False claim that US is joining international gun registry

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Claim: The US has decided to ratify a treaty that would establish an international arms registry

A viral Facebook post claims that President Joe Biden recently decided to add the US to a United Nations treaty that seeks to establish an international weapons registry.

“Joe Biden just announced that he will add the United States as a signatory to the UN Non-Proliferation Treaty, setting the stage for a full confirmation vote in the US Senate,” read part of the August 29 message.

The message says the treaty would “establish an international arms control registry that would allow Communist China, European socialists and Third World dictators to track the ‘end user’ of every rifle, pistol and handgun sold in the world.”

The post has been shared more than 8,000 times in two months.

But the claim is false. According to a State Department spokesman, the US has no plans to join any such treaty. The Arms Trade Treaty, which appears to be the treaty referred to in this article, will not establish an international arms registry, experts said.

USA TODAY has reached out to the user who shared the post for comment.

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According to the State Department, the US is not a party to the agreement

There is no announcement on the White House website that the US has joined an international arms treaty, and USA TODAY has found no evidence that any such “UN Firearms Treaty” exists.

The message appears to refer to the UN Arms Trade Treaty, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in April 2013 and entered into force in December 2014. According to the UN website, the treaty aims to regulate the international trade in conventional arms.

“There is no UN Convention on Firearms,” ​​a State Department spokesperson told USA TODAY in an email. “The Arms Trade Treaty negotiated at the UN and entered into force in 2014 covers light and small arms, but also heavier weapons such as tanks, armored fighting vehicles, artillery systems, fighter jets, attack helicopters, ships military and rockets and rocket installations”.

Former US Secretary of State John Kerry signed the deal on behalf of the Obama administration in 2013, but the Senate never ratified it. In 2019, President Donald Trump announced that the US would withdraw from the agreement. The notice states that the US is under no obligation to comply with the terms of the treaty.

A State Department spokesman said the Biden administration “will continue to work to finalize an updated conventional arms transfer policy for the United States” and that once that policy is finalized, “the United States intends to address other arms transfer issues, including certain to face the fact that it is in this direction.the right attitude of the United States to the (Arms Trade Treaty).

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The treaty tracks arms deals between states, not people

In any case, the arms treaty does not create an international arms registry.

Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty provide reports on international arms sales that can be accessed by participating governments. However, according to Rachel Stohl, vice president and director of the Stimson Center’s Conventional Defense Program, the annual reports only include information such as the number and types of weapons sent and which countries sent and received them, not the people who carried them. have a choice. an international security think tank.

The information provided by the parties to the treaty may be slightly more detailed than what countries already provide to the UN Conventional Arms Register, a voluntary reporting process started in 1993 with similar goals, Stohl said. Both reporting processes track what are broadly defined as conventional weapons, such as guns, missiles, warplanes and tanks.

The Arms Trade Treaty includes language that formally recognizes “the sovereign right of each state to regulate and control conventional arms only within its own borders, in accordance with its own legal or constitutional system.” Stohl, who helped draft the agreement as a UN adviser, said the language was specifically included as a reference to the right to bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.

“This line is included for the US,” he said.

Federal gun registries have been banned in the US since the Gun Owners Protection Act was signed in 1986.

The Associated Press and PolitiFact also denied this claim.

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Our Rating: Wrong

Based on our research, we find this claim that the United States will ratify a treaty that would establish an international weapons registry to be FALSE. According to the State Department, the US has no plans to ratify any such treaty. The treaty referred to in this article tracks cross-border sales of conventional arms between states; it does not specify which specific people will take up arms.

Our Test Sources:

  • Rachel Stohl, Sept. 27-Oct. 17, Telephone interview and email exchange with USA TODAY
  • US State Department, September 23, email statement
  • Library of Congress, accessed October 17, Text of the Firearms Owners Protection Act
  • United Nations Treaty Series, accessed 17 October, Arms Trade Treaty Text
  • United Nations Conventional Arms Register, accessed 17 October, participation statistics
  • United Nations Conventional Weapons Inventory, accessed 17 October, Categories of Major Conventional Weapons
  • United Nations Office for Disarmament, Accessed October 17, Arms Trade Treaty
  • Whitehouse.gov, December 9, 2016, Message to the Senate — Arms Trade Treaty
  • Associated Press, September 21, Ad Confused About Treaty Regulating Global Arms Trade
  • PolitiFact, August 10, 2012, Brown: UN deal likely to lead to international arms registry
  • USA TODAY, September 25, 2013 USA signed an agreement to regulate the global arms trade
  • Indianapolis Star, April 26, 2019: Trump reverses US course on Arms Trade Treaty during NRA speech in Indianapolis

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Our testing work is partially supported by a grant from Facebook.


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