The National Rifle Association on Friday declared its opposition to any attempt by U.N. member states to prohibit or regulate U.S. civilian ownership of firearms as they draft a treaty regulating the multibillion-dollar global arms trade.
The influential U.S. gun owners' lobbying group said in a statement on its legislative action website that its executive vice president Wayne LaPierre addressed this week's meeting of countries negotiating a treaty regulating the conventional arms trade, asking that all civilian firearms be removed from the proposal.
LaPierre told the gathering at U.N. headquarters Thursday that the countries drafting the treaty have assured the NRA: "Trust us: an ATT (Arms Trade Treaty) will not require registration of arms."
"Yet, there are numerous calls for record-keeping, and firearms tracking from production to eventual destruction," LaPierre said in his speech as posted on the NRA website. "That's nothing more than gun registration by a different name."
LaPierre noted that civilian gun ownership is a constitutional right in the United States and that because of that the proposed Arms Trade Treaty was likely to face strong opposition in the U.S. Senate. U.S. ratification of international treaties requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate.
The NRA is a major lobbying group and political campaign contributor that holds strong sway over the U.S. Congress.
The U.S. does not have to ratify the treaty for it to take effect, but because it is a major arms exporter its participation is seen as necessary for the agreement to be relevant.
Representatives of countries participating in the treaty negotiations indicated that the exclusion of all civilian firearms, such as hunting rifles and shotguns, seems unlikely.
French Ambassador Eric Danon, who oversees disarmament issues for his country, said Friday the countries will meet for another week in February before a final monthlong session next summer, when agreement on the final treaty is expected.
"I am confident there will be a treaty after a difficult negotiation in 2012," Danon said.
Danon said the treaty aims to regulate the legal trade of conventional weapons for the first time by requiring countries to track arms exports and imports and help fight the illicit weapons trade.
Countries are debating whether the treaty should also track bullets and other ammunition.
"For hundreds, and thousands of years, weapons have been bought and sold without any contracts," Danon said. But illicit arms trafficking, he said, is now "an international problem and it needs to be handled at an international level."