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 with Rob Miskosky

Canada Should Tread Lightly

Last October, I wrote in this space an article titled “Gun Owners Will Always Be Under Attack”. The article examined the United Nations attempt at an international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) that would regulate the international trade in conventional arms, from small arms to warships and everything in between.

Sounds like a good idea; stop bad people from selling weapons to other bad people. At least that’s the premise of this heady document. And if that were all the ATT would do—as many say—then it would be a no-brainer for countries from all around the world to sign on.

However, there is reason for skepticism; after all, this is the United Nations we are talking about here—an international body that doesn’t always have our best interests in mind.

At that time, both the US and Canada refused to sign on to what many were proclaiming to be a landmark treaty.

Canada’s reasoning was concern over wording, or a lack thereof, that would protect law-abiding gun owners from the same harassment our previous Liberal government so enjoyed doling out. Canada wanted wording stating ‘that small arms have certain legitimate civilian uses’ and for the exclusion of ‘sporting and hunting firearms for recreational use’ from the treaty. This was in July of 2011.

Gun owners applaud the government for their “tread lightly”
approach to a UN Arms Trade Treaty.
Fast forward to the Arms Trade Treaty Diplomatic Conference held in July of 2012, where Canada made the following statement, in part: “... it is also important that the ATT recognize the legitimacy of the legal and responsible international trade in conventional weapons and that it respects the lawful ownership of firearms by responsible private citizens for personal and recreational uses, such as sport shooting, hunting and collecting. Canada believes that it is important for these two conditions to be explicitly recognized in the Preamble of an ATT in order to focus and strengthen the Treaty by clarifying its intent.

To that end, Canada proposes that the following two paragraphs be included in the Preamble of an Arms Trade Treaty:

Recognizing that the purpose of the ATT is to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit and irresponsible transfer of conventional arms and their diversion into the illicit market, including for use in trans-national organized crime and terrorism;

Noting that the ATT acknowledges and respects responsible and accountable trans-national use of firearms for recreational purposes, such as sport shooting, hunting and other similar forms of lawful activities, whose legitimacy is recognized by the State Parties.

You can read Canada’s statement in its entirety here:

Canada based its position on the fact that the country had just abolished a wasteful long-gun registry and that it didn’t make sense to “support one internationally.”

While the Canadian delegation didn’t quite get their way and have sporting and hunting guns removed from the Treaty, they did get the following into the Preamble:  

Mindful of the legitimate trade and lawful ownership, and use of certain conventional arms for recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities, where such trade, ownership and use are permitted or protected by law…

However, that didn’t go over very well with the usual suspects.
“The Canadian stipulation that sporting and hunting firearms should be exempt from the scope of the treaty reveals that the Canadian government is living in a regulatory dream world,” said Ken Epps of Project Ploughshares in a news release. Remember Ploughshares; they want your guns too!
The Preamble also states that:

Emphasizing that nothing in this Treaty prevents States from maintaining and adopting additional effective measures to further the object and purpose of this Treaty…

Considering that once signed and ratified it only takes 75% support of the signatories to make change to the Treaty, it is quite possible that a change could be made that affects law-abiding gun owners down the road. Something that doesn’t sit too well with gun lobby groups and for this reason alone, the Conservative government should practice caution; after all, these same groups played a part in putting the Conservatives into power.

Moreover, the Liberals and NDP scare the hell out of law-abiding gun owners who feel both parties would put the long-gun registry back on track at first chance, perhaps using the ATT as reason.

To date, 83 States (countries) have signed the treaty, including several of Canada’s allies. However, based on the “real” risk that some of the wording in the treaty could be changed or used to fit the agenda of an incoming domestic government (read Liberal or NDP), Canada’s Conservative government is playing this one just as they should... by treading lightly. ■

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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