Stand up for the facts!

Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.

More Info

I would like to contribute

By Willoughby Mariano August 10, 2012

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.

Our Sources

YouTube, National Association for Gun Rights, "Rep. Paul Broun on the UN Small Arms Treaty," July 10, 2012

The New York Times, "U.N. Misses Its Deadline for Arms Pact," July 27, 2012

The Economist, "One more heave," Aug. 4, 2012

Fox News, "Bipartisan group of senators threatens to oppose UN arms treaty as deadline looms," July 27, 2012

PolitiFact National, "Chain e-mail says U.N. treaty would force U.S. to ban, confiscate guns," June 9, 2010

PolitiFact Texas, "Craig James says Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton seek treaty to ban the use of U.S. firearms," May 17, 2012, "International Gun Ban Treaty?" Dec. 5, 2009

Reuters, "U.S. reverses stance on treaty to regulate arms trade," Oct. 14, 2009

Bloomberg, "U.S. Backs Arms Trade Treaty at UN, Abandoning Bush Opposition," Oct. 30, 2009

The Washington Post, "Justices Reject D.C. Ban On Handgun Ownership," June 27, 2008

Reaching Critical Will, United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, draft of the Arms Trade Treaty, July 26, 2012

United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, "Myths & Facts," accessed Aug. 7, 2012

United Nations, Resolution adopted by the General Assembly, "Towards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms," December 18, 2006

United Nations, Resolution adopted by the General Assembly, "The arms trade treaty," January 12, 2010

Telephone interview, Joyce Malcolm, professor of law, George Mason University School of Law, Aug. 3, 2012

Email interview, Ted R. Bromund, senior research fellow in Anglo-American relations, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, Heritage Foundation, Aug. 2, 2012

Email interview, Nicholas Johnson, professor of law, Fordham University School of Law, Aug. 3, 2012

Email interview, Dave Kopel, research director, Independence Institute, Aug. 2, 2012

Email interview, Eugene Volokh, Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law, Aug. 2, 2012

Email interview, Brannon P. Denning, professor, Cumberland School of Law, Samford University, Aug. 2, 2012

Telephone interview, Tom Collina, research director, Arms Control Association, Aug. 7, 2012

Telephone interview, Frank Jannuzi, head of the Washington office of Amnesty International, Aug. 7, 2012

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Willoughby Mariano

Broun: U.N. treaty likely to lead to international gun registry

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up