Publication Date
April 16, 2015
David B. Kopel, Paul Gallant, Joanne D. Epstein
Arms Trade Treaty, Global Burden of Violence, human rights, small arms control, rule of law
The United Nations is currently negotiating a legally binding Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which is supposed to protect human rights. We suggest that the ATT will fail to ameliorate human rights abuses, because it will merely create redundant paper controls on some instrumentalities of violence, rather than on controlling the perpetrators of violence.

In Part I, we show that an important reason why many people own firearms is justifiable desire to protect their families and communities from government-sponsored genocide and other abuses. Governments have been the primary perpetrators of violence and human rights violations. Accordingly human rights advocates should focus on government reform, rather than on a treaty that obfuscates the problem of poor governance.

In Part II, we argue that the proposed Arms Trade Treaty may create more arms embargoes, but that it can do nothing to make the new embargoes more effective than the many failed embargoes of the past. The record shows that the disarmament community’s focus on instrumentalities of violence has proven unproductive in controlling arms acquisition by governments, non-state-actors, and other civilians. Moreover, as long as civilians are determined to possess arms in order to defend their own lives, the black market will almost inevitably supply those arms. Unless there are major cultural changes which alter the demand, the same pattern of arms supply will continue.

Part III urges readers to be cautious about accepting the many factoids that have been invented for the purpose of promoting the ATT. The most significant new factoid is the claim of 740,000 global deaths per year due to armed violence; this claim appears to be based on numerous implausible assumptions, and the creators of that claim have refused to disclose their calculations to the public.

In Part IV, we suggest that the most effective long-term path towards disarmament is reducing the need of civilians to possess defensive arms. One important way to do so would be to bring the rule of law to the billions of people who currently lack it.
Recommended Citation
Kopel, David B. and Kopel, David B. and Gallant, Paul and Eisen, Joanne D., Justice for All: A Better Path to Global Firearms Control (July 22, 2010). Jindal Global Law Review. Volume 2, p. 198, 2010, Available at SSRN:

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