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By W. Gardner Selby May 17, 2012

Craig James says Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton seek treaty to ban the use of U.S. firearms

Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Craig James of Texas drew a standing ovation this week after warning that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seek an international agreement banning the use of guns on U.S. soil.

James, sitting on stage at a Grassroots America candidate forum in Tyler on May 16, 2012, said: "I’m going to stand up because I want to make sure you don’t forget what I’m going to say right now." An Austin American-Statesman reporter recorded his remarks.

"If anybody in this room has not been following this, the United States, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are negotiating with the United Nations about doing a treaty that will ban the use of firearms," James said. "I want you to know that the Second Amendment is about to be busted and if we don’t stand up and stop this and scream and make sure that Washington, D.C. hears us, then we’re in trouble with the Second Amendment.

"Where is the next part that they take away? This is insane," James said. He subsequently urged everyone to make sure friends and neighbors understand the U.S. is trying to ban and get rid of the Second Amendment, which says: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

"Don’t let them fool you any other way. We don’t want to wake up one morning and realize that we have to send our firearms (away) – and I’ve got a bunch of ‘em," James said. The ovation followed.

Asked to elaborate, James’ spokeswoman Meredith Turney said the next day that James was probably referring to his support for legislation offered by U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas.

Turney guided us to a May 17, 2012, Senate floor speech in which Moran pointed out that a UN conference scheduled for July 2012 could lead to an international treaty regulating trade in conventional arms including tanks, helicopters and missiles. Whether the treaty includes limits on civilian firearms, Moran said, remains to be seen.

He also said he expects any treaty impinging on domestic gun rights to fall short of winning the constitutionally required two-thirds’ Senate approval needed for ratification.

Moran’s Second Amendment Sovereignty Act, introduced in March 2012, bars U.S. funds from being committed or spent in connection with treaty negotiations to restrict the Second Amendment rights of citizens or to regulate the domestic manufacture, assembly, possession, use, transfer or purchase of firearms, ammunition or related items.

In his speech, Moran said his measure also is intended to back the Obama administration’s position that the U.S. will not agree to any treaty infringing on the constitutional rights of American citizens or to provisions that would alter or diminish existing rights to manufacture, assemble, possess, transfer or purchase firearms, ammunition or related items.

Moran said he was referring to a letter he fielded from the State Department in August 2011. We failed to land a copy, but in a more recent, April 16, 2012, speech to the Stimson Center in Washington, Thomas Countryman, an assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, summarized the administration’s goals for the arms trade treaty conference in part by saying provisions limiting domestic gun rights would not be embraced.

"We will not support outcomes that would in any way infringe on the Second Amendment," Countryman said. "...This has been the position of the executive branch since 2009, and it remains our position today. We will not support or agree to any treaty that would do so. We believe that the international community can draft a treaty on international arms transfers that would both increase international security and still protect sovereign rights of nations. That is the treaty that the United States will pursue in July and for which we expect there will be widespread support."

As we looked into James’ claim, we noticed our friends at looked into a similar claim in December 2009. That analysis, headlined "International Gun Ban Treaty?," says Obama, reversing course from his predecessor, George W. Bush, agreed in 2009 to work with other UN member nations toward a conference possibly leading to an arms trade treaty. The article says that on Oct. 28, 2009, the UN General Assembly voted 153-1 to move forward in preparation for a conference, with the United States voting "aye."

Critics including former UN Ambassador John Bolton aired suspicions that any such treaty would require nations to restrict the domestic ownership of firearms, reported, though a related General Assembly resolution acknowledged the right of nations to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownership. Another provision, the story says, acknowledges that countries have a right to arms for "self-defence and security needs and in order to participate in peace support operations."

Also noted by Two weeks before the cited General Assembly vote, Clinton insisted that any decisions at the conference on the treaty would be made by "consensus," meaning that every country would have veto power on the negotiated agreement, according to an Oct. 14, 2009, Reuters news article, and it wouldn’t go into effect without the approval of all. In short, said, no treaty will take effect if the U.S. disagrees.

So, the United States plans to participate in a conference possibly resulting in a treaty regulating the international arms trade, but the Obama administration has said it won’t support limits on the Second Amendment.

We followed up with Turney by asking if James had evidence of Obama and Clinton pushing to ban the use of firearms. She replied by email that James is "very concerned that citizens need to keep pressure on the administration to defend the Second Amendment, especially heading into UN treaty negotiations."

Our ruling

We found no evidence of Obama or Clinton indicating they want the UN conference on an arms trade treaty to ban the use of firearms; the recent speech by an administration underling states the government will not back a treaty that infringes on the Second Amendment.

This claim runs so substantially counter to reality, it’s ridiculous. Pants on Fire!

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Our Sources

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, floor speech, May 17, 2012

Remarks (excerpted), Craig James, Tyler, Texas, May 17, 2012

Emails (excerpted), responses to PolitiFact Texas, Meredith Turney, communications director, Craig James campaign, May 17, 2012

Speech, Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary, U.S. State Department, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, April 16, 2012, article, "International Gun Ban Treaty?," December 5, 2009

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

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by W. Gardner Selby

Craig James says Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton seek treaty to ban the use of U.S. firearms

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