Press Release


July 9, 2001                                                                 Contact:  Rachel Stohl, 703-593-1989


Small Arms Working Group Condemns Bolton Statement at UN  

The Small Arms Working Group (SAWG), an alliance of U.S.-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and individuals, strongly condemned the statement of U.S. Under Secretary of State John Bolton today at the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its Aspects. The Bush appointee hardened the position of the United States on the Conference's attempt to combat the proliferation and misuse of small arms. 

Bolton stressed that the Conference should address only the illicit transfer of military style weapons, excluding firearms and non-military rifles.  Bolton adamantly stated that the United States will not join any consensus viewed as infringing on rights guaranteed under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"What we actually heard was the National Rifle Association speaking from the podium, repeating their tired misrepresentation of the Second Amendment" said Michael Beard, President of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

Tamar Gabelnick, Director of the Arms Sales Monitoring Project at the Federation of American Scientists argued that Bolton is projecting the concerns of domestic lobbyists onto the problems affecting other countries.  "It is precisely those weapons that Bolton would exclude from the purview of this conference that are actually killing people and endangering communities around the world."

The Bush Administration representative laid out additional U.S. "redlines," items unacceptable for inclusion in the Conference plan.  Bolton stated that the United States could not support a final Conference document that included:

        restrictions on the legal trade and manufacture of small arms and light weapons;

        promotion of international advocacy by NGOs and international organizations;

        restrictions on the sale of small arms and light weapons to entities other than governments;

        a mandatory review conference; and

        a commitment to begin discussions on legally binding agreements.

"Bolton's redlines are in fact red lights, halting effective international action on small arms and endangering the success of the conference," said Michael Crowley, Senior Analyst at the British American Security Information Council (BASIC).

Rachel Stohl, Senior Analyst at the Center for Defense Information, challenged Bolton's position, noting that without the inclusion of the items Bolton identified as "redlines," the conference process, and indeed the efforts to counter the proliferation and misuse of small arms would be undermined.  "Attaching redlines to controls on legal trade and manufacture is illogical as the United States already has many of these mechanisms in place.  To not push U.S. best practices at a minimum is unacceptable," Stohl noted.

Noting Bolton's criticism of civil society advocacy, Loretta Bondi, Advocacy Director at The Fund for Peace, said that the Bush Administration appears to reject the voices of the victims of small arms violence. "We have heard the U.S.'s closest allies taking quite a different stand on this issue," Bondi stated.  "The U.S. position will further isolate the United States from the world community.