Kerry says U.S. will back arms treaty with reservations

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that the United States would support an arms trade treaty being developed in the United Nations as long as it is consistent with U.S. law and the rights of American citizens under our Constitution, including the Second Amendment.

The arms treaty is a project of former Costa Rican president Óscar Arias Sánchez and Amnesty International. A group of 18 Nobel Peace Prize winners, including Arias, sent a letter to the White House last week, They asked President Barack Obama to support the treaty.

A conference starts today to attempt to reach a consensus on the treaty. Basically the treaty requires tight controls over arms exports by central governments.

The United States could only be party to an arms trade treaty that addresses international transfers of conventional arms solely and does not impose any new requirements on the U.S. domestic trade in firearms or on U.S. exporters, said Kerry in a release. “We will not support any treaty that would be inconsistent with U.S. law and the rights of American citizens under our Constitution, including the Second Amendment,” he added.

The United States may be the world’s largest exporter of weapons.

Kerry’s statement continues:

“While the international arms trade affects every country, over one hundred states today do not have a system for control of international conventional arms transfers. We support a treaty that will bring all countries closer to existing international best practices, which we already observe, while preserving national decisions to transfer conventional arms responsibly. The international conventional arms trade is, and will continue to be, a legitimate commercial activity. But responsible nations should have in place control systems that will help reduce the risk that a transfer of conventional arms will be used to carry out the world’s worst crimes, including those involving terrorism, and serious human rights violations”

The poorly regulated international trade in conventional arms – worth well more than $70 billion annually – fuels conflict, violence, and serious violations of human rights, with devastating effects on health, security, and sustainable social and economic development, said the nobel laureates in their letter to Obama.

The current absence of legally binding international rules to strictly regulate the global trade in conventional arms represents a colossal failure of the international community, according to the letter.

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