The old adage goes that if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. With set-backs at the state and federal levels, it is not surprising that the Obama administration would dejectedly turn to an international treaty to push its gun control agenda. In a speech following the recent Washington Navy Yard Shooting, President Obama castigated Republicans for opposing his agenda. “As long as there are those who fight to make it as easy as possible for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun,” the President proclaimed, “then we’ve got to work as hard as possible for the sake of our children.” It is unfortunate to hear such hateful rhetoric, usually reserved to pundits, coming out of the Commander-in-Chief’s mouth. This quote is especially important in the context of the administration signing of the United Nations Arms Treaty.
The United States’ Constitution was deliberately designed to spread governmental power across the legislative, executive, and judicial branches to limit the capacity for tyranny. While a strong executive was recognized as essential, this authority was to be balanced by the judiciary and legislature. Even though the president was to be elected through the Electoral College, the importance of popular opinion was not lost on our nation’s founders. James Madison wrote that for liberty, “it is particularly essential that the [Congress] should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with the People.” That is why, even with all the enumerated executive powers, the Congress is still given authority over issues like declarations of war, taxation, and the ratification of treaties.
The Constitution is the first document of its kind to recognize that governmental power is derived from the consent of the governed. Rather than impose restrictions on the populace, the United States Constitution deliberately limits what the government is authorized to do. This focus on enumerated powers is uniquely American and evolved from the Eighteenth Century American experience. It is the same document that specifically outlaws the quartering of soldiers in private homes, something that in any other country would probably go without saying.
Despite being a self-proclaimed “constitutional scholar,” President Obama has proven to possess ignorance and antipathy towards Congress’s enumerated oversight capacity. From his executive orders on Gun Control, to his rewriting of the employer mandate within Affordable Care Act, to him pledging to wage war on Syria without Congressional approval, the last five years provide a plethora of examples of the President’s contempt for Congress.
This track record, however, pales in comparison to the administration’s signing of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty.
Article II, Section 2 of the constitution holds that the President “shall have Power, by and with Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.” In Federalist #64, John Jay writes that it is important “not only that the power of making treaties should be committed to able and honest men, but also that they should continue in place a sufficient time to become perfectly acquainted with our national concerns.” While the House of Representatives may better read the pulse of popular opinion, the founders chose to give the power of treaty ratification to the longer-tenured Senate in order to “obviate the inconvenience of periodically transferring those great affairs entirely to new men.”
On March 23, 2013, the U.S. Senate voted 53-46 to oppose ratifying the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty. This marked just another set-back in the Obama administration’s push for gun control. The treaty still has a zero percent chance of gaining the two-thirds vote necessary to become law. To borrow a phrase used so often by Democratic leadership, the treaty is “dead on arrival” when it reaches the Senate. Any attempt to enforce it domestically without the Senate’s approval would be a violation of the oath of office and an impeachable offense.
On face value, it would seem this fight would be over. Without a super-majority in the Senate, this arms treaty cannot legally become U.S. law. But the administration signing it anyway proves a hatred of the constitution that has long been suspected ever since Obama chastised Pennsylvania voters in 2008 for ‘clinging to their guns and religion.’
In addition to outlawing the illicit transfer of battle tanks and combat aircraft, the treaty also prohibits the sale of small arms if there is any belief that they could be used in “attacks directed against civilian objects.” While the stated goal is to prevent genocide and war crimes, it also explicitly prohibits the export of firearms if they could be used in attacks on civilians or civilian buildings such as schools and hospitals. There is no doubt that the United States has suffered recently from a string of shootings against schools and other soft targets. Based on the language of the U.N. Arms Treaty, that could give foreign governments enough cause to cease exporting weapons and ammunition to the United States. Who knows, maybe some international actor would attempt to impose gun control on the United States for our own good. When examined alongside Obama’s recent executive order to restrict the re-importation of antique firearms, it is clear that the President’s solution to gun violence is to simply reduce the number of firearms available.
In the President’s own words, anyone who opposes this strategy is deliberately trying to arm dangerous individuals. But the administration is not just trying to disarm dangerous individuals. The Democrats’ dragnet gun control strategy is to disarm everyone, because according to them all armed citizens are potentially dangerous. Every criminal is a law-abiding citizen until he or she chooses not to be. Universal background checks are not about targeting criminals. Even the strictest background check cannot stop criminals from using straw purchasers. New proposed gun control regulations are about expanding the number of disqualifiers in order to disarm ‘potential criminals’ (read: everyone). Gun control advocates are pushing for new mental health checks for gun ownership, yet no one is mentioning the utter objectivity of labeling someone mentally deficient. Navy Yard Shooter Aaron Alexis’ history of firearm arrests, but no convictions, has led gun control advocates to propose that people are guilty until proven innocent and that the mere suspicion of a crime should result in a loss of liberty. And on a global level, we are being told that the capacity of a firearm to forcefully discharge a projectile makes gun owners potential genocidaires.
Let that sink in. If you own a firearm, not only are you apparently a threat to our nation’s innocent children, but you also pose a grave threat to the world’s ethno-religious minority communities.