U.N. Human Rights Chief Says U.S. Needs 'Robust Gun Regulation'

By Patrick Goodenough | June 15, 2016 | 4:25 AM EDT

Jordanian diplomat Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein has been U.N. human rights commissioner since 2014. (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

(CNSNews.com) – The United Nations’ human rights chief called on the United States Tuesday to enforce more effective gun control measures in the aftermath of the Orlando terrorist attack, dismissing as “irresponsible pro-gun propaganda” the notion that firearms make societies safer.

U.N. human rights commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged the U.S. government to live up to its obligations to protect citizens from the “horrifyingly commonplace but preventable violent attacks that are the direct result of insufficient gun control.”

“Examples from many countries clearly show that a legal framework to control the acquisition and use of firearms has led to a dramatic reduction in violent crime,” said Zeid.

“In the United States, however, there are hundreds of millions of guns in circulation, and every year thousands of people are killed or injured by them.”

Zeid deplored what he called the ease with which individuals can buy firearms in America – “in spite of prior criminal backgrounds, drug use, histories of domestic violence and mental illness, or direct contact with extremists – both domestic and foreign.”

“How many more mass killings of school-children, of co-workers, of African-American churchgoers, how many more individual shootings of talented musicians like Christina Grimmie, or politicians like Gabrielle Giffords, will it take before the United States adopts robust gun regulation?” he asked.

Muslim American Omar Mateen killed 49 people early Sunday morning at a gay nightclub in Orlando, in a terrorist attack that quickly stoked fresh debate about gun control.

President Obama’s early response to the shooting included the view that it was “a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub.”

“And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be,” the president added. “And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.”

Others contend that had some nightclub goers been legally armed, they may have been able to stop the terrorist.

The U.N.’s Zeid challenged the thinking behind that view.

“Irresponsible pro-gun propaganda suggests that firearms make society safer, when all evidence points to the contrary,” he said.

Zeid cited a recent report from his office on the question of human rights and civilian access to firearms. Its conclusions include a call for governments to regulate the acquisition and possession of firearms.

“Human rights law requires [member] States to protect people from harmful private activities and to adopt appropriate regulatory and institutional frameworks,” the report reads.

“In the light of the harmful impact of firearms-related violence on a range of human rights, the High Commissioner reiterates the call of United Nations and regional human rights mechanisms for States to regulate the civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms.”

It’s not the first time that Zeid, a former Jordanian diplomat who became U.N.’s top rights official in 2014, has commented on domestic policy issues in the United States.

In a speech in Cleveland, Ohio last April he condemned “bigotry” and the “demonizing” of minorities in the U.S. presidential campaign.

In his comments Tuesday on the Orlando shooting, Zeid also called it “reprehensible” and “dangerous” that the attack was “already being utilized to promote homophobic and Islamophobic sentiments.”

“I urge everyone in the United States to rally around the common cause of ensuring that the human rights, and consequentially the security, of all are strengthened in the aftermath of this horrendous incident,” he said.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow