msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 7/15/2011 3:47:56 PM ET 2011-07-15T19:47:56

The "anti-gun elitists" at the U.N. have been told that their plans to create an Arms Trade Treaty undermines America’s right to bear arms, a National Rifle Association executive told members on Friday.

In an online message to members, Executive Vice President Wayne La Pierre posted his testimony Thursday before a U.N. panel negotiating the treaty to regulate the conventional arms trade.

LaPierre demanded that all civilian firearms be removed from the proposal.

"We reject the notion that American gun owners must accept any lesser amount of freedom in order to be accepted among the international community," he said in his testimony.

"Those working on this treaty have asked us to trust them," he added, "but they've proven to be unworthy of that trust."

"There are numerous calls for record-keeping, and firearms tracking from production to eventual destruction," he said. "That's nothing more than gun registration by a different name."

LaPierre noted that civilian gun ownership is a constitutional right in the United States and that because of that the proposed treaty was likely to face strong opposition in the U.S. Senate. U.S. ratification of international treaties requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate.

The NRA is a major lobbying group and political campaign contributor that holds strong sway over the U.S. Congress.

The U.S. does not have to ratify the treaty for it to take effect, but because it is a major arms exporter its participation is seen as necessary for the agreement to be relevant.

Representatives of countries participating in the treaty negotiations indicated that the exclusion of all civilian firearms, such as hunting rifles and shotguns, seems unlikely.

French Ambassador Eric Dannon, who oversees disarmament issues for his country, said Friday the countries will meet for another week in February before a final monthlong session next summer, when agreement on the final treaty is expected.

"I am confident there will be a treaty after a difficult negotiation in 2012," Dannon said.

Dannon said the treaty aims to regulate the legal trade of conventional weapons for the first time by requiring countries to track arms exports and imports and help fight the illicit weapons trade.

Countries are debating whether the treaty should also track bullets and other ammunition.

"For hundreds, and thousands of years, weapons have been bought and sold without any contracts," Dannon said. But illicit arms trafficking, he said, is now "an international problem and it needs to be handled at an international level."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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