A United Nations arms treaty would "almost certainly force" the U.S. to "create an international gun registry, setting the stage for full-scale gun confiscation."
Paul Broun on Friday, August 10th, 2012 in a YouTube video
Broun: U.N. treaty likely to lead to international gun registry
U.S. Rep. Paul Broun wants you to reach for your checkbook. A Second Amendment rights group needs money to keep the United Nations from coming for your guns.
The Athens Republican made his pitch in a YouTube video posted by the National Association for Gun Rights.
"If passed by the U.N. and ratified by the U.S. Senate, the U.N. Small Arms Treaty would almost certainly force the United States to … create an international gun registry, setting the stage for full-scale gun confiscation," Broun said during the video posted July 10.
Treaty negotiations fell apart in late July, but advocates are hopeful that a version will pass soon.
We therefore took a closer look.
PolitiFact Georgia asked Broun for more information, but his spokeswoman refused repeated requests for comment.
We soldiered on. PolitiFact Georgia interviewed gun rights experts, especially those who, like Broun, are critical of gun control. We also consulted past PolitiFact coverage of the arms treaty.
The U.N. has mulled over a treaty to regulate the global arms trade for years. Backers say it would curtail mass killings and terrorism, and keep dictators from killing their own people.
(Small arms are not the treaty’s sole focus, as Broun’s description suggests. Conventional weapons, including guns, missiles and attack helicopters, are.)
The George W. Bush administration rebuffed the effort, but the Obama administration said in 2009 that it is open to negotiations.
In 2010, PolitiFact National evaluated a claim that under the treaty, "all U.S. citizens will be subject to those gun laws created by foreign governments."
In the unlikely event that the president and two-thirds of the Senate agreed to a treaty that bans guns and requires their confiscation, long-standing Supreme Court precedent would make it unenforceable, it said in ruling the claim False.
In May, PolitiFact Texas tested a claim that "Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are negotiating with the United Nations about doing a treaty that will ban the use of firearms."
It ruled Pants on Fire because an administration official recently said the U.S. will not back a treaty that infringes on the Second Amendment.
So "full-scale gun confiscation" in the U.S. is out of the picture. What about an international gun registry?
Gun control critics pointed us to a July 26 draft posted on the website of a pro-disarmament group.
Article 2 states that each party "shall establish or update, as appropriate, and maintain a national control list" that would include battle tanks, attack helicopters and guns, among other things.
"Even the most limited reading of the treaty suggests that, while it would not create an international registry of all guns, it seeks to create one of all imported guns," said Ted Bromund, a senior research fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.
But no treaty language establishes a worldwide registry of individuals who own guns or dealers who sell to customers in their own countries.
In fact, the draft affirms the "sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional systems."
Prior General Assembly resolutions contain similar language.
Official U.N. statements emphasize that a treaty would regulate international import, export and transfers of conventional arms only.
"Nobody wants to control the transfer of weapons inside a country," said Tom Collina, the research director of the Arms Control Association.
Of course, this version of the treaty failed in U.N. negotiations. Even if it had succeeded, U.S. ratification would be unlikely, our anti-gun control experts agreed.
Still, we opted to take Broun’s statement further. He posits an alternate political reality where leaders ratify a treaty that could lead the U.S. to create a registry to track -- and ultimately confiscate -- guns.
PolitiFact Georgia asked legal experts whether one would be constitutional.
They gave differing opinions. The Supreme Court has not ruled on the issue.
Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, thinks registries would pass constitutional muster because they don’t "materially interfere with the ability to keep guns for self-defense."
Dave Kopel, a legal expert with the pro-free market Independence Institute, called registration a "gray area, legally speaking." A future court could overturn Second Amendment precedent, Kopel said.
"Like so much else in constitutional law, the answer is ‘it depends,’ " said Brannon P. Denning, a professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham.
How do we rule?
A draft of the U.N. treaty would require the U.S. to report information on international arms sales only -- not domestic sales.
But "full-scale gun confiscation" would not be constitutional. A domestic registry may not be.
This means that even in the unlikely event that the U.N. creates a treaty that provides for domestic registries and the U.S. Senate ratifies it, it would not "almost certainly force" the U.S. to create one.
Broun’s statement contains the tiniest sliver of truth. The treaty would track international gun sales. But his claim makes it sound like the U.N. will keep a registry of all gun owners across the world. That’s a bizarre distortion of the facts.
His claim is False.