In a speech to the National Rifle Association on Friday, President Trump whipped out his pen to sign a letter that would effectively withdraw the United States from the international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), designed to regulate international sale and transfer of conventional weapons and particularly restricts weapons sales to countries that do not protect human rights. President Trump has effectively put guns back in the hands of “bad guys.”
The Arms Trade Treaty targets arms merchants that sell weapons to human rights abusers. Removing the U.S. as a signatory to the international Arms Trade Treaty is another step back by the U.S. from rules-based international cooperation which aims to reduce human suffering. This announcement is an indication that the U.S. is turning its back on the millions of civilians affected by conflict and armed violence each year around the world, putting economic and partisan interests above peace, human rights, and human dignity.
The weapons of war bring nothing but death. As Christians, we are committed to finding a better way than the "failed logic of armed power,” as Pope Francis says.
The Arms Trade Treaty has been an effective tool and policy of international, multilateral nonviolence supported by churches around the world. As Christians, we ask the Trump administration: Which side are you on? Do you choose life or death? We urge you to choose life and support the Arms Trade Treaty.
The ATT is the first global instrument to set common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms and ammunition with the express purpose of reducing human suffering. The Treaty seeks to regulate the $100 billion global arms trade, requiring governments to assess the risk of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law before they authorize an arms deal, to not transfer arms where they are likely to end up in the hands of terrorists and organized criminal groups. The ATT will only regulate trade between countries, not within them. It is currently the only treaty that impacts and curbs violence across overlapping sectors: wars, terrorism, and homicide.
Oxfam America reacted to Trump’s announcement.
"The [Arms Trade] Treaty does not infringe on Americans’ right to bear arms or hamper the country's ability to defend itself or its allies, despite what groups like the NRA, and today the Trump Administration may claim,” said Abby Maxman, president of Oxfam America.
A spokesperson for Oxfam UK said, “President Trump’s decision to un-sign the Arms Trade Treaty is one more misguided step to dismantle the international partnerships that keep us all safe. President Trump is sending a clear message to civilians caught in the crossfire in conflicts like Yemen: we don’t care.”
Oxfam views the regulation of illegal arms as one key tool in the fight against global poverty.
Our world struggles to resolve conflicts, reduce violence, and defeat terrorism without preemptive war. War has too often become the first choice instead of the last resort. Christians support effective alternatives to an endless cycle of violence, such as the ATT.
Irresponsible arms transfers and illicit arms flows fuel brutal conflicts in for example Yemen and Syria, and armed violence, organized crime and terrorism in countries like Afghanistan, Jamaica, Honduras, and Nigeria. Their reverberating effects — the refugee crisis, instability, economic decline — are felt globally.
Gun violence and small arms deaths disproportionately impact communities of color, women, and other marginalized groups. As the biggest arms exporter, the U.S. signature to the ATT demonstrated its support for the establishment of common international standards for all states in the global arms trade.
Despite the actions of the United States, the international community more broadly continues to recognize the value of the Treaty, with the number of States Parties recently passing 100 and with more than 30 other signatories working towards full membership.
Sojourners calls on all Christians and people of good faith to vigorously urge the U.S. Senate to recognize the value of the Arms Trade Treaty to preserving human life, dignity, and just peace. Instead of undermining its promise, the U.S. should ratify the ATT and supporting its effective implementation.