Gun Control Debate Goes Global

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - A two-week conference on illicit small-arms trading begins Monday at the United Nations. Gun control advocates want to impose global restrictions on the small arms trade, while supporters of gun rights say the U.N. has no business trampling on the freedoms of individual nations.

The United Nations defines small arms as revolvers and self-loading pistols, rifles, submachine guns, "assault" rifles and light machine-guns.

The conference will open on a pro-gun-control note, with the unveiling of a sculpture made of thousands of weapons used in crimes, wars, and violent acts around the world. Wire services report the sculpture is called "The Art of Peacemaking," and it reportedly contains submachine guns used by children in Nicaragua, bullets fired in Northern Ireland, and weapons used in various conflicts around the world.

Those who support global restrictions on small-arms manufacturing and sales -- including U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan -- say small arms kill more people around the world than anything other than AIDS. They also say arms trafficking is the second largest illicit business after drugs.

The conference will end with a non-binding plan of action, but even Annan admits the final document won't be as strong as the gun-control faction would like it to be. He is quoted as saying that the conference's final report will be a "step in the right direction...a recognition by the international community that we need to do something about these weapons."

The conference reportedly will include representatives from 189 nations and various nongovernmental advocacy groups, including the National Rifle Association.

Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's chief executive officer, said, "We're going to be there standing for freedom." He believes the U.N. conference intends to "put a global standard ahead of an individual country's freedom."

Some of the "global standards" to be discussed at the conference include controls on the manufacturing and transfer of small arms as well as limits on their possession and export.

Some conferees want to ban private ownership of small arms designed for military use; another proposal says small arms should be supplied only to governments, not individuals.