Updated 15 May 2017
The United Nations (UN) International Small Arms Control Standards (ISACS) effort started in 2007 as a multi-stakeholder initiative (MSI) to develop normative instruments for UN member states (to incorporate into their national regulations and/or legislation) on various aspects of the small arms and light weapons (SALW) issue.
In the field of international law, “normative” instruments are those aimed at steering behavior of actors and/or determining, reducing, or otherwise constraining the freedoms of actors, and/or unilaterally shaping the legal or factual situation of actors.  Actors can be state or non-state in nature. Non-state actors are generally understood to include, among other things, corporations and individual private citizens.
In the words of ISACS Project Coordinator Dr. Patrick Mc Carthy, ISACS was envisioned to “serve as a powerful strategic and operational instrument of SALW control.”  However, several years of history shows that the ISACS MSI essentially compromised on three sets of principles in the pursuit of its goals:
- ISO principles of international standards development.
- UN principles of effective MSI governance.
- UN principles of professional conduct, as elaborated in the:
The third set of principles comes into the picture on account of published reports and statements variously made in the UN by ISACS participants aligned to the interests, goals, and concerns of industry.
The SALW industry, broadly understood, includes not just manufacturers of arms and ammunition, but other interested parties such as other companies in supply and distribution chains, retailers, consultancies, competitive shooting groups, hunting and conservation groups, collector groups, adult and youth training organizations, hobby clubs and associations, civil arms rights advocacy groups, and the more than 62% of the total American population (about 198 million people) who believe having a gun at home makes them safer.
The following is an evolving online repository of selected documents detailing the conception, planning, start-up and execution of the UN ISACS MSI. It also includes statements and correspondence to evidence aspects of the controversy surrounding the MSI as well (e.g. the pattern of bias, exclusion, and non-conformance to relevant standards development principles, standards of conduct). These are listed in chronological order starting with the personal blogs of the UN ISACS MSI Coordinator, Dr. Patrick Mc Carthy, written prior to his being hired by the UN in the fall of 2008.
- Patrick Mc Carthy. ‘Complete Disarmament Insight Blog Postings of Dr. Patrick McCarthy’. [COMMENT: The 12 June and 4 July 2008 blog posts stand out for their adverse indications and implications about the neutrality, legitimacy, and credibility of the ISACS MSI, its Coordinator, and its normative outputs. Arguably, these posts should have disqualified Dr. Mc Carthy from leading any UN-sponsored MSI on the topic of small arms control. Specifically, these blog posts provide evidence that Dr. Mc Carthy is not neutral on small arms policy matters nor respectful to applicable UN norms, principles, standards, rules, and regulations. Among other things, his short commentaries show explicit support for IANSA (an anti-industry, anti-civil arms rights, and anti-firearms sporting advocacy network). He does this by expressing that IANSA’s agenda and viewpoints deserve greater airtime and implicitly deserve greater proportional weight in international small arms policy making than the the views of industry and its civil society stakeholders. Dr. Mc Carthy’s comments also explicitly reveal he plainly rejects accepted two ISO principles of international standards development (i.e. that decisions be by consensus seeking, that standard setting be by multi-stakeholder process) and implies he rejects many contemporary UN principles of effective MSI governance. In short, Dr. Mc Carthy’s 2008 airing of his private views essentially preview how the ISACS MSI has actually been coordinated…a bias to “go with what the vast majority of [states, humanitarian civil society] wants” and not to “give in to pressure from a small minority” [i.e. industry and its stakeholders in civil society.]
- UNDP. ‘How To Guide: Small Arms and Light Weapons Legislation.‘ Bureau for Crises Prevention and Recovery. July 2008. [COMMENT: This is the UN’s policy advocacy foundation which has served as the aspirational policy baseline, normative framework, and informal litmus test for accepting or rejecting stakeholder feedback. Years of case history suggest that if a participating ISACS stakeholder viewpoint does not generally conform with the beliefs and assumptions specified or implied by this document, it is likely the viewpoint will be ignored and excluded from in the ISACS standards development process. The policy ideas and assumptions set forth in this document have not been open to discussion or debate, which violates basic principles of international standards development]
- Patrick Mc Carthy. UN ISACS Project Coordinator. ‘Developing International Small Arms Control Standards Background Paper.‘ 14 November 2008. [COMMENT: Industry and its stakeholders can not confirm they were provided a copy of this document.]
- Patrick Mc Carthy. ‘Broad-based Consultation on the Development of International Small Arms Control Standards Summary Report.‘ Published 23 January 2009. [COMMENT: This is a summary of the 24-25 November 2008 meeting held in Geneva to kick-off the UN ISACS MSI, which only one individual from the firearms industry attended. Industry and its civil society stakeholders can not confirm ever being provided this document. The Independent Industry Consultant, Thierry Jacobs, reported this document was never provided to him (October 2014).]
- Patrick Mc Carthy. ‘Project on International Small Arms Control Standards.‘ 26 February 2009. [COMMENT: Industry and its stake-holding civil society supporters do not report being provided a copy of this document.]
- Patrick Mc Carthy. ‘Call for Nominations to Positions on an Expert Reference Groupto Review Draft International Small Arms Control Standards.‘ 19 May 2009.
- Patrick Mc Carthy. ‘Initial Listing of ISACS Project Project Sponsors.‘ July 2009.
- Patrick Mc Carthy. ‘Initial Listing of ISACS Project Consultants.‘ July 2009.
- Richard Patterson. Managing Director of the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturer’s Institue (SAAMI). ‘Statement at the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States (on the implementation of the UN Program of Action on Small Arms.‘ 16 June 2010.
- Ted Rowe. President of the World Forum on the Future of Shooting Sports Activities. ‘Statement at the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States (on the implementation of the UN Program of Action on Small Arms.‘ 16 June 2010.
- Gary Mauser. Representative of the Canadian National Firearms Association. ‘Statement at the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States (on the implementation of the UN Program of Action on Small Arms).’ 16 June 2010.
- Patrick Mc Carthy. ‘Project on International Small Arms Control Standards: Phase 2 Proposal to the Government of Australia.‘ 22 February 2011. [COMMENT: Industry and its stake-holding civil society supporters were not provided a copy of this plan, or any other subsequent plan. This document was obtained from the Government of Australia directly.]
- United Nations. ‘Draft International Small Arms Standard 3.3 version 3.0 National Controls Over the Access of Civilians to Small Arms and Light Weapons.‘ 2011.
- Patrick Mc Carthy. ‘Email To ISACS Participants_ISACS 3.3 v. 3.0 Announcement of Postponement of Standard 8 DEC 2011-American official Highlighted‘ 8 December 2011. [Comment: US Department of State Official official on the distribution list highlighted at bottom.]
- Gary Mauser. ‘Personal Letter To Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs.‘ 26 Jan 2012.
- Richard Patterson. ‘Minority Report Submitted By The Sporting Arms And Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute In Response To Draft International Small Arms Control Standards Promulgated By The United Nations Coordinating Action In Small Arms.‘ (SAAMI, Newtown, 2012).
- Patrick Mc Carthy. ‘CASA Response to SAAMI on Minority Report.’ CASA. 2012. [COMMENT: On page one of this document Dr. Mc Carthy confirms that the ISACS MSI does not respect several principles of international standards development. His comments indicate he doesn’t know what a multi-stakeholder process is, what the definition of consensus is (it is agreement in the absence of sustained opposition) and he doesn’t support equality of stakeholders or appreciate bridge-building and interest balancing…all implied requirements of proper international standards development according to ISO methods and procedures.]
- Richard Patterson. ‘Statement at Review Conference on the UN Programme of Action.‘ 22 March 2012.
- Richard Patterson. ‘SAAMI Response to CASA on CASA Response to SAAMI Minority Report.’ 11 Apr 2012.
- Patrick Mc Carthy. ‘Email To ISACS Participants_ISACS 5.31 Tracing illicit small arms and light weapons 13 April 2012_American officials Highlighted‘ 13 April 2012. [Comment: Four US Officials are on the distribution list, highlighted at bottom].
- Jeff Moran. ‘United Nations Inter-Agency Small Arms Control Standards Development: A Case Study In Troubled Transnational Gun Control & Civil Disarmament Policymaking?’ Journal on Firearms and Public Policy. Vol 25. (2013) [COMMENT: This was an initial report based on available information. It led to a follow-on report, the high-level findings of the follow-on report are included in the Jeff Moran letter of input below.]
- Patrick Mc Carthy. ‘Introduction to ISACS Presentation.’ 14 September 2014.
- Thierry Jacobs. Independent Industry Consultant to the UN ISACS MSI. ‘Personal Statement of Mr. Thierry Jacobs.” 14 November 2014.
- Patrick Mc Carthy. ‘Email To ISACS Participants Announcing ISACS 3.3 v. 3.1 Comment Period Open 19 January 2015 (US Officials Highlighted)‘ 19 January 2015. [Comment: Four US Officials on the distribution list highlighted at bottom].
- United Nations. ‘Draft International Small Arms Control Standard 3.3 v. 3.1 National Regulation of Civilian Access to
Small Arms and Light Weapons.‘ 2015
- TSM Worldwide LLC. ‘Event Alert on UN ISACS Draft Standard on National Regulation of Civilian Access to Small Arms and Light Weapons.‘ 5 February 2015.
- Gary Mauser. ‘Comment on ISACS Module 3.3 version 3.1.‘ February 2015.
- Gary Mauser. ‘Response to ISACS Module 3.3 Comments from Mr. Ian Ruddock.’ February 2015.
- Jeff Moran. ‘Jeff Moran Letter of Input for Dr. Patrick Mc Carthy 22 Feb 15_1.1.’ 22 February 2015.
- ISACS Accountability Project. ‘Open Letters to US Department of State and Department of Justice Officials, and 150 UN Officials, on the UN ISACS MSI.‘ [COMMENT: This link is to an industry media post on 6 March 2015. The original letter emailed to US Officials was dated 4 March 2015 and forwarded the open letter to 150 UN officials. The original letter emailed to 150 UN Officials was sent on 26 February 2015.
 J. Pauwelyn, R. Wessel, and J. Wouters (eds), Informal International Lawmaking (OUP, Oxford, 2012) pp. 16, 22. Also includes reference to A. von Bogdandy, P. Dann, and M. Goldman, ‘Developing the Publicness of Public International Law: Towards a Legal Framework for Global Governance Activities’ (2008) 9 German Law Journal 1375, 1376.
 P. Mc Carthy. ‘ISACS Background Paper.’ UN CASA. 14 Nov 2008. p. 4. Online: https://tsmworldwide.com/?attachment_id=2029