OAS Firearms Convention
- establishing as criminal offenses the illicit firearms manufacturing and trafficking;
- setting up and maintaining an effective system of licenses and authorizations for the export, import and transit of firearms;
- marking firearms at the time of manufacture, and when they are imported;
- sharing information that is needed by law enforcement officials who are investigating arms trafficking offenses;
- strengthening controls at export points; and
- and ensuring that law enforcement personnel receive adequate training.
The United States and the Convention:
While the United States was among the first countries to sign the Convention, it is now one of only a handful of other countries that still have not ratified it. Ratification would boost the credibility of the Convention and U.S. exhortations to comply with its provisions. It would require no new laws, and any modifications to US regulations and policies needed to comply with the Convention would be minimal.
Even though U.S. laws are already largely in compliance with the provisions of the Convention, ratification by the United States is important for several reasons:
- Failure to ratify reduces U.S. credibility in OAS Meetings. By not ratifying the Convention, the U.S. has relegated itself to observer status at meetings of the Convention's Consultative Committee. While observer states are permitted to attend meetings and make statements, their status detracts from the persuasive power of their statements and recommendations; representatives of full States Parties to the Convention have expressed annoyance with observers that make strong recommendations at Consultative Committee meetings.
- Failure to ratify undermines U.S. efforts to compel other states to implement the Convention's many important provisions. As revealed by a recent OAS survey of compliance with the Convention, several member states have yet to implement many of the Convention's key provisions. U.S. exhortations to comply with the Convention ring hollow when the U.S. itself has not ratified it.
- Ratification would boost the credibility of the Convention. Officials from member states and the OAS General Secretariat emphasize the importance of U.S. ratification, claiming that it would provide an immediate boost to the Convention's credibility. Conversely, continued failure on the part of the United States to ratify the convention would damage its prestige over time.
- Ratification would help to reduce resentment generated by our refusal to adopt other popular international agreements. This resentment has a direct impact on the pursuit of U.S. foreign policy objectives. For example, the international community took the unprecedented step of voting the U.S. off the UN Human Rights Commission in May 2001 in part because of U.S. rejection of the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court Statute. Ratification of the OAS Convention would send a strong signal to the international community that the United States does in fact recognize the value of, and need for, international cooperation on terrorism and other important issues.
In the spring of 2004, the hopes of the Convention's many advocates were raised and then dashed when the Convention was not taken up as part of a June 17th hearing on law enforcement conventions.
That July, Senator Feinstein introduced the Security and Fair Enforcement in Arms Trafficking Act of 2004, which, inter alia, calls on the Secretary of State to encourage hold outs to ratify the Convention. It also requires the State Department to submit an annual report on U.S. efforts to achieve universal ratification and implementation. The bill is a strong show of support for the Convention by several prominent law makers and, as such, increases the likelihood that the U.S. will finally ratify this important treaty.
- Small Arms, Terrorism and the OAS Firearms Convention by Matt Schroeder, FAS Occasional Paper No. 1, March 2004.
- Full Report(PDF)
- Executive Summary
- Section 1: Small Arms and Latin America: Threats to U.S. Interests
- Section 2: The OAS Convention
- Section 3: Case Study: The OAS Firearms Convention and Illicit Arms Transfers to the Colombian Illegal Groups
- Section 4: The United States and the OAS Firearms Convention
- Section 5: U.S. Compliance with the OAS Convention
- Full Report(PDF)
- "Curbing the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in Latin America" by Matt Schroeder, FAS Public Interest Report, Autumn 2003.
- Final Report of the First Meeting of National Authorities Directly Responsible for Granting Export, Import, and International Transit Licenses or Authorizations for Transfers of Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials, 6-7 October 2005.
- Appendix I - Document List
- Appendix II - List of Attendees
- Appendix III - Statement by the OAS Secretary General
- Appendix IV - Draft Agenda
- Appendix V - Draft Schedule
- Appendix VI - Background, Mandates and Meeting Objectives
- Appendix VII - Directory of Authorities Questionnaire
- Appendix VIII - Summary of the June 2005 MERCOSUR workshop (in Spanish)
- Appendix IX - Presentation on Alternatives for an online information exchange network (in Spanish)
- Appendix X - Presentation by the Delegation from Colombia (in Spanish)
- Appendix XI - Presentation by the Delegation from Venezuela (in Spanish)
- Appendix XII - Statement by the Delegation from Chile (in Spanish)
- Appendix XIII - Presentation by the Delegation from Argentina (in Spanish)
- Appendix XIV - Presentation by the Delegation from Brazil (in Portuguese)
- Appendix I - Document List
- Declaration of Bogota on the Functioning and Application of the Inter-American Convention, 9 March 2004.
- Rules of Procedure of the Conference of the States Party to the Inter-American Convention, 8 March 2004.
- Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and other Related Materials, 14 November 1997.
- Signatories to the Convention.
- Report of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States on the Diversion of Nicaraguan Arms to the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia, OAS, 29 January 2003.
- House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Hearing, "U.S. Obligations Under the Merida Initiative," 7 February 2008.
- Testimony of Thomas A. Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
- "Meeting Aims to Combat Illicit Arms Trafficking in the Americas," Washington File, US State Department, 7 October 2005.
- "Trafficking in Small Arms Destabilizing, Official Says," Ambassador Robert G. Loftis' remarks to the Organization of American States Small Arms/Light Weapons Meeting, 12 April 2005.
- "Latin America: Terrorism Issues" Congressional Research Service, 29 March 2005.
- "Organization of American States: A Primer," Congressional Research Service, 28 March 2005.
- The Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials: Convention at a Glance, State Department Fact Sheet, 1 March 2004.
- The Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials, State Department Fact Sheet, 1 August 2002.
- Concise Guide to the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials, State Department Fact Sheet, 1 August 2002.
- Letter of Transmittal to the Senate, 9 June 1998. Included in the accompanying material is a detailed comparison of the Convention and US law.
- OAS Convention Against Illicit Firearms Trafficking ,White House Fact Sheet, 14 November 1997.
- UN Office of Drug ControlViolence, Crime and Illegal Arms Trafficking in Colombia, December 2006.
- Marcela Sanchez, "Disarming Latin America", The WashingtonPost, 18 February 2005.
- Mike Ceaser, "Weapons Proliferate in Venezuela", The Christian Science Monitor, 13 July 2004.
- Johnathan Kaufman, "U.S. Ratification of OAS Firearms Convention Held Up in Senate", Center for Defense Information, 19 August 1999.
Susannah L. Dyer and Geraldine O'Callaghan, One Size Fits All? Prospects for a Global Convention on Illicit Trafficking by 2000, British American Security Information Council, April 1999.