News World Trump delights NRA convention by pulling out of arms treaty
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Trump delights NRA convention by pulling out of arms treaty

Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump has turned up the pressure on Cuba, imposing tougher trade restrictions on the communist country. Photo: NYT
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In a speech to National Rifle Association members on Friday that was part political rally and part pep talk, President Donald Trump called himself a champion of gun rights. Then he proved it, whipping out a pen onstage to sign a letter that would effectively cease America’s involvement in an arms treaty designed to regulate the international sale of conventional weapons.

Mr Trump said his administration “will never” ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, which seeks to discourage the sale of conventional weapons to countries that do not protect human rights.

Although the accord was brokered by the United Nations and signed by President Barack Obama, it has never been ratified by the Senate. Experts in arms control note that the accord, even if ratified by the Senate, would not require the United States to alter any existing domestic laws or procedures governing how it sells conventional weapons overseas.

Still, Mr Trump said his decision to sign a letter asking the Senate to send the treaty back to the White House “is a big, big factor,” calling the accord a “badly misguided” arrangement.

The NRA crowd gave Trump a standing ovation, but this protester outside the convention wishes he would just stand down. Photo: PA

To supporters of the decision, making certain that the United States does not ratify the treaty is one more step toward deregulation that Mr Trump has championed. In a call with reporters, a senior administration official said that a major factor in his decision was the lack of compliance with the treaty from other large conventional arms exporters, including China and Russia.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the United States had its own set of controls to ensure the appropriate sale of arms abroad, and added that the Trump administration opposed possible future amendments to the treaty that will be up for consideration in 2020.

Critics see it as a concession to the gun lobby and another effort by the Trump administration to distance itself from multilateral diplomatic initiatives — from the nuclear deal with Iran to the Paris climate agreement — that advocates say are meant to make the world a safer place.

“The president’s action today is yet another mistaken step that threatens to make the world less safe, rather than more secure,” Thomas Countryman, a former assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation and lead US negotiator on the Arms Trade Treaty, said in a statement.

“It is sad, but to be expected, that this president opposes efforts to require other countries to meet the high standards of US military export decisions,” Mr Countryman said.

Mr Trump’s move means that the United States would be in the company of countries like North Korea and Iran, which abstained from participation in the treaty, and leaving behind a group of the world’s largest gun manufacturers, including France and Germany, who signed on.

But in Indianapolis, the president’s announcement prompted a standing ovation, as did some of the other red-meat campaign rally topics.

Mr Trump touted gains in the economy and railed against a “corrupt” news media. He also disparaged the special counsel investigation into his campaign that he said had been part of a coup attempt carried out at the highest levels of the government.

“They tried for a coup, didn’t work out so well,” Mr Trump said. “Didn’t need a gun for that one, did I?”

But in Indianapolis, the president’s announcement prompted a standing ovation, as did some of the other red-meat campaign rally topics.

Mr Trump touted gains in the economy and railed against a “corrupt” news media. He also disparaged the special counsel investigation into his campaign that he said had been part of a coup attempt carried out at the highest levels of the government.

“They tried for a coup, didn’t work out so well,” Mr Trump said. “Didn’t need a gun for that one, did I?”

The president’s speech delivered a much-appreciated shot in the arm to an organisation besieged by inner turmoil. A group known for deploying steely messaging toward its enemies, the NRA — which billed itself as “freedom’s safest place” during its annual convention this year — fed attendees a steady diet of slogans to suggest that their beliefs, way of life and ability to protect themselves is at stake by Hollywood, politicians and the press.

Mr Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence helped reinforce that idea in front of a stadium crowd as they took jabs at 2020 Democrats and the party’s most liberal factions.

“Under this president and this vice-president,” Mr Pence said, “no one is taking your guns.”

The NRA was hit with a rebuke for its lobbying tactics this month when the Democratic-controlled House approved a revamped Violence Against Women Act that would bar those convicted of abusing, assaulting or stalking a domestic partner from buying guns. Mr Trump disparaged this and other legislative attempts as a move by Democrats to ensure that “bad guys” keep their guns.

The legislative setback played out as the NRA has endured scrutiny over desperate calls for fundraising and a rare dirty-laundry lawsuit. This month, the NRA sued the ad firm Ackerman McQueen, one of its closest contractors and the operator of its media arm and the NRATV channel, of mishandling $40 million that it and its affiliates receive annually from the association.

It has also been named in a lawsuit filed against the Federal Election Commission by the Giffords Law Centre to Prevent Gun Violence, which has accused the group of abusing campaign finance laws to funnel money toward Mr Trump and several other Republicans. (In a statement, the NRA called it a “lawsuit based on a frivolous complaint.”)

It’s only a toy, but this NRA conventioneer believes in starting them young. Photo: PA

“There’s definitely some bad news, and the NRA internally is suffering from some major turmoil,” Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who specialises in the Second Amendment, said in an interview. “But there’s been some major success with Donald Trump.”

Gun rights advocates say Mr Trump has delivered in an area where many of them say it matters most: reordering the judiciary by appointing two Supreme Court justices.

In its next term, in October, the Supreme Court will take up its first Second Amendment case in nearly a decade when it reviews a New York City gun law that limits residents from transporting their guns outside their homes. It will be the first test of a court that has been reoriented with the Trump-era appointments of Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Neil M. Gorsuch.

“There was one moment when it looked like maybe the NRA had bet on the wrong horse” when the president began suggesting minor gun control measures, Mr Winkler said. Under Mr Trump, the group has not gotten its complete wish list accomplished, including congressional passage of a national reciprocity law — the right for concealed-carry permit holders from one state to legally carry their guns in any other state.

But the ideological shift occurring in courts across the country is more than enough, Mr Winkler said.

“It’s not perfect,” Mr Winkler said, “but it’s damn near close.”

– NYT

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