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Urgent: Ask senators to sign “dear colleague” letter on Arms Trade Treaty

Take a few minutes to call your senators and ask them to sign a letter to President Obama to support a robust Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

The Arms Trade Treaty targets arms merchants that sell weapons to human rights abusers. The ATT will only regulate trade between countries, not within them. It will also save thousands of lives that would otherwise be lost to atrocities and human rights abuses connected to unregulated international arms sales. Talks on the ATT resume at the United Nations in March.

Help curb deadly international arms sales by emailing or calling your senators, and asking them to sign the letter to the president in support of the ATT. The letter is circulated by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

Use to send an email OR call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for your senators’ offices.

Sample script: “Hello, my name is ___, a resident of ___. May I please speak with the aide who works with Sen.  ___ on the Arms Trade Treaty? [If no one has been assigned to this, ask to speak with a staffer who works on foreign relations or the UN.]

“I am calling to ask that Senator _______ sign the letter, sponsored by Senator Feinstein, to the president in support of a comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty. This letter will be delivered to President Obama, asking that the United States support a robust Arms Trade Treaty that will prevent thousands from being harmed and killed by illicit international trade in weapons.

“I hope we can count on Senator ___ to sign the letter to President Obama in support of the ATT. Thank you.”

Senators’ offices can contact Sen. Feinstein’s office to provide endorsements: 202-224-3841.

Senate sign-on letter to President Obama:

Dear Mr. President,

We are writing to urge you to support the negotiation of a comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty when talks resume at the United Nations in March. We were disappointed when the last round of discussions concluded in July without an agreement and we urge you to ensure that the United States takes a leadership role in finalizing the text of a treaty which will help end the illicit sale and transfer of small arms and other conventional weapons that have fueled conflicts and atrocities around the world.

As United States Senators, we take pride in the fact that U.S. export control laws are among the most stringent in the world and have helped to keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists, war criminals, and human rights abusers. However, we are deeply concerned that weak export controls in other countries, including the lack of common-sense background checks on international arms sales, undermine U.S. efforts by allowing weapons to flow unabated around the world, fueling conflict and instability and leading to the deaths of millions of innocent civilians.

The July 2012 draft treaty seeks to address these concerns and contains many of the basic elements needed for effective regulation of the global arms trade. It would require all states-parties to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons across international borders, establish common international standards that must be met before arms transfers are authorized, and require annual reporting of such transfers. Specifically, among other things, it would:

  • require all states to establish a national control list and designate national authorities to regulate the international transfer of conventional arms;
  • prohibit arms transfers to states if they would violate United Nations arms embargoes, other international obligations, or if they would be used to commit genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity; and
  • prohibit an arms transfer if the state determines there is an “overriding risk” that the transfer would be used to violate international humanitarian law, international human rights law, or commit an act of terrorism.

We believe a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty will significantly stem the flow of arms to dangerous actors, while still allowing countries to engage in the legitimate trade of conventional weapons and ammunition. Such a treaty would protect innocent civilians and lead to increased peace and stability, thereby promoting U.S. values and bolstering our national security.

Indeed, an Arms Trade Treaty will help save American lives by keeping weapons out of the hands of terrorists and insurgents who may target U.S. troops and personnel abroad. It will help lessen the need for costly military interventions by denying arms to groups who use them to promote violence, instability, and failed states. It will strengthen U.S. leadership in stopping genocides and other mass atrocities by preventing arms from reaching war criminals and human rights abusers in the first place.

In 1999, Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law the “International Arms Sales Code of Conduct Act” which called on the President to enter into negotiations to “establish an international regime to promote global transparence with respect to arms transfers….and to limit, restrict, or prohibit arms transfers to countries that do not observe certain fundamental values of human liberty, peace, and international stability.” The Arms Trade Treaty negotiations in March represent a long overdue opportunity to meet these goals and increase global security through a more regulated and transparent arms trade.

We appreciate your consideration of this letter and we look forward to your response.

Signatories as of February 7:
Dianne Feinstein (CA)
Barbara Boxer (CA)
Ben Cardin (MD)
Frank Lautenberg (NJ)
Brian Schatz (HI)
Richard Durbin (IL)
Sherrod Brown (OH)
Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)