March-April 2013

From March 18-28, the United Nations will hold the final talks on the Arms Trade Treaty. During Holy Week, faith groups around the United States and the world will pray that a robust, strong Treaty will be signed. At stake are the lives of thousands of people massacred by arms and ammunitions traded and transferred illicitly or irresponsibly. One of the main functions of the Treaty would be to prevent atrocities and crimes against humanity. It targets nations not adhering to humanitarian law and arms brokers who make a fortune at the expense of tens of thousands of lives.

Maryknollers around the world accompany those who experience the devastation and suffering brought about by individuals and groups using weapons to terrorize. Loopholes in the international trade and transfer of weapons affect many of their ministries: For example, missioners working to end human trafficking know that arms and ammunition are used to intimidate and control victims and those who try to help them. Those working to offer youth an alternative to gangs and drug trafficking understand that guns inundate this work. In some locations, Maryknollers work with refugees, people who are escaping armed violence often related to extractive industries and other land conflicts. Another horrendous reality linked to conventional arms and munitions are the thousands of youth kidnapped and forced to be child soldiers. South Sudan resident Elias Taban, bishop of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, himself a former child soldier, emphasizes that both weapons and ammunition are the problem. He pleads to the world to include regulations on ammunition in the Treaty, stating that "guns are only sticks without ammunition."

In the U.S., the National Rifle Association has circulated false and misleading information about the Treaty, namely that it would impinge upon the U.S. constitution’s second amendment, which states, "A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

According to the Arms Control Association, the regulation or registration of domestic gun ownership is clearly outside the scope of the ATT: "The [treaty] was established by UN Resolution 64/48 in 2009. The resolution, which establishes the framework for negotiations, explicitly acknowledges ‘the right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownership, exclusively within their territory.’"

The American Bar Association’s Human Rights Center issued this white paper indicating that the second amendment would not be affected.

Faith in action:

Check for resources on promoting the ATT. Organize a prayer vigil on March 27 for a strong Arms Trade Treaty; the following day, March 28, is the closing day of the ATT talks at the UN.