U.N. Out of North America

The Small Arms Conference and the Second Amendment.

Mr. Kopel is research director at the Independence Institute.
August 9, 2001 10:00 a.m.

Editor's note: This is the fifth installment in an NRO series on the United Nations Conference on Small Arms (the previous installment: #4).

This is not the end. This is the opening skirmish of a war," announced retired Rep. Charles Pashayan (R., Calif., 1979-91), a U.S. delegate to the July 2001 U.N. Small Arms Conference. Pashayan warned that issues of restricting private ownership of firearms, and of banning gun sales to persons not authorized by a government (e.g., freedom fighters), would return, even though they were defeated at the conference. As he explained: "All of this has to be understood as part of a process leading ultimately to a treaty that will give an international body power over our domestic laws."

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) didn't like the conference's results either. But she did agree with Pashayan that the battle was just beginning: "[T]he Conference is the first step, not the last, in the international community`s efforts to control the spread of small arms and light weapons."

The U.S.'s biggest loss came when it acceded to demands for a follow-up conference within five years. John Bolton, head of the American delegation, noted that the mandatory follow-up "serves only to institutionalize and bureaucratize this process" — which is precisely what the gun prohibitionists wanted. At the next round, there will be pressure to replace this year's non-binding Programme of Action with a legally binding Convention. And the European Union has already begun pushing for legal strictures.

In the meantime, the U.N. and related institutions will continue their propaganda campaign against gun owners. The Canadian antigun lobby, for example, is using a recent UNICEF report to demand a tightening of Canada's already severe gun-storage laws. (Canadian law now requires that firearms stored anywhere near a child must be kept unloaded and locked. Prohibitionists are further demanding that all guns be stored at police stations, to be checked out when needed for sport.) The Coalition for Gun Control touts a requirement that all guns be sold with a trigger lock.

Small Arms Destruction Day, on July 9, is just one gun-hate celebration to emerge from the Conference. The antigun NGOs have declared July 11 to be Children and Small Arms Day. Pro-rights activists responded by declaring July 9 to be Buy a Gun Day — July 11 ought to become Take a Child Shooting Day.

One function of the propaganda war is to portray guns as germs, and gun owners as disease carriers. The World Health Organization, a U.N. body, will play a major role in promoting intolerance against gun owners. Speaking at the Small Arms Conference, Etienne Krug, Director of WHO's Department for Injuries and Violence Prevention, claimed: "The ready availability of small arms has been associated with higher small arms-related mortality rates."

But this is just plain false. In both the United States and the United Kingdom, for example, the regions with the highest gun ownership rates tend to have the lowest gun homicide rates. And, more generally, Krug's focus on "small arms-related mortality rates" cleverly ignores total death rates. In this century, genocide by government is the overwhelming cause of violent death — far ahead even of deaths from war. Genocide is perpetrated almost exclusively against groups that have first been disarmed. Therefore, it is the absence of firearms that bears a strong association with astronomical rates of violent death — as detailed in the new book Death by Gun Control, by Aaron Zelman and Richard Stevens (forthcoming this fall from Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership). Moreover, cross-national research by Jeffrey Miron of Boston University finds that prohibition of handguns, or of all guns, has a statistically significant relation to higher homicide rates.

Nevertheless, Krug made it clear that WHO is just beginning its antigun work. New reports will gather data to marshal the case against small arms, and the WHO has already funded a "Weapons for Development" program to pay individuals (but not governments) to surrender their firearms. The Solomon Islands have been one target of this program; Niger is next.

Also joining the campaign is the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), based in Cambridge, Mass. Their antigun "medical" conference is slated for Sept. 28-30 in Helsinki. Among the speakers will be Mr. João Honwana — chief of the Conventional Weapons Branch of the U.N. Department for Disarmament Affairs.

Opponents of American sovereignty complain that the United States "isolated" itself by stopping the Small Arms Conference from becoming a springboard for disarming freedom fighters (and everyone else not on a government payroll). It's true that the United States took a lonely position by defending the fundamental human right to keep and bear arms. (Although there was tacit support — for economic rather than ideological reasons — from Russia, China, and Arab countries, all of which export arms.) But such isolation is a sign of courage, not bad diplomacy. Under the Reagan administration, for instance, the U.S. often stood alone at the U.N. when supporting democratic Israel, or when condemning Communist human-rights abuses. So long as America stands for the principle behind the Declaration of Independence — that the only legitimate governments are created by the people to protect God-given human rights — we will never be popular at a United Nations where dictatorships are the majority, and to which even democratic governments go to evade public accountability.

As detailed by the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute the U.N. has become a haven for radical social planners seeking to impose their will, free of public scrutiny.

For instance: Days before the Small Arms Conference opened, newspapers reported on the public discussions at a U.N. Conference on HIV/AIDS. More significantly, however, was the "intense debate . . . taking place in basement conference rooms about the very nature of human sexuality, and whether or not the U.N. should promote the complete transformation of sexual norms."

Guidelines created in 1998 by the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights favor "penalties for vilification of people who engage in same-sex relationships." Such a provision would make priests, ministers, or rabbis into criminals, simply for reading aloud what the Bible says about homosexuality.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees that any person accused of a crime has the right "to be confronted with the witnesses against him." But the U.N. Guidelines would allow people to "bring cases under pseudonym."

Americans almost unanimously oppose forcingchildren to view pornography — but the U.N. Guidelines demand mandatory homosexual education for children, with the proviso that the education be so explicit that it be exempted from "censorship or obscenity laws." The U.N. Guidelines also require the legalization of homosexual marriage.

Strong objections — especially from Islamic nations — prevented the Conference agreement from including the U.N. Guidelines in the Draft Declaration of Commitment. Ireland, through its membership in the European Union, argued in favor of adopting the Guidelines — which would have allowed European courts to impose them as binding law within Ireland.

Section 41 of the Irish Constitution requires the Irish government to "to guard with special care the institution of Marriage." But, at the U.N., Ireland could promote a radical transformation of marriage. The weekly Irish Catholicnewspaper exposed the delegation's activities, only to be met with implausible denials from the Irish government.

As C-FAM's report on the incident concludes, there are "worries that this pattern will be repeated in many of the other states now seeking membership in the EU, states including Malta, Poland, and the Czech Republic. The EU will provide an opportunity for these countries' elites, who are usually more liberal than average citizens, to change their own constitutions without the consent of their own people."

As the Irish case illustrates, the U.N. is an ideal forum for governments to surreptitiously impose policies they could never impose through national, representative institutions. This is one reason why U.S. gun- prohibition groups reacted with such fury to the Bush administration's stance at the U.N. Small Arms Conference.

The U.S. delegation consistently rejected efforts at "compromise," which would have kept some antigun language in the treaty, but made it softer and ambiguous. An American delegation that was terrified of being "isolated" would have accepted the ambiguous language — on the theory that Americans could later apply a pro-rights interpretation to the ambiguities. The Bush delegation was wiser: It recognized that, at the U.N., a conference final document is just a starting point. From there, U.N. bureaucrats will "monitor" how a country "complies" with such documents, and the bureaucrats resolving the ambiguities will favor their own radical agendas. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, for example, is being reinterpreted by U.N. bureaucrats in ways never agreed to by the governments that signed the convention.

The U.N.'s assault on Second Amendment rights is merely one aspect of a far-reaching attack on nearly every aspect of the American Bill of Rights. Consider, for example, the U.N. World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, scheduled for Aug. 31-Sept. 7 in Durban, South Africa. A U.N.-convened "expert seminar" on anti-racism remedies came up with the following standards for acceptable anti-racism laws:

First, "the highest priority should be given" to "reparations" for "descendants of slaves." (Don't expect that this clause will lead to African governments — successors to those governments which profited most from the slave trade, by supplying captured enemies for sale to European traders — to send money to African Americans.)

Additionally, the premise of "innocent until proven guilty" is not acceptable to the United Nations. The U.N. seminar insists that "In allegations of racial discrimination, the onus of proof must rest with the respondent to rebut the allegation made by the victim of racism."

Commendably, the Bush administration is considering boycotting the conference, or downgrading its delegation, in part because of Arab efforts to have Zionism proclaimed a form of racism.

The Small Arms Conference helped alert Americans to the nature of the U.N. threat. Yet while dangers to gun rights, property rights, and family rights are becoming well known among pro-freedom activists, the U.N.'s campaigns against due process and free speech have remained more obscure. La Verkin, Utah, recently declared itself a U.N.-free zone — forbidding U.N. symbols on city property, stating that U.N. orders are invalid in La Verkin, and banning city contracts with businesses that work with the U.N. The "U.N.-free zone" movement is backed by a group called U.N. Watch, which provides cities with model language.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard responded: "I would just hope that the people of La Verkin would see the United Nations for what it really is — an intergovernmental organization working for the betterment of humankind, and not a threat to the people of La Verkin." He's right — if you consider the Bill of Rights to be an impediment to the betterment of mankind.

American grassroots groups are just beginning to educate the American people about the efforts of foreign tyrants to disarm them. The Tyranny Response Team, in conjunction with the Second Amendment Sisters, Gun Owners of America, and other groups, staged a protest at the U.N. on July 14. The Heritage Foundation's U.N. Assessment Project — concerned with U.N. attacks on American sovereignty, and on the Bill of Rights — plans to seek official NGO status at the U.N., to obtain a better platform to speak for liberty, and to warn Americans about U.N. activities. A Heritage Foundation conference on the U.N. is scheduled for September, in Washington. In Congress, H.R. 1146, the American Sovereignty Restoration Act, would end U.S. membership in the United Nations.

George Washington never saw a United Nations conference, but he knew enough about human nature to see the dangers of all that the U.N. represents. Washington's Farewell Address urged: "Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government

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