Council of Licensed Firearm Owners update on the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty

The Council of Licensed Firearm Owners (COLFO) is pleased to provide an update on the work we have been doing in relation to responsible firearm users so far this year.

In March this year the Council sent a representative to support the NZ delegation with the negotiations of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in New York.

We felt it was important to support the intent of the Arms Trade Treaty, we appreciate the confidence placed with us in being part of the NZ delegation.

The Arms Trade Treaty is intended to support the Programme of Action (PoA) and replace the Wassenaar Agreement, both of which NZ is party to. I have attached a copy of a research note prepared by the Small Arms Survey organisation that shows how it will fit into international regulation.

This research note is helpful in showing the relationships between agreements.

However it is worth noting we found another document which was made available to diplomats from the same group “The Diplomat’s guide to the UN Small Arms Process” containing inaccuracies and errors. Whether this is due to short time frames to prepare documents or lack of practical understanding of firearms, the results is the guide is misleading.

Our concern is - if the guide was the only guidance a diplomat sought on the treaty, then it may result in flaws in their decision making.

We appreciate that we were given the opportunity to advise and support our diplomats in their decisions.

While NZ have signed up to the Treaty, implementation is expected to take around two years.

The ATT will be an international agreement, between around 155 countries, to set a common standard for regulating and improving regulation of the trade in conventional arms. While it is the transfer of firearms, ammunition and their accessories that concerns us, the Treaty also covers the transfer of aircraft, ships, tanks, missiles, artillery and combat vehicles.

The Treaty states the Objects and Purpose as – The object of this Treaty is to:

  • Establish the highest possible common international standards for regulating or improving regulation of the international trade in conventional arms;
  • Prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and prevent their diversion;

For the purpose of:

  • Contributing to international and regional peace, security and stability;
  • Reducing human suffering;
  • Promoting cooperation, transparency and responsible action by States Parties in the international trade in conventional arms, thereby building confidence among State Parties.”

When you consider the object and purpose, a reasonable person does not have any issue with the intent of the Treaty, however like most agreements they can be misinterpreted or diverted by individuals and groups who wish to push a personal agenda. This can come from both extremes of any argument.

This is why it is important NZ firearm owners follow the development of international policy - to understand how it may impact on us, who is promoting it and what their agenda is.

While the standard set by the ATT is below the level NZ currently expects from its firearm owners travelling internationally or importing firearms from overseas, the detail is where we could be effected.

As the Treaty is adopted there will be opportunity for businesses to price gouge or agencies to impose rules far in excess of the intent of the Treaty, we have already seen an example of this in NZ prior to the final discussion on the Treaty.

NZ’s history of firearms legislation has shown that by controlling who has access to firearms and how they are secured, it is possible to allow firearms in the community and still have one of the safest societies in the world. While no system is ever perfect NZ has managed to maintain cost effective control on firearms.

If you or your advisers require more information on firearms legislation and use, please feel free to contact us.

All the best for the New Year.

Michael Dowling