The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Conspiracists Adopt NRA Talking Points on UN Arms Treaty

By Leah Nelson on July 19, 2012 - 3:42 pm, Posted in Conspiracies, Extremist Propaganda, New World Order

Nothing spooks antigovernment conspiracy theorists like the United Nations and its international treaties – particularly when it comes to perceived threats to their right to bear arms.

So naturally, far-right paranoiacs really have their panties in a twist over the proposed Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which would establish standards for the international trade of weapons.

Since UN talks about the ATT began on July 2, FrontPage Magazine, Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government, WorldNetDaily, and myriad other far-right “news” outlets have issued panicked articles denouncing the treaty as plot to gut the Second Amendment, destroy America, and pave the way for the establishment of a one-world government.

Particularly freaked out is the John Birch Society (JBS), a famously paranoid organization best known for accusing President Dwight D. Eisenhower of being a secret communist and for opining that fluoridated water is a communist plot to poison America.

In a recent article for the JBS mouthpiece The New American, Joe Wolverton II described the ATT as a “globalist agenda” bent on “the incremental dismantling of the U.S. Constitution and the sovereignty it protects.”

Wolverton – who in June described the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act as the “bleak dawn of a brave new world in which the federal government cannot be checked in its march toward totalitarianism” – noted (accurately) that the ATT’s stated purpose is to limit the international sale of weapons to nations where there is “a substantial risk of a serious violation” of human rights.

But, he wrote, “While the end of reducing the abuse of human rights is laudable, the means to achieve that cannot lawfully include the requirement that the Congress of the United States ask for permission from the UN overlords before it passes a law, including one authorizing the sale of arms to another country. That is a direct assault on American legislative sovereignty, and an indirect attack on the sovereignty of the American people who elect the members of Congress who vote on such measures.”

A number of members of Congress, mostly Republicans, appear to have bought into the paranoia.  In a June 29 letter, more than 100 members called on President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to “establish firm red lines for the ATT and state unequivocally that it will oppose the ATT if it infringes on our rights or threatens our ability to defend our interests.”

“The U.S. must not accept an ATT that infringes on our constitutional rights, particularly the fundamental, individual right to keep and to bear arms that is protected by the Second Amendment, as well as the right of personal self-defense on which the Second Amendment is based,” the letter says.

Is there a chance the ATT – or any UN treaty – could infringe on Americans’ constitutional rights?

Not even a little, says Michael Doyle, an expert on international treaties who teaches at Columbia Law School.

First of all, Doyle told Hatewatch, “no treaty can undermine, revise, alter, or be in conflict with the U.S. Constitution.”

Why not? Because “the Constitution is superior to all treaties, so there’s no way a treaty could change the Constitution.”

Doyle explained that the purpose of the ATT – which is still in draft form and may not be finalized before UN talks wind down at the end of this month – is to regulate international arms trade and prevent weapons from falling into the hands of potential human rights abusers. If the U.S. becomes a signatory – which would require approval by two-thirds of the Senate – it’s possible that individuals would find it slightly more difficult to purchase weapons from overseas, but the treaty would have zero effect on the domestic arms trade.

The ATT “might hypothetically restrict [Americans’] ability to buy an AK-47 from Russia,” Doyle said. “They might have to get a domestic license to buy a foreign AK-47 from Russia or someplace, if this treaty were approved by the United States.”

Hatewatch asked if there were any circumstances under which the UN could take away Americans’ guns.

The answer, he said after thinking a moment, is yes.

“If the U.S. population engages in a genocide and the U.S. government needs to call in foreign assistance through the UN, then indeed the perpetrators, presumably through the process of U.S. law, might have their guns taken away,” he said. “And it wouldn’t affect the law-abiding citizens.”

Of course, under UN rules, “If there were a genocide occurring in the United States, in order for there to be UN involvement in the United States, the U.S. would have to agree.”

Apparently, that’s exactly the kind of vision that keeps New World Order conspiracy theorists up at night.

“[G]lobalist gun controllers don’t have in mind (at least at first) to march blue-helmeted UN soldiers into the homes of Americans with orders to seize their guns and ammunition,” the JBS’ Wolverton wrote earlier this month. “Rather, through the passage of binding international treaties and UN resolutions, they will force the national governments of the world to do the dirty work for them.”

This theory was immediately taken up by far-right media personality Glenn Beck, a fringe figure who in 2007 declared that JBS’ distorted take on reality “make[s] … sense to me” and who has since hosted numerous pro-JBS figures on his various talk shows.

Quoting heavily from Wolverton’s article, Beck warned on his website that “people need to prepare for possible problems in the future, as the country cannot continue to head down the road it has over the past few years. There are people out there, some close to the current administration, who despise the free market and do not see America as a beacon of hope but as a symbol of oppression. These people do not believe America needs sovereignty, but the nation would be better off handing authority over to a global organization like the UN.”

Like many anti-ATT conspiracy theorists, Beck and Wolverton appear to be taking their talking points directly from the National Rifle Association, which has for several years led a propaganda campaign to scare Americans into thinking that the ATT is a threat to their Second Amendment rights.

Earlier this week, the progressive blog Media Matters released a report on the NRA’s involvement in anti-UN propaganda in which Alexander Zaitchik – formerly a writer for Hatewatch explained that the gun-rights lobby started using the UN as a tool to drum up support in 1996.

In 1997, according to Zaitchik, NRA members received a fundraising letter claiming, “We are just two steps away from an international treaty that could cost you and your family your rights and your guns. … A multi-national cadre of gun-ban extremists is lobbying the United Nations, demanding … a virtual worldwide ban on firearms ownership. … What would happen if the UN demands gun confiscation on American soil?”

It’s no coincidence that the NRA started its aggressive anti-UN campaign around the same time that Wayne LaPierre assumed leadership of the organization.

Long ago, the NRA was a mainstream, if generally conservative, lobby. But LaPierre changed all that. In 1995, he wrote a fundraising letter describing federal agents as “jack-booted government thugs.” He added: “[I]n Clinton’s administration, if you have a badge, you have the government’s go-ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law-abiding citizens.” Former President George H.W. Bush quit the NRA as a result.

In 2000, LaPierre accused President Bill Clinton of tolerating murders in order to build the case for gun control, saying the president had “blood on his hands.” Six years later, he released a book titled The Global War on Your Guns: Inside the UN Plan to Destroy the Bill of Rights.

This year, an NRA campaign suggesting that Obama is planning to crack down on gun ownership if re-elected has coincided with skyrocketing sales of guns and ammunition.

And earlier this month, addressing a UN conference that invited civil societies to discuss the ATT, LaPierre denounced “anti-freedom policies that disregard American citizens’ right to self-defense” and insinuated that supporters of the treaty were “enablers of future tyrants whose regimes will destroy millions and millions of defenseless lives.”

“Without apology, the NRA wants no part of any treaty that infringes on the precious right of lawful Americans to keep and bear arms,” LaPierre said. “America will always stand as a symbol of freedom and the overwhelming force of a free, armed citizenry to protect and preserve it. On behalf of all NRA members and American gun owners, we are here to announce that we will not tolerate any attack – from any entity or organization whatsoever – on our Constitution or our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms.”

Fortunately. the NRA won’t have to tolerate any such attack – well, probably not.

“Here’s a message to them,” said Columbia’s Doyle, in a patient effort to comfort activists who fear a global gun grab. “Don’t engage in genocide or somebody might take their guns away.”

  • JC

    People have and should allways have the right to keep and bear arms. Why? because when a leader decides that he wants to be just like Hitler or Stalin we the people can say hell no and over throw that government. And you can’t do that with just handguns. But the mentality is that the USA is so great it will never become tyranical. But lets set aside the notiong of the USA becoming tyranical for a moment, lets say Russia and China join forces along with a few middle eastern countries and lets say they decided to invade us, how do you suppose we fight back if we have no guns? But surely this can’t possibly happen to us I mean countries don’t get invaded right. Isnt it better to have guns and not need then? then to need them and not have them?

    Now lets look at what happend in Colorado, 1 gunman shoot and killed a bunch of people, now let me ask you this. What would you think would have happened if atlease two people in that theater had guns of their own? Logic tells us that the shooter would have to either continue his rampage at the risk of his own life or run for cover. And we all know by know that he wasnt trying to get killed because if that was the case he would have been in a shootout with the police and that did not happened therefore it is logical at this point to asume that had someone else fired back he would have run for cover therefore lives would have been saved, but no you people want a world where the individual is dependent upon the government to protect them because the police have such a great track record at showing up just in time to save us. Somehow the police can teleport just in time to save you because when your life is in danger trafic somehow desapears and they show up just in time right? disarm the people and what you are left with are victims.

    The news never reports on the lives that have been saved due to good people having guns. No, they only tell you about the bad people that have guns. Hitler himself said the best way to control a population is to disarm them. For the person incharge of censorship on this page have some guts and let this comment get by untuched.

  • Joseph

    That being said, I am pro-gun, but anti-NRA. Do they defend the rights of gun owners? Yes.

    Do they publicly speak out against the majority of their membership having racist or discriminatory tendancies? No they do not.

    If I took a picture of the faces of the gun shop owners or employees, who look at me when I walk into a new gun shop to browse, that would tell quite a story. It’s a common story, you’ve all heard it, a story of liberties and freedoms, that belong to everyone, except you.

    I like to frequent shops who have ex-military employees or owners, they usually don’t care. Others…not so much. I see the same thing at gun shows, and other places.

    “Don’t tread on me…but I’ll more than happily tread on you.”

  • Joseph

    You flatter me. Thank you.

  • Reynardine

    Joseph, we need to come up with a superb award for you. Right now, it’s just a big…welcome aboard!

  • Aron

    Wow, Joseph. That’s really, really huge. While I commend you on your decision, I also respect you for sticking to your guns in spite of the unpleasantness. And doing it for your son is absolutely the best reason.

  • Joseph

    You have to wonder though, when will they take the money and put it where their mouth is?

    I just changed my paypal. I can’t tolerate any of this. Nor can I tell my son it’s okay to be apart of an organization that caters to these senseless individuals.

    I’m no longer an oath keeper.

  • Erika

    When Kansas becomes the center of the new country of Teabagistan the Koch Brothers will be prepared.

  • Aron

    Joseph, as usual, I am in complete agreement with you.

    I honestly doubt the KBs would ever attempt anything serious against the government. Since they already essentially own the American Right Wing, they have no need to mount any militaristic action.

    Though Chamberlain said something very similar in 1938…

  • Joseph

    But you know what Aron, just like you said in my first thread, they may have the arsenal, but they don’t have the spare parts. I don’t think their wealth adds up to the DOD annual budget.

    I feel bad for people who think they can go man to man against any fed-backed organization. Not that I think it will come down to that, but the thought of it itself. Anything less than an insurgency would be brutal. But an insurgency – that’s another issue.

    These Koch brothers really remind me of people who are trying to come into their own form of power. If only they can get enough fools to follow them.

  • Aron


    When you own a large part ofthe country (as the Kochs do), you have many, MANY places to store your army.

  • Joseph

    You know, I like guns, and other stuff like that, but wow, a Tank. I have to side with the tank guys on this one. I would like to own a tank. But where would I put it??? I know, a part of the problem… :(

  • Reynardine

    Erika, I thought he was being used as a pontoon by the Wyoming Navy.

    Don’t cry, Sam, there is surely some jurisdiction that will allow you to wheel a cannon loaded with grapeshot down the street. After all, the Koch brothers have already paraded their very own private tanks down the street of a small Colorado town (not Aurora)

  • Erika

    My understanding is that Rush Limbaugh has actually been commissioned as a Zeppelin in the Teabagistan Air Force :)

  • Erika

    The NRA is only respectable because the line of what is respectable has been moved so far. The fact that they have a complete nutcase like Ted Nugent on their board speaks volumes. What speaks even louder is the fact that they are a completely political organization now whose initials might as well stand for “National Republican Association” – yes, they endorse a few pro-gun conservative Democrats from rural areas for races that don’t matter much (state legislatures, House of Representatives) – but for anything that counts they will always endorse – and actively campaign for – the Republican even over Democrats with more pro-gun records (see the 2009 Virginia Governors race if you doubt that is true).

    For the NRA other conservative causes always take precedent even over guns. That is why they embrace silly conspiracy theories (see their fearmongering that “yes Obama hasn’t done anything to take guns yet, but no question he will at sometime in the future” fear).

  • Sam Molloy

    The NRA is a respectable organization that fights for the rights of responsible gun owners, and believes that every American has a right to defend themselves against the thugs and maniacs that roam our streets. The SPLC’s core purpose is to also defend Americans from those thugs and maniacs. To link the NRA with extremist conspiracy theorists is counterproductive, to say the least. They will be getting my next donation that I had intended to send to you.

  • Sam Molloy

    Erika, the Republic of Teabagistan’s Air Force has a picture of a flaming Nazi gas bag on their shoulder patches. Rush Limbaugh.

  • Robert Pinkerton

    For those of us who are LAWFUL gun-folk, the National Rifle Association is our premier civil-rights organization. One would expect them to be vigilant against gun-hatred, as the Anti-Defamation League is against anti-Semitism.

    And, believe me, we CRINGE when outrages like the Colorado bat-massacre occur.

    Please pardon the capitalization, but I think I cannot make the comment program write italics from my machine.

  • Erika

    As fearsome as the Wyoming Navy is, the Teabagistan Air Force will no doubt be much worse. Obviously existing airplanes as products of science will not be allowed in Teabagistan – hence, one will only be able to fly by faith – faith and giant homemade wings :)

    Bob, if the NRA is too moderate for you, you can always join the military of the Republican of Teabagistan – I strongly recommend against joining their Air Force.:P

  • Reynardine

    US military, meant to say: was thinking of Wyoming Navy.

    Bob, what the Fox are you talking about?

  • Bob

    No adopting anyone’s talking points is needed; intelligent people have read the previous drafts and can see the real goals.
    As usual, the NRA is walking gently when a big stick is what is needed.

  • Reynardine

    I am old enough to remember when the NRA didn’t do much but teach classes in marksmanship and gun safety. I first became aware they’d gone smack off the rails in 1994, when I went to a gun show in Orlando and saw some publication of theirs that had a picture of Janet Reno with a target on her. There are currently gun-rights organizations that make the NRA look like pansies.

    The runaway sale and use of private arms out there has had untoward effects. This last July 4, if memory serves me, the denizens of a small town in Colorado discovered the tanks and other artillery parading through the town didn’t belong to the U.S. Navy or the Colorado National Guard. They were the personal artillery of one of the Koch Brothers. Since then, I have been informed that quite a few richbies have been fielding these things in private war games, but this is the first time such an outfit has been paraded before the general public. Meanwhile, any number of “liberals” (often simply centrists) have been told by former “friends”, “We’re coming for you, and we have the better guns”. Since a number of those who were threatened have been hunters, soldiers, or police, they have started arming themselves also, and quite a few formerly peaceable liberals have begun to learn. Thus, the trade in arms grows brisker, and the atmosphere more explosive.

  • Dan Zabetakis

    It is a sign of political disengagement that these shrieking madmen can be seen as mainstream.

    It has been true for at least a decade that you cannot slip a sheet of paper between the Democrat and Republican policies on gun control.

    How can both gun owners and gun-control activists not see this?

    But of course the subtext is that US arms companies do not want any international agreements that might limit proliferation of weapons, even to our enemies. The lobbyists can push the buttons of paranoiac Republican voters enough to scare the Senate.