard to the treaty, but does not want the fallout of a public battle over the treaty before the 2014 elections, especially given the fact that the treaty will not be ratified in the Senate.
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