Is there any truth to the following claims which can be found on several sites, including:

The Obama administration intends to force gun control and a complete ban on all weapons for U.S. citizens through the signing of international treaties with foreign nations. By signing international treaties on gun control, the Obama administration can use the U.S. State Department to bypass the normal legislative process in Congress. Once the U.S. Government signs these international treaties, all U.S. citizens will be subject to those gun laws created by foreign governments. These are laws that have been developed and promoted by organizations such as the United Nations and individuals such as George Soros and Michael Bloomberg.

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    Surely the utter lack of any serious attempt to impose federal controls on gun sales would constitute a direct refutation this paranoid delusion?
    – matt_black
    Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 15:53
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    @rachetfreak - Even if we ratify the treaty that only commits the US to enact laws that support the treaty. The US could ratify a treaty that requires it to disarm its citizens(I know that is not happening anytime in the near future but lets pretend they did it anyway), that would not enact any laws or give the government any rights to take guns away. Congress would need to enact laws to support the treaty... one of them would probably have to be an amendment to overturn the 2nd amendment.
    – Chad
    Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 15:00
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    @Chad: Ratification is the bringing of a treaty into force. Some states eg Russia make a treaty legally enforceable within the state when the treaty is signed by an authorized representative. The USA and other countries require not only agreement to a treaty by an authorized representative (eg POTUS), but also the bringing of that treaty into force as law through a process we call ratification. In the USA ratification requires 2/3rds of the senate. Since the US constitution grants supremacy of the federal government over foreign affairs, a ratified treaty is binding throughout the union. Commented Dec 1, 2012 at 17:41
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    @BrianM.Hunt - It would only be enforceable outside of the US though. It would not change the constitution or any other laws in place. It would obligate the US to enact laws to do so. But it would not put those laws in force.
    – Chad
    Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 1:27
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    @Chad - I believe I stand corrected, thanks. This is a relatively new development, in Medellín v. Texas (2008). The prior, ancient, and accepted law was Ware v. Hylton (1796). As you say, per Medellín, it seems Congress must also agree in order to give legal effect to a treaty. Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 2:07

1 Answer 1


There's no truth to the main claims.

The proposed Arms Trade Treaty is not about taking away guns from citizens who own guns

The proposed Arms Trade Treaty is not about changing citizens rights to buy own or sell guns to other citizens.

The proposed Arms Trade Treaty is not about restricting legal trade in arms.

U.N. Arms Trade Treaty Fails On U.S. Opposition After False NRA Gun Rights Threat

Note that the treaty concerns international arms sales, not the rights of any nation's citizens to own arms, nor to sell arms to citizens within it's borders.

The claims:

ignore the legal principle that says no treaty can override the Constitution or U.S. laws.

Forbes reports

a press release issued by the U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs says that “The outcome will not seek to prohibit citizens of any country from possessing firearms or to interfere with the legal trade in small arms and light weapons.”

Snopes rates a similar text (starting after the Reuters quote) as False, saying it is:

erroneous in all its particulars.

FactCheck looks at the issue as well:

Much of what this e-mail claims is simply false. A "complete ban on all weapons for US citizens" isn’t possible under our Constitution, according to the Supreme Court [...]

Some versions of this claim (including those referenced) include two initial paragraphs attributed from Reuters. These are accurate, from an October 14, 2009 article, but it isn't made clear where the Reuters text stops.

The UN Arms Trade Treaty, Article 6, prohibits sales to

  • Those subject to UN Embargo (e.g. N.Korea?)
  • Illicit arms dealers (e.g. suppliers to Al-Qaeda?)
  • People known to be planning genocide (e.g. Akuzu in Rwanda?)

Article 7 requires the exporting country to assess if the recipient will use the arms to undermine peace or violate international law.

Here's the relevant text from http://www.un.org/disarmament/ATT/docs/ATT_text_(As_adopted_by_the_GA)-E.pdf

Article 6 Prohibitions

  1. A State Party shall not authorize any transfer of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1) or of items covered under Article 3 or Article 4, if the transfer would violate its obligations under measures adopted by the United Nations Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, in particular arms embargoes.

  2. A State Party shall not authorize any transfer of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1) or of items covered under Article 3 or Article 4, if the transfer would violate its relevant international obligations under international agreements to which it is a Party, in particular those relating to the transfer of, or illicit trafficking in, conventional arms.

  3. A State Party shall not authorize any transfer of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1) or of items covered under Article 3 or Article 4, if it has knowledge at the time of authorization that the arms or items would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes as defined by international agreements to which it is a Party.

  • I meant to make a small change, but it slowly grew until it is a bit larger than I like to do to another person's answer. Kindly check my changes and ensure I haven't added anything you are unhappy with.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 15:01
  • @Oddthinking: No problems, My answer is a bit disorganised and could probably be tidied up. Your additional material looks good to me. Would you like to convert to Community Wiki? Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 15:06
  • I'm happy for you to get the rep. You found the key articles. I was just trying to round the answer out, but it got away from me.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 15:07
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    @Jasmine - Aside from the fact that this doesn't ban those guns, the fact that your preferred gun of choice isn't manufactured in the US is entirely an economic decision on behalf of the manufacturer and has no relevance to whether or not you can own it, or a firearm in general. If it made economic sense (due to lost sales or import fees), they could start manufacturing the same gun in the country and entirely avoid the theoretical ban. It's the same way many "foreign" cars are actually assembled in the country they're sold.
    – Bobson
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 15:49
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    @Jasmine: that would imply that since 1776 the US had gun control and both you and any US government are powerless to prevent it? As I'm struggling to see how to use your comments to improve my answer, please consider writing your own answer in the box below. Commented May 21, 2014 at 18:04

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