Americans mistakenly worried the United Nations is plotting to take away their guns on July 4 — U.S. Independence Day — are flooding the world body with angry letters and postcards, the chairman of a U.N. conference on the illegal small arms trade said on Wednesday.
“I myself have received over 100,000 letters from the U.S. public, criticizing me personally, saying, ‘You are having this conference on the 4th of July, you are not going to get our guns on that day,’” said Prasad Kariyawasam, Sri Lanka’s U.N. ambassador.
“That is a total misconception as far as we are concerned,” Kariyawasam told reporters ahead of the two-week meeting opening on Monday.
For one, July 4 is a holiday at U.N. headquarters and the world body’s staff will be watching a fireworks display from the U.N. lawn rather than attending any meetings, he said.
For another, the U.N. conference will look only at illegal arms and “does not in any way address legal possession,” a matter left to national governments to regulate rather than the United Nations, he added.
The campaign is largely the work of the U.S. National Rifle Association, whose executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, warns on an NRA Web site (http://www.stopungunban.org/) of a July 4 plot “to finalize a U.N. treaty that would strip all citizens of all nations of their right to self-protection.”
Kariyawasam said, “The U.N. conference will not negotiate any treaty to prohibit citizens of any country from possessing firearms or to interfere with the legal trade in small arms and light weapons.”
A sales pitch
LaPierre, who also uses the site to pitch his new book, “The Global War on Your Guns,” asks NRA members to send letters to Kariyawasam and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warning that “the American people will never let you take away the rights that our 4th of July holiday represents.”
The group also asks members to write to John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, urging him to “ensure the defeat of this treaty.” Bolton’s office confirmed he had received tens of thousands of cards from concerned Americans.
“We understand their concerns and will work during the conference to communicate their concerns,” Bolton spokesman Richard Grenell said.
At the same time, 1 million people around the world — symbolizing the number of people killed by guns since the last U.N. small arms conference in 2001 — have signed a petition backing stronger controls on arms deals in a campaign organized by Oxfam International, Amnesty International and the International Action Network on Small Arms.
The June 26-July 7 U.N. conference was called to review a 2001 U.N. action plan aimed at stemming the illegal global trade in small arms, which, as defined by the United Nations, range from pistols and grenades to mortars and shoulder-fired anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.
The action program set out broad guidelines for national and global measures to track arms sales, promote better management of government arms stockpiles and encourage the destruction of illicit arms.