International Gun Control Efforts?

by Kenneth Anderson

The New York Times has a prominent, page 3 international story datelined from the UN by C.J. Chivers, “US Position Complicates Global Effort to Curb Illicit Arms.”  Let me step here directly, but I hope carefully, into the international aspects of a very emotional US political debate.  (And thanks to Glenn Reynolds once again for the Instalanche! I also want to thank the commentators for the courteous and civil tone in what is of course a contentious and often emotionally charged debate.)

Readers will no doubt react differently to the tone of the story; for my part, I thought it rather too involved in a particular narrative about the heroic efforts of the UN and global civil society activists to overcome the demonic and ignorant efforts of the NRA, which pulls the strings of the US government, to end the flow of small arms and light weapons into the hands of child soldiers in conflicts worldwide.  Others, I grant, will read the story differently.  It seems to me, though, that the story is far too uncritical when it basically accepts: 

The United Nations and advocates of gun control have said that such fears are unfounded, and that there is no effort to impose standards on nations with traditions of civilian ownership, or to restrict hunting. The programs, they said, apply largely to areas suffering from insurgencies or war.

“States remain free to have their own national legislation,” said Daniel Prins, chief of the Conventional Arms Branch of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. “This document does not try to regulate gun ownership in the whole world. This is an instrument that allows states to focus on regions in conflict and the weapons that illicitly get there.”

This particular meeting, and this particular document, are, at least according to the Times, focused on the areas in which there is agreement.  But it is far from crazy to think that this particular meeting does not exist in isolation and is instead part of a long history of meetings and diplomacy, and it is likewise far from crazy to think that this is understood by those supporting gun control domestically as part of the long term process by which one undertakes the ‘long march through the institutions’.  Of course that’s the case and, for those that believe in the end result, why should they think any differently?  That’s part of what it means to be an activist, thinking long term about how to use rhetoric to reach your substantive ends.

Of course, too, opponents can see the long term implications as well.  If one goes back to many of the broader documents that have been produced by the UN itself, it is pretty hard to avoid the conclusion that the intention over the long term is gun control at the domestic level.  To refer to “this document,” while leaving aside all the other documents of which “this document” is one in a series is, well, not reportage as I understand it, but artful brief-writing.  The article quotes Rebecca Peters, head of one of the leading international advocacy organizations favoring restrictions; but it does not quote perhaps her most famous comment in recent years that “we want to see a drastic reduction in gun ownership across the world.”  (I’d like to invite someone who closely tracks this issue as a Second Amendment advocate – say, David Kopel or Glenn Reynolds or Eugene Volokh – to tell us in the comments where they think, if they do, that this article is more artful than informative, and please post to the comments.)

I am reasonably agnostic about guns, and while a very firm supporter of very robust Second Amendment rights in this country, think that other societies are free to approach such issues differently.  I was from the beginning in the 1990s, however, a general supporter of the move to create a treaty to limit and regulate small arms and light weapons transfers, particularly into civil wars and conflict zones.  I think that US gun ownership supporters are entirely too romantic about what widespread automatic weapons mean in societies where there is either no tradition that teaches about these kinds of weapons, or else in the course of war and disruption, such traditions have eroded.  

It is not always the case, contra Heinlein, that an armed society is a polite society.  Sometimes it is simply a brutal and brutalizing society, and part of the enormous responsibility of gun owners is to teach and pass along a culture of responsible, individual gun use.  That is one reason why, paradoxically for the gun-controllers, a culture of responsible gun use requires that they be reasonably and openly widespread, widely and openly accepted but subject to social norms and cultural traditions of use.  Traditions of restraint are ingrained over the long term of a culture and society, however, and in my view quite easily destroyed.  The culture of gun ownership in the United States that allows, for example, concealed-carry to work, in my view, quite well is one that peculiarly fuses a libertarian ethos with a social conservatism.  Which is one reason that, although I myself have relatively little interest in guns, I was delighted when my then-11 year old daughter wanted to learn to shoot out in the California desert a few years ago.


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The movement toward a small arms and light weapons treaty got going in the wake of the landmines ban treaty; it was a natural follow-on for the then-ascendent global civil society movement.  But I recall sitting in meetings of landmines advocates talking about where things should go next; I was director of the Human Rights Watch Arms Division, with a mandate to address the transfer of weapons into conflicts where they would be used in the violation of the laws of war, and small arms were the main concern.  I was astonished at how quickly the entire question morphed from concern about the flood of weapons into African civil wars into how to use international law to do an end run around supposedly permissive gun ownership regimes in the US.  I recall remarking with dismay in all those early meetings, back when it was still closely linked to the landmines ban community, that this treaty had a reasonably good, if still small, chance of accomplishing something worthwhile, provided that it was identified as being about exceptional situations – civil wars and failed states – and was not about domestic laws in countries that were perfectly capable of setting their own terms.

That was good strategic advice, regardless of what one thought of the substantive issue – but it was swept away in the lemming-like tendency of advocacy movements to grow their appetites with the eating.  The craziest person in the room all too often winds up controlling the agenda; this is sometimes true of global civil society and advocacy movements as well.

I dropped any personal support for the movement when it became clear, a long time ago, that it is about controlling domestic weapons equally in the US (or, today, even more so) as in Somalia or Congo.  Yes, I grant, there is a logic, a coherency, to the idea that one needs a set of universal rules that are more or less the same for every place.  It is one of the rationales for world government.  I think it is quite wrong, both as a general proposition and as applied to gun rights, but I understand the logic behind it.  One can choose between that idea and the one that I urged:  that it was both substantively wrong and disastrous strategy to think that the rules for a profoundly broken place, lands of civil wars and failed states, should or could be the same as for a functioning democratic society.  The small arms and light weapons movement long ago made its choice about that, and I dropped support for it at that time.

(I am going to publish this now, but I will add a couple of other links and references when I get a little more time tonight. Ps: I have made some grammatical corrections and added some links; I’ll fiddle a little more with it when I get a moment.)

36 Responses

  1. The U.S. is unique because it overthrew abuses of process and powers (the Crown of England) and formed a new nation avoiding abuses of powers. In brief, the Founders of the United States declared not the government, but the citizen as Supreme Authority. In order for that authority to remain supreme, the Founders knew that our authority had to be backed by lethal force, and always from generation to generation if the nation were to survive at all. Framing-era thinking is everything in understanding the entire Bill of Rights and what the Colonists didn’t want any more of, and 2A is no different.

    2A is made absolute because it makes a pre-existing right protected as supreme authority backed by our monopoly on force, which explains how through just powers, law enforcement and military cannot exist without consent of the governed. [Our own law enforcement can, as it has in other countries, make unjust laws, back them with force and go entirely too far. Think England, the Philippines, most of Europe, Australia and other gun confiscation nations, especially in those countries of so-called ‘conflict’. these are not people breaking the laws of a country, they are disarmed persons now fighting for their lives.]

    Tyranny today in 2008?
    If you believe that National ID Card and other surveillance modalities and policies, gun confiscatons and abuses of students and parents are based on meeting/averting violent crime and terrorism, then the tyranny is real in suspicioning all and backing the official suspicion with official force.

    This is incompatible with liberty, whatever the reason, and as citizens, no one need prove any of our suspicions or show cause for refusing compliance: if we have to do that, then all our fears have come true, haven’t they?

    If it’s an official say-so over our say-so, then our sovereignty is dead, irrespective of whether our distrust of officials is correct or not. This is why the next step is to take the force which backs our authority.

    p.s. Those ‘Conflicts’ around the globe are resistance fighting aggression, not just fighting over nothing. THAT’s why they claim to avoid conflicts. They’re rooting for the Aggressor.

  2. With all due respect, I do have a sense here of persons maybe going a little bit too far around the bend on this one on several levels. Yes, it is perfectly obvious that the management of the ownership and use of weapons is a possibility for each sovereign state. And it is also true that there are states that are in conflict without the ability to manage the ownership and use of weapons. But, it is also true that there are states (China for Zimbabwe recently) that make an enormous amount of money selling weapons to states with or without the ability to manage the ownership and use of them. The result is that weapons have the ability to flow to the places where they seem to be able to do the largest damage.

    That people after eroding landmines might next think that managing the AK47 market, etc seems to me something neither scary or crazy but a recognition that there is a problem. As for those who as so Second Amendment focused in this country, I would think that an internal rule of a given country on anything including the use of guns is of no moment to states in the international regime. At some point, states may come to the conclusion that the international trade in weapons is inimical to state survival and seek to change customary international law or even create treaty structures that will diminish the possibility of that.

    Those who think ownership of guns will no doubt fight against those who take this view – and will fight against states that try to create an international consensus on this point. But, let us not get an internal law rule cart before an external law rule horse of international law.

    I am not one to think I have such great wisdom as to think that persons in this debate on one side or the other are all right or all wrong. The idea of joy that a kid wants to learn to shoot a gun leaves me a little cold, but that is me. The fact that notwithstanding my dubiousness about the wisdom of the recent Heller decision stating current law, my father had a gun purchased for my grandmother who lived in DC in the early 1970’s for safety. I have to recognize that idea may not be without merit too.

    The thing in these settings it would seem to me would be to interact between the persons of the different national experiences and, if warranted, create instruments that address points on which there is agreement. That is the evolutionary process of the development of international treaty law that I can not imagine would be something with which any of us would quibble – except those so hung up on cold fingers etc which is a nice picture but a bit much.

    And I say this knowing full well that during the period of Reconstruction in the South, the disarming of blacks was a particular tactic of the irredentist Southern whites so that they could arrogate the monopoly on violence and subjugate the newly freed slaves. Vigilance in all aspects of the question of arming and disarming are essential – but neither of the efforts carries some particular virtue that requires us to automatically reject the other view.

    Good heavens!


  3. Human existence has been a tale of struggle – from those who covet their neighbor’s possessions to nation states who covet their neighbors’ resources. It has also been a tale of resistance – of those who possess fighting off those who covet. In the whole time of man, this has not changed one bit…no matter how much we might wish to think otherwise.

    To rely on someone else, no matter who or what their job title, to protect you and yours is folly…of the kind that can get you and those you love killed.

    Your choice, in the US, by virtue of the 2nd Amendment. Elsewhere, not much choice.

  4. On this issue as many others, I am struck by two things: the incredible push to control tools whilst ignoring or even promoting the people who use them to bad effect, and the drunk-by-the-lamppost character of the actual discussions.

    Land mines are a case in point. The real issue with land mines is clearing them after they have no further utility, so that innocents do not encounter them unexpectedly. (Non-innocents are supposed to encounter them unexpectedly.) US mines are designed, at great expense, to be reasonably easy to clear, for both military and humanitarian reasons. Land-mine banners therefore concentrate almost their entire effort upon the United States, and make nearly no attempts to address the manufacturers of cheap plastic mines which cannot be cleared without massive (and expensive) efforts, or the users who lay them indiscriminately in large numbers. Banners offer the excuse that you have to start somewhere, and it makes sense to begin where some trace of humanitarian impulse exists; a victory there, they claim, will lead to further triumphs. But there are no keys in that pool of light. The actual result is to leave a significant weapon in the hands of bad actors, who use it to good effect and with great pleasure, while restricting the ability of anyone attempting to coerce bad actors into better behavior.

    King Canute was a wise man. The existence of stupid laws has a pernicious effect that is exacerbated by attempts to enforce them. Their primary effect is to cast doubt upon the intelligence, motives, and character of their proponents, and therefore upon the validity of the other laws and regulations issuing from the same source. Proponents of so-called “international law” have revealed that their overriding concern is not the specific issue being discussed, but the meta-issue of hamstringing the damned Americans while enabling any and all opponents and/or competitors, regardless of their character or behavior. The fact that action on point will not and cannot have the effect they claim to desire is irrelevant — vide Britain, where draconian efforts to control “weapons” while making no attempt to regulate behavior, or even promoting antisocial behavior on the ground of entitlement due to the class struggle, have left authorities struggling to define the difference between a kitchen knife and an “offensive weapon” so as to ban the latter while avoiding any offense to or confrontation with street criminals who use knives in robbery; vide the U.S., where Herculean efforts to “stop drugs” has created entire nations of smugglers with state-level resources. Look to those two examples for the real likely result of attempts to regulate traffic in small arms.


  5. I think that US gun ownership supporters are entirely too romantic about what widespread automatic weapons mean in societies where there is either no tradition that teaches about these kinds of weapons, or else in the course of war and disruption, such traditions have eroded.

    As long as the UN process is trying to control weapons as useless in war as .22 caliber revolvers and rifles, it’s perfectly clear that suffering caused by those armed conflicts is not the reason for the gun-control efforts, but merely a pretext for them.

    Which is why the gun-rights advocates quoted in the article clearly say they would withdraw their objections should the UN process confine itself to automatic weapons and other serious military arms (like rocket-propelled grenades).

  6. A culture of responsible use will never grow in a regime where weapons are unavailable. Upcoming technology (home replication machines) will make it technically feasible to make primitive and eventually quite sophisticated firearms with plans inevitably available for free over the Internet. This is going to make any sort of international treaty regime impossible to enforce as home replication machines are also obvious technology for poverty reduction in the 3rd world.

    The first self-replication of a home replication machine in May 2008 was a warning shot that has so far not been heard widely. The rep-rap project is a worthy one but they aren’t kidding when they say that it’s a disruptive technology.

    The only solutions left are to embrace poverty and deny access to replication as well as guns or to create a culture of responsibility that can handle this upcoming disruptive technology. Cultures of responsibility take a long time to take root without an opening blood bath. We might have enough time at this point if we start soon but it is pretty obvious that the same international gun controllers who want to end-run the US’ 2nd amendment protections are not going to accept this idea with open arms.

  7. While I am fully aware of the concept that some cultures may not be ready-made for Liberty and Democracy in the modern western sense, I think it is the nature of cultures to evolve. Thus, the use of arms will be abused by many people in many cultures, but when force becomes equally distributed, democracy is born.
    These cultures will have to learn to temper certain aspects of their social structure which we would call “brutal” with reason and restraint when it comes to deadly force, but that is something we have been permitted to do in the western world for centuries. People in Middle ages in Europe were regularly permitted to carry swords and sabers if they could afford them, and dueling was very popular. Keep in mind that this was a age where a simple infection from a minor cut could lead to death. Court cases were decided in places like England up until the early 19th century with the option of “Trial by Combat” where the accused could challenge his accuser to a duel to the death. It was literally “Might makes right” and it was perfectly legal until the society evolved to see the absurdity of it. Self-defense, however, is not an antiquated and absurd notion, no matter what the likes of Rebecca Peters thinks.
    The laws that were slowly put into place were largely ineffective until the society in question saw the values of such laws. They were also simple regulations, such as laws concerning the length of the blade. The total bans on the carrying of rapiers, even though it’s rather obvious when someone has one, were almost entirely ignored by all parties concerned. This will almost certainly be the case with the thugs and guerrillas that possess AKMs, PKMs, and RPGs in parts of Africa now. And who’s going to dare to try and take them?
    I find it horrifying that the international community would feel that it was appropriate to disarm civilians in a war zone where genocide is rampant and elections (such as that catastrophe in Zimbabwe) are rife with intimidation, corruption, and death all because the ruling party is treacherous thugs who can willfully murder the opposition without fear of reprisals. Those people, the bad guys, already have arms. We need to allow the peasantry to be armed as well. This might make the idea of carrying an AK in public less popular with thugs if they feared being shot on sight when they entered a neighboring village. Thomas Jefferson was correct when he noted “An armed society is a polite society.”
    The notion that a farmer shouldn’t be allowed to own a single-barreled shotgun to protect himself and his family from vicious animals (Tigers eat people!) and marauding bandits is ridiculous. In places like Sudan, the Janjaweed (Literally “Devils on Horseback”) raze villages with automatic weapons fire and then rape, pillage, and plunder at their leisure. These are groups that are armed by the government. The act without the fear that someone will poke the barrel of a twelve-gauge out of the window of a hut an blow a sizable hole through their wicked hearts. I don’t care how steep the learning curve is for an armed civil society, the fact is that people need to be allowed to protect themselves whether it is fashionable with the international community or not. They will never learn to do this responsibly if all of the reasonable people are murdered by democide made possible by international bureaucracies.

  8. TMLutas —

    That will be an interesting technology in the future. Note that the machine did not replicate itself, only the plastic parts it uses. A far cry from self-replication.

    Dealing with the here and now, the UN is crystal clear in every effort it does. Politics and self-accumulation are the only targets it works toward now. As mentioned above, crippling the US is a primary goal because it meets both of those.

  9. Professor Amderson stated that:

    “It is not always the case, contra Heinlein, that an armed society is a polite society. Sometimes it is simply a brutal and brutalizing society, and part of the enormous responsibility of gun owners is to teach and pass along a culture of responsible, individual gun use.”

    Unfortunately, limitations on an individual’s right to bear arms are likely to cut off arms to those who are brutalized, not those who are brutalizing. The UN’s efforts are consistent with those who argue that an individual’s entire self-identity and security stem from the state, which state is ultimately conceived to be a world polity. I don’t challenge the good faith of those who hold this view, but I would challenge them to rethink their underlying assumptions about human nature on which their views are based. The notion that individuals are on an equal level of creation (whether one views this creation as stemming from a clockmaker God, an intervening God or accident or otherwise) with inalienable rights, and that governments are formed to facilitate securing these inalienable rights but are not the source of such rights, may not be as elegant as the idea of a world polity to which one can entrust one’s identity and security. However, I would suggest that, on the level of life on earth, the inalienable rights view is the only sustainable approach.

  10. “States remain free to have their own national legislation,” said Daniel Prins, chief of the Conventional Arms Branch of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs.

    There’s where he gives away the show.  He graciously extends to the state his permission to have their own legislation, today.  Almost certainly not tomorrow.

    The genius of the US Constititution is that puffed-up nobilities are not emplaced to grant or refuse such permissions.  In fact the Government is refused permission by the people to deal in such matters.  Congress shall make no law, etc.

    As long as we can prevent our legislatures from entering into treaties which make end runs around the Constitution, there’s hope for independence from the mass intellectual lemming-stampedes of the world.

  11. Quite a stimulating discussion! A lot of good responses. But we need to recall that this is not a matter of opinion, but a civil right put in place for the protection of the Nation against all unrighteous violence. The govt’s job is to protect the country, our job to protect ourselves (The nation is the people, the country is the geography and interior).

    Police have no duty to protect us, only to protect the public. [See Internet Search Term “Police have no duty to protect individuals..” for court ruling after ruling tossing cases out of court. The latest is Castle Rock v. Gonzales, US Supreme Court, 2005.]

    In America, crime is used as a boondoggle to impose various policies with the uninformed consent of the people. In other countries, the analog is to disarm people under a ruse of crime, then to make guns illegal, then when people resist tyranny there at all (with machetes and sticks or even ‘illegal’ guns), they are ‘Criminals’. These conflicts are not a matter of right or wrong, they are a matter of murderous governments against their own people. You need to hear from people who made it to America to appreciate not only how good we have it here, but also to see what they are really fighting over.

    If you want to investigate my assertions before calling them ‘around the bend’ as above, please look into how forty states in the U.S. affirm right to carry a gun, (and crime there is lower than major cities’ crime) but major cities make it a crime to carry. In America, we citizens have i) all the legal authority to stop a crime in progress, ii) we may legally come to the aid of another, iii) we may use up to lethal force if we believe we are in grave danger and have no choice (better be able to prove it), and iv) we may use this authority to effect a citizen arrest. Most reject this because they don’t want this authority, but this is not to say that we don’t have it. We do.

    In right-to-carry states, plenty of citizens (in the millions across the nation) embrace their authority to protect their families with the support of their legislatures.

    Since the inception of concealed carry, the bottom line is that crime is lower due to incompleted acts reported and not reported, and not one state has elected to repeal their concealed carry law. Legislators have not been made to regret enacting their CCW laws.

    In other countries, they have no such law which declares that the citizen is supreme. They have no freedom, and no way to get it except to fight for it. Here, we won the fight before they could get all the guns, and what started the Revolution was the night they came for them.


  12. Very interesting commentary.  I will say that while disagreeing with Mr. Anderson on various positions I am in complete agreement that “part of the enormous responsibility of gun owners is to teach and pass along a culture of responsible, individual gun use.” Unfortunately, many current firearm regulations and related requirements make it increasingly difficult to do so.  For instance, many states require those getting a hunting license for the first time (regardless of their experience with firearms or hunting in, say, other states), take an onerous course.  Here in CT the hunting course is upwards of 16 hours of classtime.  This state requirement, while understandable on one level, is an example of overkill that delinks the parent-child tradition of hunting instruction.

    Similarly, Anderson states, correctly, that “[t]raditions of restraint are ingrained over the long term of a culture and society, however, and in my view quite easily destroyed.”  This destruction is, I believe, one of the goals of those who’ve nearly succeeded in the demonization of firearms, which creates an irrational fear of anything connected to weapons – e.g. suspending kids who merely “draw” the picture of a gun, or the child in CT was recently suspended for possession in school of a fired blank cartridge used in a 4th of July parade salute by veterans. 

    I’m the father of three girls, ranged 9 to 11, and I fully intend that they will be familiar with shooting and bearing of arms, and that they treat them with the respect they deserve, but not the fear that many anti-gun advocates have attempted to instill.

    P.S. – I am also a member of the NRA (and attorney).

  13. Prof. Anderson says: I think that US gun ownership supporters are entirely too romantic about what widespread automatic weapons mean in societies where there is either no tradition that teaches about these kinds of weapons, or else in the course of war and disruption, such traditions have eroded.

    I couldn’t disagree more. It isn’t a tradition of teaching about weapons that secure the peace, it is a tradition for respect for the law and a society that promotes justices that does. When Prof. Anderson continues by saying ” part of the enormous responsibility of gun owners is to teach and pass along a culture of responsible, individual gun use” he is speaking truth, but a truth unrelated to a peaceful society.

    Gun owners, like everyone else, need to be concerned for the lawful use of force in society — to oppose lawbreakers, to protect innocent life, to preserve liberty. If society doesn’t support such efforts by a vigorous program of law and justice, the lawful and lawless will find themselves in a war.

    The basic flaw in civil disarmament programs is it treats the lawful as if they were lawless. In doing so, these programs diminish the lawful and increase the power of the lawless. They are doing precisely the wrong things.

    Most decent people understand the use of personal action and force is a last resort. That is why decent gun owners vigorously support strong penalties applied to violent criminals. Where the government enforces these laws properly, there will be peace. Where government is ineffective or, perhaps, lawless itself, there will be war. If you want decency to prevail, don’t support restraints on the lawful being able to arm themselves for their own protection.

  14. May I remind you that a weapon is just a tool? Tools may be designed badly or used improperly, but there is no immorality in a tool, just in their improper use. Despite the fact we have numerous laws and traditions in the US to control the improper use of automobiles, there are about 50 thousand deaths a year. Should this unavoidable result be an excuse to ban the automobile?

    Sanctions against tools merely increase their costs. Given that transportation is easy and quick, nothing will keep tools out of a country where there is the money to pay for them. Prohibiting weapon is, thus, a direct action against the poor.

    Worse, sanctions set up an illegal apparatus to get around the laws. Prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol in the US, in the 1920’s, did not end the drinking of it, but, instead, set up the conditions for bootleggers and speakeasies. It also increased trhe tyranny of the US Federal government.

    What the UN is trying to do is attack the effects of weapons by using ineffective means. It intends to create laws which the people will, then, disobey. It will use this truculence as an excuse to impose tyranny.

  15. Great comments.  I agree with the argument about foundational principle for United States.  From which it follows that 2A is key instrument to check tyranny.  (Indeed, one could speculate whether a complex system such as civil society is stable over time unless it contains “restoring forces” such as the ability to check tyranny, whether it is the bureaucratic tyranny that emanates from a palace or the quasi-anarchic tyranny that is the byproduct of rampant criminality by gangs on the streets).  Other countries are free to choose different ways to maintain order and we can all see how well that turns out.  I prefer our system and I particularly applaud Kenneth Anderson’s point about the need for the culture to avoid demonizing guns per se.  They are a technology like any other; they have to be used responsibly; the more that such uses are observed by the rest of society to be widespread, frequent and responsible (lots of hunting or at least target practice) the less likely that demonizing can occur.  Because gun-banning politicians will be met by grassroots skepticism from people who may not use guns but whose neighbors do, whom they know to be decent and thoughtful people.  That “embedding” of the value is almost more important than explicit policy measures; and much harder to address by top-down official action.  In a strong sense, it is up to each of us. 

  16. Rebecca Peters’ organization, IANSA is a committed supporter of domestic gun control, having supported the Brazilian gun referendum of 2005 which sought to ban ALL domestic guns.  It was fortunately defeated.

    In recent years, gun control supporters have lost popular support in the US, in popular opinion, in the legislatures and now in the courts as well.  This is one of their few remaining options – to sneak in domestic gun control via international organizations.  We must remain vigilant to ensure that this is shot down.  Sadly the U.N., an organization made of of government-hungry states will likely support this effort.

  17. Query:

    >> I was astonished at how quickly the entire question morphed from concern about the flood of weapons into African civil wars into how to use international law to do an end run around supposedly permissive gun ownership regimes in the US.

    In your view, why was this? What was the motivation?

  18. Of course UN officials are against guns in the hands of youth as that threatens the indemnity they now have enjoying their infamous and unabated child prostitution benefits. Before all else, the child buggering should be stopped and I think a bullet is a rather proper way to do it. 

  19. It was lucky for the U.S. that countries like France and Belgium agreed to sell or otherwise provide arms to the American colonists, when King George ordered the disarming of the American colonists. So, who gets to decide whether those who want or need firearms can have them – their own government, or do we leave it to the elitists who want to run the world their way, and have no dissenters who are able to resist?

    Gun control in the 20th Century:
    Soviet Union- Established gun control in 1929. From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

    Turkey- Established gun control in 1911. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

    China- Established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

    Germany- Established gun control in 1938. From 1939 to 1945, 13 million Jews and others, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

    Cambodia- Established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, 1 million educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

    Guatemala- Established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

    Uganda- Established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

    Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 56 million.

  20. “The craziest person in the room all too often winds up controlling the agenda; this is sometimes true of global civil society and advocacy movements as well.”

    The same is true in spades of civil societies themselves. This is why we wish to keep the room as small as possible, and this is why we wish to make sure that not only the controller is armed.

  21. When I saw the photo of the little girl with the M16, I cringed.

    An enlightened society would have taught the young lady to lean forward more; it’s better for balance, center of gravity, and absorbing the kick from the weapon.

  22. Response…
    Left unchecked, the evil always get their way because the law, world opinion, and rights are meaningless to them.  They care only about their own needs and desires, using force unsparingly to achieve them.  
    Coming from a realm of politics and policy, and without the slightest clue as to the fundamentals of human nature, elites don’t understand this.  The DC city council (another spate of shootings this weekend as the great revolver registration drive gets underway) is of the same ilk as the UN and most NGOs.  Just a few more rules and a little less individual liberty for the masses, and the city or the world will be a perfect place.  Trust them, for they know better.
    As it happens, we have a modern example of the application of their methods in the real world, the Balkans, where an arms embargo in the 1990s had no impact on the brutes who stole or purchased whatever they wanted from the Warsaw Pact closeout sale. 
    The UN did engage, bringing hope to the minimally armed folks who were being ethnically cleansed, an entirely successful intervention if one overlooks the 1995 massacre in UN-declared safe area of Srebrenica.  In the end, the UN prevailed, showing its might and righteousness when it brought the evil Slobodan Milosevic to justice in a trial rivaling Nurnberg, the sausage, not the tribunal. 
    (It’s a pity that Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general who ordered the Srebrenica slaughter, and his boss, Radovan Karadzic, remain at large, but they are lucky guys: the criminal tribunal formed to judge their doings expires in 2010.)     
    As for arms in Africa, the Hutus made effective use of machetes, and sky-high fuel prices may put a damper on necklacing.    
    Finally, why is the US sticking out like a sore thumb when it comes to firearms?  What about those stinking Swiss, huh?  Why aren’t the insults thrown their way?  Oh wait, they’re European…  Sorry.

  23. I can understand the desire to control the spread of weaponry in the failed or broken states (as in Africa) that you mention. But how is it that dictators (again in Africa) who are liquidating populations or terribly brutalizing them (especially helpless women and children) are tolerated for so long by the UN which hems and haws for years while the carnage goes on?

  24. Response…Saying that it is in failed States and broken countries where “gun control” or restriction on the supply of small arms is allowable or needed.  It is precisely there that law cannot be enforced.

    I will point out that in Iraq from the time of Saddam’s overthrow to today, US and coalition forces allow Iraqi families to keep one AK-47 for their personal protection.  Two AK-47’s are seen as a potentially agressive force, but one, families were allowed to keep.

    I’d say it is particularly in failed States, where the ordinary people get crushed, that they need personal firearms and international schemes to limit this supply make it harder for ordinary people to arm themselves for self-protection.  The organized forces will be able to get around any international scheme.

    Russia and China, not to mention the NorKo’s, can’t even get on board to try to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons and you think they’ll get on board to stop selling AK’s, mines, grenades or RPG’s?  Send me some of what you’re smoking.

  25. I greatly fear that any successful UN effort in this regard will end up like the arms embargo in Bosnia–unjustly favoring one side who, for whatever reason of historical accident, happens to have their hands on the levers of power when the UN wakes up and decides to intervene.

    About the only difference I would have with the previous commenters here is that, unlike Thomas Collins, I think we’re past the point where good faith can be simply assumed.

  26. The U.N. was created to be the place to talk in order to stop future wars between large nation states. It has changed so that the Human Rights Commission is run by those nations that have the worst respect for civil rights. So the moral authority of the U.N. is suspect.
    Human nature is constant. There are those people that wish to have power over others. The easiest way is to force them with the use of arms.  Imprisonment, rape and destruction of property are more extreme ways. Mugabe’s Zimbabwe is a current example.
    A large percentage of people do not need any laws to be decent. Without laws, decent people do not choose to rob, steal, murder, assault and rape. The law is a method of rules the society agree upon to punish those people who choose to act against society best interest. The law needs to moral authority in order that most will fell in needs to be obeyed. Religion has fulfilled this purpose. The Judaic law, the Ten Commandments, and Sharia law are all attempts to use religion to provide the moral authority for the law. In other regimes it was the law that the King made. Certain basic are common. Punishments for stealing, assault, murder and rape.
    In order to have a population of decent people, morals and ethics needs to inculculated early in the children. Children are taught that it is wrong to take from others for personal gain, not hurt another for anger or to bully. When these morals are not taught or the contradictions of applications happen, then the breakdown of social order appears. The law never stops bad behavior it is just the means to punish behavior.
    The disorder and low level warfare that is common in Africa is from a culture of power to accrue to one single individual. President/ Kings. But they do not have a power transfer mechanism. The system of royalty had a king which had it lords that were sworn loyal to the king. The king had an obligations and duties to rule for the benefit of his subjects. IF he did well, his kingdom became rich. If he was despotic his kingdom got poorer and weak and a target from other kings.
    The American system was designed to decentralize power in order to avoid the despotic tendencies of single person rule. Also the tendencies of bureaucrats to gather power and regulate those they govern. The means to change the government or to resist when rules become too restrictive was reserved to the individual with ownership of arms. The system so far has worked.
    The big problem in Africa is that the balance of power is disrupted when one group has all the means of force and the others do not. Arm deliveries can preserve balance of power or increase conflict levels when the village defends itself against human predators. If the towns organize themselves against human predation, this is the beginning of a city-state.
    Peace is not always the goal. Death is peace and so is despotic rule. Peace does not tranquility and fairness. So peace is not always desirable. If the people of Zimbabwe had the means and will they could have stopped the police state that evolved under Mugabe.
    Small arms shipments could have helped the populace that is intimidated. But the time to revolt was long past and the people choose to put their faith not in arms but in words and elections.
    So is shipment of arms to Africa destabilizing? The answer can be true if the arms goes to people who choose to resist or revolt. The shipment to arms to those in power like the Chinese shipment to Zimbabwe actually stabilizes the country, by giving the balance of power to the police state of Mugabe. This stabilization is not to the benefit of the population. So is the destabilizing impact of small arms to the population or contesting forces bad or good?  In my opinion it is good, but that is from the standpoint of an American who believes in individual freedom.

  27. Hmmm… Letting an organization currently dominated by the biggest, ugliest collection of dictators, theocrats and just plain murderous thugs ever seen control my access to the tools of self defense?

    Pass. Next!

  28. Rebecca Peters and the anti-gun zealots at the U.N. are
    once again objectifying a problem. Disarming the victims
    of state aggression and genocide is not in the interest
    of the cause of Liberty. Their so-called “Civil Society” depends
    upon authoritarian top-down control rather than recognising
    the rights of the individual. The U.N. is not an organisation
    to be entrusted with defense of freedom or much of anything

  29. Response… You find it surprising how quickly the people who banned landmines switched to this effort to ban firearms. Its really isn’t when you realise that for such groups success means loss of income. Special interest groups really don’t want to win because then they no longer have a reason to exist. Once the landmine treaty was signed they either had to go back to whatever was their previous occupation before the movement or find a new issue. So they found a new issue which offered money from organizations who already supported gun control (like the Joyce foundation). If that money in turn came with strings pushing domestic American  gun control instead of blocking the shipments of arms to Darfur or Somalia, what ever it takes to keep the money flowing in. 

    As it is, is the landmine ban truly worthy of its Nobel prize. When european troops in Afghanistan are sleeping behind American minefields at forward bases, afraid to build their own because they won’t be allowed to emplace landmines. Remember, when the woman who shared the Nobel with Princess Diana said that all signatories are now on record as willing to suffer higher casualty rates then revert to using landmines. And what higher rates they are suffering when the primary weapon used against them in either Afghanistan or Iraq is a buried bomb (a landmine).

  30. Any time gun control in America comes up there is a very large elephant in the room, especially since 9/11.

    Arms in American hands have not prevented unconstitutional laws and the federal agencies born of those laws.  Case in point – New Orleans floods.

    Britain, Australia and South Africa have succumbed to tyranny.  Canadians are still fighting the culture war and may yet see a reversal. 

    If it ain’t about duck hunting, you could have fooled me.

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