Why The US Eventually “Unsigned” the Arms Trade Treaty

Author:  Jeff Moran


On July 18th, 2019, President Trump notified the United Nations (UN) that the United Stated (US) did not intend to become a party to the Arms Trade Treaty. *   The short paper below helps contextualize and explain why.  The paper was written and published in 2013 after the conclusion of the UN treaty conference and President Obama’s Secretary of State signed a statement conveying the intent for the US to comply with the object and purpose of the Arms Trade Treaty, and signaling desire to eventually seek ratification of the treaty by the US Senate.

The paper explores the sources of the increasing opposition to this treaty by opposing American political and civil society stakeholders during this early time period and highlights the linkages to the the UN’s fraught small arms control process machinery in particular.  The paper builds upon prior research by the same author and calls further attention to the UN’s inter-agency International Small Arms Control Standards project as a example of interrelated transnational gun-control policy.

The paper starts with views of recognized advocates for the ATT within the UN arms control and disarmament community.  It also highlights  reasons why the ATT is and will continue to viewed as a threat to not just the firearms and ammunition industry, but to lawfully firearms-owning civil society, small arms collectors, and sportsman stakeholders, even if the ATT is never ratified by the United States.

The paper is 9 pages excluding end notes and touches upon the following themes:

– The ATT and the Future of Small Arms Control
– The Link to Transnational Gun Control
– The Basis for American Stakeholder Concern
– The Future UN Small Arms Control and Disarmament Agenda

The author uses public statements and independently researched news within the UN’s small arms process to posit, years before the 2016 American presidential election, that if the ATT is a gateway for transnational small arms control and disarmament, and that small arms related problems really do have less to do with inadequate international transfer controls and more to do with controlling small arms already within State territories (as UN experts now openly admit, after the conclusion of the UN’s treaty conference), the United States may eventually unsign the treaty, as was previously done with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 2002.

First Published: 24 July 2013

Last Updated: 20 July 2019

* Endnote
United Nations, “United States of America: Communication,” July 19, 2019, https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/CN/2019/CN.314.2019-Eng.pdf (last link check 21 August 2019).

Distribution  Notices

This draft paper is copyrighted © by Jeff Moran and TSM Worldwide LLC, All Rights Reserved.  However, the work may be freely republished and disseminated and stored electronically for non-commercial use and academic research purposes where the author is credited and the entire publication remains intact.  Contact the author for other special arrangements.  Online republication and redistribution of this announcement are authorized when the source link is included.