note: This is the first in a series examining the United Nations
and gun prohibition.
United Nations "small arms" conference has concluded,
with no immediate damage done to individual rights — thanks to the
magnificent performance of the Bush administration. But the conference
will be back five years hence, and the next five years will see
continued efforts by the United Nations to find ways to undermine
the right to keep and bear arms.
of the conference on July 9 was commemorated with the celebration
of the U.N.'s "Small
Arms and Light Weapons Destruction Day." Around the world,
governments made huge piles of firearms — not firearms owned by
the government, but rather firearms seized by the government from
Even more enthusiastic
promotion of Destruction Day could be found at the website of
Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), a collection of antigun
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) — and also the best web source
of documents relating to the Conference.
Of course guns
meant for destruction could simply be crushed — but mere crushing
would not excite the special symbolism of destruction by burning.
Destruction by burning provides the spectators the joy of watching
the burning take place slowly. That is one reason why
heretics were often burned at the stake rather than executed
in a less time-consuming way.
July 9 was
not the first time that governments had lit bonfires to destroy
resistance to the power of the government. Germany's Josef Goebbels
ordered all Jewish books to be burned in public on May 10, 1933.
University towns were centers of Jewish
Books Destruction Day.
As the Völkischer
Beobachter ("Populist Observer") reported on May 12,
1933, "The German student body of the Berlin universities assembled
yesterday for a torchlight procession on Hegel Platz. They formed
up, accompanied by a truckload of 25,000 books and writings harmful
to the people. The procession ended at Opera Platz, where as a symbolic
act, these Un-German writings were set aflame on a pile of logs."
of Jewish and un-German books was followed within a few years by
the burning of Jews and other un-German people. Jewish Books Destruction
Day helped change popular consciousness so as to pave the way for
genocide. Likewise paving the way for genocide was the systematic
disarmament of Jews and all other opposition elements, in Nazi Germany
itself and in conquered territories.
How long until
a U.N.-declared official day of hate is celebrated with governments
actually killing people?
That day has
already come. The U.N.'s
Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNDCP) has declared
that every June 26 shall be celebrated as United Nations's International
Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking. June 26 is
the anniversary of the signing of the declaration at 1987 International
Conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The declaration
is the basis for the U.N.'s 1988 Convention Against the Illicit
Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychoactive Substances. This treaty
commits its signatories, including the United States, to maintaining
a policy of domestic prohibition.
As I'll detail
in upcoming columns, the long-term objective of many at the Small
Arms Conference was to replicate the success of their predecessors
at the Drugs and Psychoactive Substances Conference — creating an
international regime of prohibition, enforced not only by individual
governments, but by transnational power — and explicitly designed
to destroy the freedom of individual governments to choose to change
their prohibition laws in the future.
China celebrated U.N. drug hate day by executing 59 drug criminals.
Although the Chinese Communist government asserts that all the executed
are "drug traffickers," Amnesty International has shown
otherwise. In one case, a young woman was returning to her home
province from her honeymoon in January 1996. An acquaintance offered
to pay her to carry a package for him, as is common in China. On
the train, she became suspicious, and attempted to open the package,
but could not. A ticket checker noticed her agitation, and notified
the police. The Guangxi High People's Court sentenced her to death
on June 26, 1996, in honor of U.N. Anti-Drug Day.
At a 2001 press
conference, U.N. deputy spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva was
asked about China's execution festival. While acknowledging that
"as far as I am aware the convention does not provide for the
application of the death penalty," the U.N. spokesman did not
criticize the Chinese executions.
Harry Wu's Laogai
Research Foundation, Chinese doctors are required to promptly
harvest organs whenever a group of anti-drug executions is scheduled.
Kidneys, other organs, and even skin are sold for as much as $15,000.
and other nations held events in conjunction with the U.N. which
did not involve any executions, but instead dedicated the day to
fireworks and various forms of anti-drug propaganda.
What does the
future hold as "Small Arms and Light Weapons Destruction Day"
on July 9 works its way onto the U.N. holiday calendar? Will the
mass burning of weapons help set the stage for mass executions of
"gun traffickers"? Will the U.N. sponsor events around
the world designed to reinforce fears about small arms, and to forestall
dissent about small-arms prohibition? Regardless of whether one
likes or dislikes the U.N. anti-drug program, it provides the tested
blueprint for a long-term U.N. program against guns.
public-relations effort to equate guns and drugs has begun. The
U.N. Development Program announced that drugs are the largest illicit
business in the world, and arms trafficking is second. At the Small
Arms Conference, Durga P. Bhattarai of Nepal expressed the commonly
held view that (non-government) guns were as pernicious as drugs,
as he asserted that guns turn children into "addicted killers."
Back in the
U.S., Second Amendment activists declared July 9 to be
National Firearms Purchase Day, urging citizens to buy small
arms or small-arms ammunition.
As July 9 approached,
hundreds of American sent the U.N. angry e-mails, protesting the
upcoming small-arms conference. The U.N. adopted a two-fold approach:
1. Turning many of the e-mails over to
its security office, apparently under the theory that anyone
who holds strong opinions on Second Amendment rights must be dangerous
— even though not one of the
letters made a threat.
a press release claiming that the conference posed no threat
to law-abiding gun owners. The last claim was a patent falsehood,
although of much the American media took the U.N.'s public-relations
arm at its word, and failed to observe the massive evidence that
restricting domestic-gun ownership was very much an intended purpose
of the conference.
conference was the result of General Assembly Resolution 54/54,
adopted Dec. 15, 1999. According to the U.N. itself, the conference
"was convened to address the increasing threat to human security
from the spread of small arms and light weapons and their illegal
trade." Note that "illegal trade" is only one part
of the threat. "The spread of small arms" is considered
a threat in itself.
At the conference,
speaker after speaker made it clear that "excessive" quantities
of guns (i.e., any guns in civilian hands) was a problem in itself,
separate from the issue of illegal trade. Rey Pagtakhan, the Canadian
secretary of state, condemned "The excessive and destabilizing
accumulation and uncontrolled spread of small arms."
delegate declared, "States must stop exporting of small arms
and light weapons to all except other governments. All states must
suppress private ownership of small arms and light weapons."
Saleh Al-Ashtal explained: "The goal is to prevent any further
increase in the traffic in small arms. It is a problem which relates
not only to the illicit trade, but to all issues connected with
the legal trade." He touted the situation in Yemen, where "individuals
voluntarily surrender their weapons. The media is used to convince
people to hand over their weapons."
Minister of Education, Youth and Culture of Jamaica called guns
and drugs "a double-barreled force of evil and mayhem."
Since the imposition of
Jamaican gun prohibition in the 1970s, the Jamaican government
has used gun and drug prohibition as justifications for eliminating
almost all privacy and due-process elements of the common-law legal
tradition. "The time has come," Jamaica's minister continued,
"for the international community, particularly States which
manufacture arms, to consider the implementation of measures that
would limit the production of such weapons to levels that meet the
needs for defence and national security." In other words, Jamaica's
ban on gun possession by citizens should spread worldwide.
required signatory governments to "seriously consider"
banning civilian ownership of small arms "designed for military
purposes" — a proposal that would outlaw the M1 carbine, M1
Garand (designed for World War II), many antique firearms (designed
for the Civil War), and scores of bolt-action rifles (designed for
World War I). Since almost all guns are derivative of military designs
(with a few obscure exceptions such as biathlon trainers), the language
would have been a wedge for near-total gun prohibition. The U.N.'s
January 9, 2001 "
Draft Programme of Action" mandated that: "Where appropriate,
moratoria on the production, export and import of small arms and
light weapons will be developed and implemented on a regional and
of the conference was marked by the unveiling of The
Art of Peacemaking, a five-ton sculpture created by Canadians
Sandra Bromley and Wallis Kendal with a subsidy from the Canadian
War Museum. The sculpture consists of 7,000 firearms welded together
into a giant cube, designed to remind viewers of a tomb or a prison.
This sculpture perfectly symbolized the U.N. philosophy of guns:
violence comes not from the human heart, but from bad objects, and
the duty of the U.N. is to destroy those objects.
media blazed with fury that the National Rifle Association was impeding
U.N. efforts to control rocket launchers. But the U.N. definition
of small arms plainly did include ordinary firearms, and encompassed
revolvers, self-loading pistols, ordinary rifles, "assault"
rifles, submachine guns, and light machine guns. The "Light
weapons" category included heavy machine guns, mortars, hand
grenades, grenade launchers, portable anti-aircraft or anti-tank
guns, and portable missile launchers.
Arms Destruction Day and the "Art of Peacemaking" sculpture
weren't about grenades or rocket launchers; they celebrated the
destruction of firearms.
draft protocol for the conference called for "tighter control
over their [firearms and ammunition] legal transfer," for "strengthening
current laws and regulation
concerning their use and civilian
possession," and for "enhancing accountability, transparency
and the exchange of information at the national, regional and global
levels." This latter goal (a euphemism for universal gun registration
in U.N.-run databases) was to be achieved by "systematic tracking
of firearms and, where possible, their parts and components and
ammunition from manufacturer to purchaser." Government-owned
firearms were to be explicitly exempted from these controls.
European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, affiliated
with the United Nations" was somewhat more explicit:
Bringing the diffusion of firearms under control is not
merely a legal act, it requires to overcome the latent gun culture
whose 'virus' is more firmly established in some societies than
in others. Unfortunately the propagation of the gun culture is presently
well entrenched in the global electronic media. Some non-governmental
organisations like the US-based National Rifle Association strategically
sponsor the gun culture.
Institute called for "obligatory liability insurance"
for gun owners, plus an "ammunition tax" and "firearm
recycling deposit" — whose proposed benefits including making
guns less affordable. Further, ammunition calibers "5.56 (223),
7.62 (.308), and 9mm would be reserved for the military and police."
So "In a period of less than ten years compulsory changes of
the calibers of weapons in private possession could be implemented."
An ammunition ban "should be acceptable to all nations because
it does not directly interfere with national regulations of private
ownership of guns."
severe domestic restrictions was the "Eminent
Persons Group" (no kidding) consisting of 23 anti-gun busybodies.
American members included U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Robert
McNamara, who followed his tenure as the worst defense secretary
(leading the U.S. into what he knew was an unwinnable war in Vietnam)
with an even more destructive, albeit quieter, tenure as president
of the World Bank, in which he shoveled aid and loans at third-world
kleptocracies which used the money to oppress their subject peoples.
The indigenous victims of the World Bank/kleptocracy alliance are
the kind of people whom the Eminent Persons Group does not want
to have guns.
conference was only supposed to lead to a nonbinding protocol. But
Norway called for a legally binding document. And gun-prohibition
advocates insisted that even a nonbinding document have led to a
mandatory review of national responses.
In short, the
U.N.'s protestations that the conference had nothing to do with
American gun possession was true only in the hypertechnical sense
that Bill Clinton's claim that he "did not have sex" (meaning
sexual intercourse) with Monica Lewinsky was technically true. The
point of the conference was to create long-term international pressure
for severe restrictions on American gun rights, even though the
conference itself would not directly impose those restrictions.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan equated small arms to nuclear
weapons or chemical warfare weapons — thus demonizing them, and
implying that they should never be in civilian hands. He said that
small arms are "'weapons of mass destruction' in terms of the
carnage they cause." Annan compared the current campaign against
small arms to the
International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) — whose objective,
of course, is total prohibition. The ICBL, by the way, proclaims
that it is about "much more than the eventual elimination of
landmines", and is
furious at the Bush administration's stance at the U.N. Small
On July 9,
the opening day of the conference, U.S. Undersecretary of State
John Bolton ruined the mood of Small Arms Destruction Day. Bolton's
opening statement warned that "the United States will not
join consensus on a final document that contains measures abrogating
the constitutional right to bear arms." Bolton added: "The
United States believes that the responsible use of firearms is a
legitimate aspect of national life
Like many countries, the
United States has a cultural tradition of hunting and sport shooting."
He laid down the U.S. position: "We do not support measures
that would constrain legal trade and legal manufacturing of small
arms and light weapons." Bolton stood against "the promotion
of international advocacy activity by international or non-governmental
organizations" and against "measures that prohibit civilian
possession of small arms."
At a news conference,
Bolton explained that the U.S. was eager to deal with actual problems
of misuse: "If the conference can concentrate on the central
issue of the flow of illicit weapons into agreement. But if it drifts
off into areas that are properly the area of national level decision-making,
then I think there will be difficulties."
Rep. Bob Barr,
a Georgia Republican who also serves on the board of the National
Rifle Association, was the only legislator who was an official member
of the U.S. delegation. Since the U.S. has the world's strictest
controls on arms-broker exports, Barr pointed out that "the
U.N. Conference is an effort by its many liberal members to accomplish
through the international arena what they and other gun-control
advocates have been unable to achieve domestically expanded registration
and control of lawful, non-military firearms. If these nations are
serious about combating illegal firearms trafficking, they should
strengthen their export laws to parallel those of the United States,
instead of attacking our nation's Second Amendment rights."
As a measure
of how much the 2000 election mattered, consider that when the draft
protocol was prepared in December 2000, it was the Colombian and
Mexican delegations (!), not the American delegation, which offered
optional language recognizing that some countries have legitimate
traditions of sporting and other gun use.
Much of the
U.S. and world media reacted with horror at the U.S. position. But
the Chicago Tribune and Denver Post, newspapers which
generally support gun control, did criticize the U.N. Conference
for attempting to invade the rights of American citizens.
could be criticized so severely for stating that the U.N. should
not promote civilian gun prohibition is rather clear proof that
that the U.N. agenda really is about gun prohibition.
States was denounced by the Toronto Globe & Mail (July
12), asserting that "the purpose of the U.N. initiative is
not to take hunting rifles away from American good old boys. It
is to stop the international trafficking of machine guns, rocket
launchers and other lethal weapons."
To the contrary,
the U.N. definition of "small arms" encompasses rifles
and pistols. And if the U.N. conference were just about rocket launchers,
the conference never would have attracted the support of the U.S.
and international gun-prohibition groups or opposition of the U.S.
and international gun-rights groups. Bolton in fact argued for a
narrower definition, encompassing only military arms.
the U.S. stance, the media trotted out various factoids invented
by the United Nations, such as that "small arms" kill
a thousand people a day, mostly women and children. (Meaning 300,000
in war, and 200,000 from murder, suicide, and accidents.) Claims
were made that half the small arms in the world today are illegally
less attention were the gun-ownership facts contained in the
Small Arms Survey 2001, published by the Graduate Institute
of International Studies, and released for the conference. While
the study was laden with pro-control advocacy, it reported that
almost all small arms killing of civilians is perpetrated by organized
crime, pirates/bandits, and rebel groups. Collectively, these groups
possess about 900,000 guns — only two-tenths of one percent of all
the small arms in the world. Fifty-six percent of the world's 551
million small arms are held by private citizens, 41% by armies,
and 3% by police forces.
In other words,
in the world, as in the United States, over 99% of firearms are
in the right hands. Firearms misuse is perpetrated almost exclusively
by criminals who own a fraction of one percent of all the guns.
If the real
objective were to reduce misuse, then nations would follow the lead
of the United States, which has extremely strict laws on the export
of small arms, including firearms. All firearms made or sold in
the U.S. must have registration marks, allowing for tracing. The
American export controls are far more rigorous than the controls
of the hypocritical nations like the U.K. and Sweden, which impose
near-prohibition on their own people, while turning a blind eye
towards exports to terrorists and gangsters.
And as in the
United States, the misuse of 2/10th of one percent is a pretext
for prohibitionists to outlaw everything.
Executive Director of the pro-rights Canadian
Institute for Legislative Action, detailed the obvious falsity
of the Kofi Annan's claim
that small arms "exacerbate conflict, spark refugee flows,
undermine the rule of law, and spawn a culture of violence and impunity.
In short, small arms are a threat to peace and development, to democracy
and human rights." Brown pointed out:
Canadians citizens own as many as 15 million small arms,
one of the highest rates of private firearms ownership in the world
the simple presence of privately owned small arms sparked violence
amongst the citizenry, Canada would be bathed in blood. But it's
not. Canada enjoys one of the lowest murder and violent crime rates
in the world. Do firearms create international conflict? No. Canadians
are privileged to share the longest undefended border in the world
with our friend and partner, the United States. . . . Do the presence
of so many small arms create poverty? Once again, no. The United
Nations has consistently rated Canada, along with Norway and the
United States, one of the best places in the world to live. Interestingly,
all three countries have very high rates of civilian firearms ownership.
rhetoric about protecting "women and children" was a pretext
for its dominant objective of protecting governments by disarming
the governed — as I'll detail in an upcoming column. The United
Nations burns guns in giant bonfires for the same reason that the
Nazis burned books in giant bonfires: because people who vigorously
exercise the fundamental human rights which are recognized by First
and Second Amendment are the kind of people who are difficult to
for tyrants — including a tyranny of the majority — to control.