It is impossible to remain indifferent to the Colorado killings when one has worked on the regulation of sales of classic firearms for nearly five years. For the last several days, I have closely followed the evolution of the commentaries on this crazy, wild and unfortunate act. Let us leave it to the journalists to break the news of the details of the massacre and the ensuing judicial proceedings, in order to focus exclusively on the possible link between what happened in the American heartland and the discussions taking place right now at the U.N.
On the first anniversary of the massacre on the island of Utoya in Norway, Colorado reminds us that weapons are not merchandise like others. One cannot therefore reach a stalemate on the necessity of imposing restrictions to control their circulation. It is up to American society to wonder about the ability of its legislation to prevent this type of massacre. My initial observations make me think that the context of this year’s presidential election makes any debate around the subject complicated and biased. Here again, as in the global arms trade, when policy is lax, it is the civil population that suffers as a result.
So will the events in Colorado be discussed at the U.N. Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty? Fortunately, no. Because this would go in the direction of the American lobbyists who raise the question of the U.S. internal arms market in the framework of the negotiations. Yet this is not raised in the scope of the treaty. I saw several tweets from Arms Trade Treaty activists who are thinking of “using” the Colorado disaster to call for an evolution in the American position. This can only generate confusion and hinder mobilization for the Arms Trade Treaty.
Indeed, the pro-gun lobby in the U.S. influences the ruling class and furthers its efforts to sabotage the Arms Trade Treaty by announcing the threat that the treaty would pose to their constitutional right for civilians to bear arms. It is important not to enrich their sales pitch, which is distant from the reality of the negotiations on the treaty’s content.
However, if one desires a treaty that will save human lives throughout the world, it is necessary to succeed in making the position of the U.S. evolve on two essential points.
The first pertains to munitions, which the scope of the treaty absolutely must cover. The other states and citizens must remind the U.S. government and its representatives in diplomatic posts around the world of this.
The second point relates to the criteria and parameters: in other words, the aggregate of elements included for evaluating the risks associated with the transfer of arms. Contrary to the U.S.’ demands, the treaty must clearly stipulate a ban on the transfer of arms when there is substantial risk that it violates one of the criteria (see my article from July 4).
Several days away from the end of the conference, this task seems ambitious. But the path taken by civil society in the last several years gives me hope of a turning tide. One must not let up the pressure, for it is the highest honor one can give to all the innocent victims of the irresponsible circulation of arms.
Edited by Heather Martin