Our Constitution and Treaties (yes, even U.N. treaties)

This item on Sulia.com piqued my interest because it was so misleading. Actually it aggravated me a great deal. People who should know and understand our Constitution and laws write or broadcast erroneous information that other people then accept as the truth without attempting to verify the accuracy of what they read or heard. This is wrong, so wrong! I’m not saying that I’m 100 percent correct all the time, but I research issues I see or read about so I can have a better understanding of the issue and speak/write intelligently—I owe that to myself, I owe that to my readers.UN Gun Control I

The piece to which I’m referring appeared in ThinkProgress on Monday, April 15, under the heading Top Bush-Era Officials Sound False Alarm Of Obama Plot To Use U.N. To Take Guns. The Boston Marathon bombings overshadowed this piece, but I found it anyway. In a Wall Street Journal article, Obama’s United Nations Backdoor to Gun Control, John Yoo, the former Justice Department official responsible for the “Bush torture memos” and John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.,  sounded “the alarm against the sneaky way the Obama administration will come for Americans’ guns: the United Nations.” In the article, Yoo/Bolton write—

But the new treaty also demands domestic regulation of “small arms and light weapons.” The treaty’s Article 5 requires nations to “establish and maintain a national control system,” including a “national control list.” Article 10 requires signatories “to regulate brokering” of conventional arms. The treaty offers no guarantee for individual rights, but instead only declares it is “mindful” of the “legitimate trade and lawful ownership” of arms for”recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities.” Not a word about the right to possess guns for a broader individual right of self-defense.

Gun-control advocates will use these provisions to argue that the U.S. must enact measures such as a national gun registry, licenses for guns and ammunition sales, universal background checks, and even a ban of certain weapons. The treaty thus provides the Obama administration with an end-run around Congress to reach these gun-control holy grails.

Yoo/Bolton also state, “Yet because the Constitution requires that two-thirds of the Senate give its advice and consent to any treaty, Second Amendment supporters still have a political route to stop the administration.” Ah, here it is, the large hole in their article and they provide it themselves—the Senate, not to mention our Constitution.

But the damage is done. People read their article and accept it as fact. The following comment appeared under the article:

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If Yoo/Bolton wrote the article with any sense of journalistic responsibility this comment wouldn’t have appeared. The end result is that Yoo/Bolton contribute negativity to the discussion on gun control and that is wrong. If we, as a nation, are to accomplish anything we need rational, truthful commentary and discussion.

You see, the U.N. treaty was adopted on April 2, 2013 and right away I found a copy of the treaty and read it. Gee, simple…yes, simple. I didn’t see anything in the treaty that would threaten my Second Amendment rights. The treaty addresses arms proliferation and requires that member states enact control systems for the exportation of arms and we already have that system in place. The treaty is also “Mindful of the legitimate trade and lawful ownership, and use of certain conventional arms for recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities, where such trade, ownership and use are permitted or protected by law…”

Ah, “protected by law.” Our Constitution provides the president with the power to make treaties, provided that “two-thirds of the Senators present concur” (Article II, section 2). This gives the U.S. Senate a share of the treaty power through advice and counsel. It also checks presidential power and safeguards the sovereignty of the states by giving each of our states an equal vote in the treaty-making process.

Ah, our Constitution. The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land! In Article VI, Clause 2 of the constitution, known as the Supremacy Clause, establishes the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes, and U.S. Treaties as “the supreme law of the land.” These are the highest form of law in the U.S. legal system, and Clause 2 mandates that all state judges must follow federal law when a conflict arises between federal law and either the state constitution or state law of any state.

However, the Supremacy Clause only applies if Congress is acting in pursuit of its constitutionally authorized powers. Federal laws are valid and are supreme, so long as those laws were adopted in pursuance of—consistent with—the Constitution.

Ah, treaties. A treaty may not do or exceed what the Congress is charged to do or what it is forbidden to do. Constitutional authority supersedes, overrules, and precludes any contrary treaty authority!!! An international accord that is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution is void under domestic U.S. law, the same as any other federal law in conflict with the Constitution. In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1 (1957), that the Constitution supersedes international treaties ratified by the U.S. Senate (emphasis mine). Read that again…the Constitution supersedes international treaties ratified by the U.S. Senate!!!

Now we’re at the crux of the Yoo/Bolton article and they are wrong! The article didn’t present rational arguments on gun control, it only added unneeded fuel to the heated gun control debate fires by not presenting fair, balanced and accurate information. They touched on some of it, but the slant of the article was complete opposition to gun control and fueling hatred of the Obama administration. By the way, the accurate information is—

  1. The U.N. treaty must be ratified by a two-thirds (currently 66) majority of the U.S. Senate (Yoo/Bolton did write this).
  2. If ratified, the treaty will not supersede the U.S. Constitution.
  3. The president took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.
  4. The treaty will be void if it is inconsistent with U.S. law.

As to end runs around Congress, well in District of Columbia v. Heller the Supreme Court ruled, in part, that:

Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons. (Pp. 54–56.)

The Federal government has the power to regulate arms. We have the Second Amendment right to bear arms. These two rights/powers need to be balanced. Whatever action is taken on gun control has to conform to our Constitution. I have three guns and I don’t fear the government taking them away. At the same time, I don’t believe that private citizens need some of the weapons, clips and ammunition now in their homes. I also don’t believe that gun sales should be so easy and commonplace that anyone, yes anyone, can buy a personal weapon of mass destruction.

All I ask is that we all use commonsense and accuracy in our conversations about gun control, make that any subject. Omit the fear-mongering, omit the lies, omit the distortions. We owe that to our Constitution, to our children and to our fellow citizens.