Published July 27, 2012
FoxNews.com The Associated Press contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of 51 senators is threatening to oppose a global treaty regulating international weapons trade if it falls short in protecting the constitutional right to bear arms, as the United Nations bumps up against a Friday deadline for action.
In a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the senators expressed serious concerns with the draft treaty that has circulated at the United Nations, saying that it signals an expansion of gun control that would be unacceptable.
"Our country's sovereignty and the constitutional protection of these individual freedoms must not be infringed," they wrote.
A revised draft that circulated late Thursday of the treaty, though, raised hopes from supporters and the British government, which has been the leading proponent, that an historic agreement could be reached by Friday's deadline.
The draft closed several loopholes in the original text, though the Washington-based Arms Control Association said further improvements are still needed to strengthen measures against illicit arms transfers.
A spokesman for Britain's U.N. Mission, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the new text is "a substantial improvement" and "an historic agreement that effectively regulates the international trade in conventional arms is now very close."
The estimated $60 billion international arms trade is unregulated, though countries including the U.S. have their own rules on exports.
Opponents in the U.S. have portrayed the treaty as a surrender of gun ownership rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. The issue of gun control has re-emerged since last week's shooting at a Colorado cinema killed 12 people
Supporters of a treaty say it will not affect law-abiding individual gun owners, but would close loopholes that allow arms dealers to evade the strict laws that already exist in countries and transfer guns through weaker states.
The U.N. General Assembly voted in December 2006 to work toward a treaty regulating the growing arms trade, with the U.S. casting a "no" vote. In October 2009, the Obama administration reversed the Bush administration's position and supported an assembly resolution to hold four preparatory meetings and a four-week U.N. conference in 2012 to draft an arms trade treaty.
Widney Brown, senior director for law and policy at Amnesty International, said the latest draft closed "some of the significant loopholes that we were concerned about have if not been closed, definitely been narrowed."