Gun activists get say at UN summit

The gun industry and shooting enthusiasts fired back at the anti-gun lobby yesterday at an international conference on illicit weapons, saying any global restrictions will affect sport hunters.
“If you do something at this conference that impacts even a few hunters, sport shooters or legal firearms owners, you do it to all of us,” said James Fulmer, a fan of antique muzzleloading rifles from Friendship, Ind., at the midpoint of the United Nations Small Arms Review Conference.
The two-week conference is meant to take stock of the global efforts to curb the trade on illegal arms and draft a plan of action for the future.
This year’s conference, which coincides with the Fourth of July holiday, attracted the ire of tens of thousands of American gun owners, who were mobilized by the National Rifle Association to protest what they see as a global effort to disarm U.S. civilians.
The conference is not looking at legal civilian ownership, but is examining ways to limit the flood of weapons into unstable regions.
In a wide-ranging but ill-attended morning session, speakers representing gun manufacturers, weapons brokers, antique-firearms enthusiasts and big-game hunters stressed that misuse is the problem, and not the gun itself.
“A firearm is a tool, a very simple tool that dates back to the 12th century,” said Thomas Mason, a frequent gun lobbyist who represented the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute at the conference. “Like any tool, it can be used for great good or great harm,” he said.
The alliance of two dozen manufacturers has embraced marking and tracing of weapons but is opposed to similar tracking for ammunition, as is commonly proposed on the sidelines of the conference. As many as 14 billion rounds of ammunition are produced each year, and manufacturers note that it would be technically and logistically impossible to mark each bullet.
Many of the morning speakers protested what they see as an unfair focus on legal or civilian arms, and rejected international efforts to mark ammunition or expand national jurisdiction over global trade.
Mark Barnes, a registered firearms broker, warned governments against enacting broad jurisdiction that would impede a dealer’s ability to make international sales.
He urged countries to establish effective import and export laws before they attempt to draft international guidelines.
International arms brokers are considered by nations and gun foes to be the weak link in the chain, the place where legally manufactured or owned firearms are sold or traded to groups without proper verification of end users.

“Our membership is concerned with the enactment of overly broad international regulatory programs that unnecessarily and adversely impact the legal trade in small arms and light weapons instead of focusing on reducing the illicit trade,” Mr. Barnes said on behalf of Firearms Importers Roundtable Trade Group.
Rick Parsons, representing the Washington-based Safari Club International, made one of the most ambitious speeches of the morning session, in which he linked international game hunting with the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.
“I believe that every person in this room will acknowledge that some of the world’s poorest countries are also the most biodiversity rich,” Mr. Parsons said. “The trade and use of biodiversity generates revenues that fund basic needs like farming equipment, education, medical clinics, roads, food-storage facilities and electricity.”
Carefully administered programs allow foreign sport shooters the opportunity to hunt game, while fees and licenses generate money for local communities, he noted, citing Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia and Botswana as examples.
Mr. Parsons also called on authorities to allow foreign hunters to more easily travel internationally with their legally registered weapons.
“I respectfully request that legitimate firearm owners, hunters and competition shooters [are acknowledged as] equal and recognized stakeholders in efforts against illicit trafficking in small arms,” he said.

 

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