Obama yields on UN arms treaty

It was understandable that even in the wake of another mass murder by a heavily-armed madman that President Obama would express no interest in supporting legislation limiting access to assault weapons and ammunition. The reality is that gun control, no matter how sensible, is politically unpopular, particularly in many of the toss-up states that are critical to the president's re-election chances.

After the shooting the president's spokesman, Jay Carney, was asked whether the president would renew his call for an assault-weapons ban, something he has not talked about since the last campaign.

"He believes we need to take steps that protect Second Amendment rights of the American people, but that ensure that we are not allowing weapons into the hands of individuals who should not, by existing law, obtain those weapons," he answered.

In other words, the answer is "no."

If the decision to avoid a domestic debate on gun control was expedient, blocking a United Nations treaty aimed at controlling the $60 billion business of illicit small arms trading was an act of pusillanimity.

Diplomats had worked on the treaty for years, most recently addressing concerns raised by the Obama administration. The proposed treaty is seen as a significant step forward in reducing the illicit flow of weapons to human rights abusers in conflict-torn regions. Right-wing groups in the United States had launched a groundless attack alleging that such a treaty could undermine domestic Second Amendment rights. It would do nothing of the sort.

But last week, with the treaty close to approval, the United States announced it needed more time (until after the election, we suspect), an attempt by the Obama administration to avoid even baseless criticism that it is weak on protecting gun rights.

The irony is that anyone willing to believe the United Nations is "taking away our guns" is not going to vote for the president anyway, no matter how much he kowtows to the gun lobby.

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