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Nancy  Madsen
By Nancy Madsen June 15, 2014

Chain email says Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine voted to allow U.N. to seize guns

A chain email lists Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine among 46 "legistraitors" in the U.S. Senate who voted to let the United Nations seize the guns of Americans.

"Folks: This needs to go viral," the email said. "These Senators voted to let the UN take OUR guns. They need to lose their next election. We have been betrayed."

A reader recently sent us the dispatch and asked if it is true. We took a look, mindful that Warner, a Democrat, is up for reelection this fall.

No group or individual takes credit for the email, which denounces the Arms Trade Treaty adopted by the U.N.’s General Assembly on April 2, 2013. The vote was 154 in favor, 3 opposed and 23 absent. The U.S. voted for it, while North Korea, Iran and Syria opposed it.

The treaty, which took seven years to negotiate, is aimed at restricting the international flow of large and small arms to nations beset by terrorists or dictators with poor human rights records. President Barack Obama said he would sign the pact. But before the U.S. can be bound by any treaty, the agreement must be approved by the Senate.

The U.N. treaty had long been opposed by the National Rifle Association and many other pro-gun groups, who said it could infringe on constitutional rights to own arms in the United States. Before the U.N’s approval of the accord, the Senate passed legislation, by a 53-46 vote, stating opposition to the treaty. Warner and Kaine voted with the minority that favored the pact.

The email says that the treaty, in addition to allowing the U.N. to seize guns, "would have effectively placed a global ban on the import and export of small firearms. The ban would have affected all private gun owners in the U.S. and had language that would have implemented an international gun registry, now get this, on all private guns and ammo."

Facts about the treaty

Let’s look at the what the treaty actually does. It states its purpose is to "establish the highest possible common international standards for regulating or improving the regulation of the international trade in conventional arms" and to "prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and prevent their diversion."

It requires each participating country to establish its own controls over the export of ammunition and conventional arms. The pact prohibits sending the weapons to nations that are under a U.N. arms embargo or where the arms will be used for terrorism, genocide, crimes against humanity, breaches of the Geneva Conventions, attacks against civilians or other war crimes. The treaty calls on participating nations to take "appropriate measures" if they determine that a shipment has been diverted, although it does not clearly define those steps.

The accord applies to tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery, combat aircraft and helicopters, warships, missiles, missile launchers and small arms such and handguns and rifles. Participating nations would be required to send annual reports to the U.N. on their imports and exports of conventional weapons.

The treaty has no enforcement power, but supporters hope it will create common standards among countries for international trade of weapons. To go into effect, the pact must be ratified by the governments of 50 U.N. nations. To date, it has been ratified by 36 countries.

The U.S. State Department says the treaty, if joined by the United States, would not put additional controls on the import or export of guns in America. Instead, it would require other countries to establish "control systems that are closer to the high standard the United States already sets with its own national standards," the State Department wrote in a fact sheet last September.

What about the email’s contentions that the treaty would "let the U.N. take OUR guns," and "implement and international gun registry ... on all guns and private ammo?"

There are no provisions for any of that in the treaty. To the contrary, the pact’s preamble affirms "the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system."

Our ruling

A chain email says Warner and Kaine were among 46 senators who voted to "let the U.N. take our guns."

This is a wild distortion of the senators’ support for a U.N. Arms Trade Treaty that has no enforcement power but encourages nations to adopt common standards to block the flow of arms into nations beset by terrorists or dictators with brutal human rights records. The goal is to raise the international arms trade rules to standards already used by the United States.

The treaty explicitly recognizes the sovereign rights of nations to control gun laws within its borders. So the assertion that the U.N. would be empowered to take guns from United States citizens is outlandish.

We rate the claim Pants on Fire.

Our Sources

Chain email, "UN Disarmament of 2nd Amendment," received from reader May 20, 2014.

PolitiFact Texas, "U.N. treaty is about weapons systems moving between countries," Aug. 23, 2013.

PolitiFact Texas, "Craig James says Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton seek treaty to ban the use of U.S. firearms," May 17, 2012.

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

PolitiFact Georgia, "Broun: U.N. treaty likely to lead to international gun registry," Aug. 10, 2012.

PolitiFact Texas, "Chain email says Obama administration plans to use international treaties to ban all U.S. weapons," Dec. 11, 2012.

United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs web page, "The Arms Trade Treaty," accessed June 3, 2014.

U.N. Disarmament Affairs, Arms Trade Treaty General Assembly vote, April 2, 2013.

UN Disarmament Affairs, Arms Trade Treaty Status of the Treaty, accessed June 3, 2014.

UN Disarmament Affairs, Arms Trade Treaty text, accessed June 3, 2014.


Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., "Sen. Moran Statement on Status of U.N. Arms Treaty Negotiations," March 29, 2013.


Emails from Amy Dudley, Kaine spokeswoman, June 3 and 4, 2014.


Emails from Kevin Hall, Warner spokesman, June 3 and 4, 2014.


National Rifle Association, "You can help defeat proposed U.N. arms trade treaty," March 8, 2103.


U.S. Department of State, "The Arms Trade Treaty fact sheet," Sept. 25, 2013., "U.N. Arms Trade Treaty," Sept. 26, 2013.


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