President Obama to Face Opposition from Gun Lobby, Possibly Democrats, to Ratify Treaty on Firearms Trafficking

Apr 17, 2009 3:23pm

ABC News’ Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report:

While President Obama has indicated he’s not willing to expend any political capital to try to re-new the ban on semi-automatic assault weapons that expired in 2004 — despite pleading from Mexican President Calderón that he do so — he did announce a step this week that is meeting with opposition from the powerful National Rifle Association — an international gun treaty that the Senate refused to ratify under former President Bill Clinton.

The Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and other Related Items — best known by its Spanish acronym CIFTA — was adopted by the Organization of American States 12 years ago, in 1997. President Clinton sent it to the Senate the following year, and CIFTA hasn’t been heard from since.

"As President Calderón and I discussed, I am urging the Senate in the United States to ratify an inter-American treaty known as CIFTA to curb small arms trafficking that is a source of so many of the weapons used in this drug war," said President Obama in Mexico City on Thursday.

The treaty makes the unauthorized manufacture and exporting of firearms illegal and calls for nations in this hemisphere to establish a process for information-sharing among different countries’ law enforcement divisions to stop the smuggling of arms, to adopt strict licensing requirements, and to make firearms easier to trace.

On Thursday evening, the response from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. — who has worked hard to establish a reputation as a supporter of gun rights — was fairly muted.

“We must work with Mexico to curtail the violence and drug trafficking on America’s southern border, and must protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights," Reid said in an uncharacteristically unsupportive statement. "I look forward to working with the president to ensure we do both in a responsible way.”

Reid faces a potentially difficult re-election race in 2010. In his 2004 race, he received a contribution from the National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund.

And how does the NRA feel about CIFTA?

"The treaty does include language suggesting that it is not intended to restrict ‘lawful ownership and use’ of firearms," said NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and NRA Chief Lobbyist Chris Cox in a statement. "Despite those words, the NRA knows that anti-gun advocates will still try to use this treaty to attack gun ownership in the U.S. Therefore, the NRA will continue to vigorously oppose any international effort to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding American gun owners."

An administration official tells ABC News that President Obama "felt that it was important to push now for the ratification of this treaty because the question of illegal small-arms is of great concern to the countries throughout the hemisphere at it affects their safety. The president’s belief that steps need to be taken conveys our commitment to address this challenge."

– Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller

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