Secretary of State John Kerry once again signed the United Nations Arms Treaty on Wednesday, a move that supporters say will help stop weapons from getting into the hands of criminals and terrorists worldwide but critics contend is is a backdoor assault on law-abiding gun owners.
The treaty would require nations to conduct a detailed registration of all guns. The issue is dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate, but one of the leading experts on guns says even if the agreement is only ratified in other countries, it can still work to erode gun ownership here.
“The point of this is just to try to reduce legitimate gun ownership in other countries. Eventually it has some feedback effect in the United States. If Canadians are much less likely to own guns, gun control activists will point to them and say, ‘Look how outlandish we are in the United States,'” said Dr. John Lott, an economist who serves as president of the Crime Prevention Research Center.
Lott is also the author of well-known books on guns, including “More Guns, Less Crime” and “The Bias Against Guns.” He says the stated purpose of the UN treaty sounds pretty harmless but the devil is in the details.
“The claimed purpose is to try to make sure that the gun trade is regulated across countries. The claim is that terrorist groups and other rebel groups around the world are getting guns because of private gun owners there. It ignores the fact that almost all the guns that these different groups get are from other governments, not from private individuals,” said Lott.
In addition to stifling weapons supplies to terrorists, proponents of the treaty argue that mass registration will help solve many criminal cases around the world as well.
Lott says that is simply not backed up by the facts.
“In theory, if a gun is used in the commission of a crime if left at the crime scene and it’s registered to the person who committed the crime, then you can use that gun to trace back and find out who committed the crime,” said Lott.
“The problem is that never really works. The reason is pretty simple. One, crime guns are rarely left at the scene. Two, when they are left at the scene, they’re not registered to the person who committed the crime,” he added.
Lott says the ineffectiveness of gun registration is proven over and over. In Canada, he says lawmakers recently rescinded a mandate on long gun registration because it was accomplishing nothing.
“It cost billions of dollars and it hadn’t solved any crimes. In fact, before the long gun registration was eliminated, it was clear that even the handgun registration that has been around since the mid-1930’s had not been able to solve one single crime,” said Lott.
It’s the same story in the United States. Lott says Hawaii has forced gun owners to register their weapons since 1960. He recently took part in legislative hearings in the state, but he says the testimony of another witness was most compelling.
“They had the Honolulu police chief come in and they asked him some questions. They said, ‘How many crimes have they been able to solve in Hawaii as a result of it?’ It was zero. They couldn’t point to a single crime that they had solved,” said Lott.
Beyond the inability of gun registration to help police catch criminals, Lott says the police chief explained what a drain the policy is on law enforcement.
“They asked, ‘Well, how much police time does it take every year to go and implement this?’ Just for the Honolulu Police Department, it was about 50,000 hours of police time each year. That’s 50,000 hours of police time that could have been used to go and solve real crimes,” he said.
Lott says taking police away from their cases robs them of their best chance to solve crimes.
“It’s extremely important, I think, in terms of my research, in terms of reducing crime rates. Yet, here we want to go and waste this huge amount of manpower that could be used to save lives and protect people, to go and do this meaningless paperwork. I think the main point of it is just to make it costly and difficult for people to go and own guns,” said Lott.
Lott does not expect the Obama administration to claim this agreement is not actually a treaty and implement it unilaterally. He says the most Obama could do is issue some new executive orders under the auspices of the UN treaty.
Even then, Lott says the impact of those orders could only go so far because the next president could rescind them. He believes Obama is simply pushing another avenue for his tireless push for more gun control.
“They’re trying to do what they can in order to make it costly for people to own guns and reduce gun ownership. This is just one out of many ways that’ll give them an excuse to implement a few other executive orders that maybe they wouldn’t have tried to push otherwise,” said Lott.