False claim that US is joining international gun registry

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Claim: The US is set to ratify a treaty that would establish an international gun registry

A viral Facebook post claims President Joe Biden recently decided to add the US as a signatory to a UN treaty that seeks to establish an international gun registry.

“Joe Biden just announced that he is adding America as a signatory to the UN Small Arms Treaty, setting the stage for a full ratification vote in the US Senate,” read part of the August 29 article.

The post goes on to claim the agreement “will establish an international gun control registry, allowing Chinese Communists, European socialists, and 3rd World dictators to track the ‘end user’ of every rifle, shotgun, and handgun sold in the world.”

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

But that claim is false. The US is not set to join such an agreement, according to a State Department spokesman. Experts say the Arms Trade Treaty, which appears to be the treaty referred to in the article, will not establish an international firearms registry.

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

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The US is not part of the treaty, according to the State Department

There is no announcement of the United States joining an international arms treaty on the White House website, and USA TODAY has found no evidence that such a “UN Small Arms Treaty” exists.

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The article appears to refer to the UN Arms Trade Treaty, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in April 2013 and entered into force in December 2014. The treaty seeks to regulate the international trade in conventional weapons, according to the UN website.

“There is no United Nations Treaty on Small Arms,” ​​a State Department spokesperson said in an email to USA TODAY. “The Arms Trade Treaty, which was negotiated at the United Nations and entered into force in 2014, includes small arms and light weapons, but also includes heavier weapons such as tanks, armored fighting vehicles, artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile launchers.”

Former Secretary of State John Kerry signed the agreement 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 treaty. The notice states that the US has no obligation to abide by the treaty’s stipulations.

A State Department spokesperson said that the Biden administration “continues efforts to finalize an updated Conventional Arms Transfer Policy for the United States” and that when this policy is completed, “the United States intends to move on to other arms transfer issues, including those that define the right relationship.” United States and (Arms Trade Treaty).

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The treaty tracks arms agreements between nations, not people

In any case, the arms treaty did not create an international arms registry.

Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty report international arms sales that are accessible to participating governments. However, the annual report only includes information such as the number and types of weapons sent and which nations sent and received them, not the individuals who own them, according to Rachel Stohl, vice president and director of the Conventional Defense Program at the Stimson Center, an international security think tank.

The information provided by the parties to the treaty can be a little more detailed than the nations have submitted to the UN Register of Conventional Arms, a voluntary reporting process that began in 1993 with the same goal, Stohl said. Both reporting processes track what is broadly defined as conventional weapons, such as handguns, rocket launchers, fighter jets and tanks.

The Arms Trade Treaty contains language formally recognizing “the sovereign right of any country to manage and control conventional arms exclusively on its territory, in accordance with its legal or constitutional system.” Stohl, who helped draft the treaty as a U.N. consultant, said the language was specifically included as a nod to the right to bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“The line is inclusive for the United States,” he said.

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

That claim was also disputed by The Associated Press and PolitiFact.

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Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate the claim that the US is set to ratify a treaty that would establish an international gun registry as FALSE. The US is not set to ratify such a treaty, according to the State Department. The treaty referenced in the article tracks cross-border sales of conventional weapons between nations; It is not detailed where the specific person ended up with the weapon.

Our fact-checking sources:

  • Rachel Stohl, Sept. 27-Oct. 17, Telephone interview and email exchange with USA TODAY
  • US Department of State, September 23, Email Statement
  • Library of Congress, accessed October 17, Text of Firearms Owners’ Protection Act
  • United Nations Treaty Collection, accessed October 17, Arms Trade Treaty text
  • United Nations Register of Conventional Weapons, accessed 17 October, Participation statistics
  • United Nations Register of Conventional Weapons, accessed 17 October, Main Conventional Weapons Category
  • United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, accessed October 17, Arms Trade Treaty
  • Whitehouse.gov, December 9, 2016, Message to the Senate — Arms Trade Treaty
  • Associated Press, September 21, Ad misleads on the global arms trade regulation agreement
  • PolitiFact, August 10, 2012, Broun: UN treaty likely to lead to international gun registry
  • USA TODAY, September 25, 2013, the USA signed an agreement to regulate the global arms trade
  • Indianapolis Star, April 26, 2019 Trump reverses US course on Arms Trade Treaty during speech at NRA in Indianapolis

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