False claim that US is joining international gun registry

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Claim: US ready to ratify treaty to establish international gun registry

A viral Facebook post claims that President Joe Biden recently decided to sign the US into a United Nations treaty that seeks to establish an international gun registry.

“Joe Biden has announced that America is signing the UN Small Arms Treaty, setting the stage for a full ratification vote in the US Senate,” reads part of the August 29 post.

“Communist China, European socialists and 3rd world dictators will establish an international gun control registry that would allow them to track the ‘end user’ of every rifle, shotgun and handgun sold in the world,” the post says.

The post has been shared more than 8,000 times in two months.

But the claim is false. According to a State Department spokesperson, the US is not ready to join any such agreement. Experts said the arms trade deal, which appears to be the deal cited in the post, would not establish an international gun registry.

USA TODAY has reached out to the user who shared the post for comment.

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The US is not a party to the agreement, according to the State Department

There are no announcements on the White House website about the USA joining an international arms treaty, and USA TODAY found no evidence that any such “UN Small Arms Treaty” exists.

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The post appears to be referring to the UN Arms Trade Treaty, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in April 2013 and entered into force in December 2014. According to the UN website, the treaty seeks to regulate the international trade in conventional arms.

“There is no UN treaty on small arms,” ​​a State Department spokesperson told USA Today in an email. “The Arms Trade Treaty, negotiated at the UN and entered into force in 2014, covers small arms and light weapons, but it also covers heavy weapons such as tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery systems, fighter jets, attack helicopters. Warships, and missiles and missile launchers.”

Former Secretary of State John Kerry signed the deal on behalf of the Obama administration in 2013, but the Senate never ratified it. In 2019, President Donald Trump sent a notice to withdraw the US from the agreement. The US is under no obligation to abide by the terms of the agreement, the notice said.

A State Department spokeswoman said the Biden administration “continues work to finalize an updated conventional arms transfer policy for the United States” and once this policy is finalized, “the United States intends to turn to other arms transfer issues, including determining the appropriate relationship of the United States to the (Arms Trade Treaty).”

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The treaty tracks arms deals between nations, not peoples

In any event, an arms treaty does not create an international arms registry.

Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty submit international arms sales reports that are accessible by participating governments. However, the annual reports only include information on the number and types of weapons shipped and which countries sent and received them, according to Rachel Stoll, vice president and director of the Stimson Center’s Conventional Defense Program, and which individuals own them. International Security Think Tank.

The information provided by parties to the treaty will be somewhat more detailed than countries already submit to the UN’s Conventional Weapons Registry, a voluntary reporting process that began in 1993 with similar goals, Stoll said. Both reporting processes track what are broadly defined as conventional weapons, such as handguns, rocket launchers, fighter jets and tanks.

The Arms Trade Treaty contains language that officially recognizes “the sovereign right of any State to control and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory in accordance with its own legal or constitutional arrangements.” Stoll, who helped draft the treaty as a consultant to the UN, said it specifically recognized the right to bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.

“That line has been added to the US,” he said.

The creation of a federal gun registry has been prohibited in the US since the Gun Owners’ Protection Act was signed into law in 1986.

The claim has been denied by The Associated Press and PolitiFact.

Our Rating: Wrong

Based on our research, we rate the claim that the US is set to ratify a treaty establishing an international gun registry as false. According to the State Department, the US is not set to ratify any such agreement. The treaty referenced in the post tracks cross-border sales of conventional weapons between nations; It doesn’t explain which specific people end up with weapons.

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Our fact-checking sources:

  • Rachel Stoll, Sept. 27-Oct. 17, phone interview and email exchange with USA today
  • US Department of State, September. 23, email statement
  • Library of Congress, accessed October 17, Text of the Firearm Owners Protection Act
  • United Nations Treaty Collection, Accessed 17 October, Text of the Arms Trade Treaty
  • United Nations Registry of Conventional Arms, accessed 17 October, Participation Statistics
  • United Nations Registry of Conventional Arms, accessed 17 October, Categories of Major Conventional Arms
  • United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, October 17, Arms Trade Treaty
  • Whitehouse.gov, December 9, 2016, Message to the Senate — Arms Trade Treaty
  • Associated Press, September. 21, the ad is misleading on the treaty governing the global arms trade
  • Politifact, August. 10, 2012, Brown: UN treaty likely to lead to international gun registry
  • USA Today, September. 25, 2013, US signs treaty to control global arms trade
  • Indianapolis Star, April 26, 2019 Trump reverses US course on arms trade deal during speech at NRA in Indianapolis

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Our fact-checking work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.


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