The following article may be of interest, in spite of containing some obvious (and doubtless not so obvious) errors of fact and some rather dubious assertions by various parties.
The New York Times
Wednesday April 2 1997
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Washington, April 1 1997
The National Rifle Association is going global. The American gun lobby is worried that mounting concern over gun violence in the rest of the world could result in regulations that would impinge on gun owners in the United States and on the American gun trade.
As a result, the rifle association formed an organisation in mid march with gun groups and firearms manufacturers from 11 other countries to combat what it perceives as a new international threat.
The rifle association has also obtained special advocy status at the United Nations, allowing it to monitor and lobby against what it has identified as seven different United Nations efforts that could result in world wide restrictions on gun manufacturers and owners.
Tanya Metaska, chief lobbyist for the rifle association, said of the new World Forum on the Future of the Sports Shooting Activities, which is to have its headquarters in Belgium: "The hope of this organisation is that it will have the united voice of the shooting community, the gun-owning community. We're hopeful we can have influence at the UN and some influence with our own government and preclude some kind of treaty that might clamp down on firearms."
The gun laws in the United States are amongst the least restrictive in the developed world. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates there are 250 million firearms in the country, 1 for nearly every man, woman and child. And the rifle association which claims a "national birthright to firearms ownership", is determined to establish a bulwark against tighter controls by the international community that might require the United States to be a signatory.
Largely as a by product of the end of cold war, and because of increasing gun smuggling and gun violence, international disarmament groups, once pre-occupied with nuclear weapons, are focusing more on the proliferation of small arms and handguns as a major threat to individual heatth and safety.
Increasingly, gun violence is being viewed as a public health epidemic, with other countries determined to keep american violence from crossing their borders. The Journal of American History reported recently that more people are killed with guns in the United States in a typical week than in all of Western Europe in a year.
Even Sean Connery, the Scottish actor whose protrayal of James Bond glamorised guns and violence for a generation, has become a convert to the anti-gun cause. Mr Connery, outraged by last years killing of 16 students in a Scottish school-yard, has made an anti gun commercial that is being shown in 1,000 movie theatres across Britain. A few weeks ago, Britain banned all guns except 22 calibre firearms: Agent 007 supports a total ban.
Similarly, there has been a chilling effect in Australia, where the United States National Rifle Association gave $20,000 a few years ago to the local shooter's association, and in New Zealand, where the rifle association gave an undisclosed sum. Recent events like the slaughter of 35 people in Tasmania in April 1996 by a lone gunman prompted the Australian Government to ban pump-action shotguns and some kinds of military style rifles, establish a gun registration system and set up a plan for the government to buy privately owned guns for cash.
In the February issue of American Rifleman, the NRA's magazine, Ms Metaksa explained the need for the global focus: "when guns are being confiscated in Australia and Britain - nations which once shared a tradition of gun ownership, hunting and shooting - NRA members must stand shoulder to shoulder to defend the second amendment."
While that Constitutional amendment, which the gun lobby says guarantees the right to keep and bear arms, is uniquely american, the statement reflects how much the rifle association fears that international momentum toward regulation threatens domestic owners and manufacturers.
The World Forum will be made up of about 15 gun associations, shooting groups and manufacturers. It was organised in Nuremberg, Germany, and is to be incorported by summer.
Ms Metaska said in an interview last week that the rifle association's fundamental belief, which it is promoting world wide, was that people, not firearms, caused the problems.
"Its like Mothers Against Drunk Driving - its not the kind of car your driving, but the person behind the wheel," she said.
Michael Beard, president of Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a lobbying group in Washington for 47 national organisations that want to ban the sale and possession of handguns, said that, in part because of the new focus by disarmament groups on firearms, the National Rifle Association was right to be worried about growing international anti-gun efforts.
"Its a logical response," Mr Beard said, "because the entire world is questioning the role of firearms in society now, and particularly looking at the United States because we are so far behind."
"It seems to me they're concerned that international pressure on the United States might lead to stronger gun control in the US, and that would cut down on the profits of the manufacturers and dealers: he said. "So they're trying to coordinate international activity to prevent that from happening."
Natalie Goldring, deputy director of the British-American Security Information Council, a lobbying group that supports disarmament and follows international security issues, said the rifle associations true goal was "to create and preserve an unlimited global market for american weapons." Certainly the market, which Mr Beard said had been static domestically for the last few years, is a concern. In a 1995 letter to Senator Jesse Helms, the North Carolina Republican who is a strong ally of the gun lobby, Ms Metaksa of the rifle association said that a United Nations Disarmament Commission had adopted a working paper proposing tighter controls on the American gun trade. "The little-noted move," she wrote in seeking his help, "represents the first UN effort to foster regulation of the multi-billion dollar trade in small arms."
Later that year, the United Nations General Assembly ordered a panel to investigate ways "to prevent and reduce the exessive and destablilizing accumulation and transfer of small arms and light weapons." That panel plans to issue its report in July.
The formation of the panel, and a United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention, which the gun lobby fears may set up a permament office on international firearms regulation, prompted the rifle association to seek status as a nongovernmental organisation. The status, which the gun lobby attained last november, grants access to the world body's activities and allows lobbying of participants.
Ms Metaksa said that it "lets us get into the dialogue at an earlier point in time and have a voice in the process rather than just reacting to proposals."
As it flexes its muscle on the world stage, the American gun lobby is already earning bad reviews. A recent article in the Scottish Daily Record referred to the "sinister" NRA, made up of thousands of right-wing lunatics" who seemed "happy to stick their noses into Britain's business."
Several disarmament groups have complained of what they said were particulary aggresive tactics by the gun lobby's representative at the United nations, Thomas Mason, including his surrepitious attendance last year at a meeting in Venezuela, until he was discovered and ejected.
Mr Mason, a lawyer and former legislator from Oregon, said the closed atmosphere of the United Nations, compared with the openness of American Government, forced him to be aggressive, as did the possibility of global gun regulation posed by the world body.
"They are very, very, very uptight about the NRA", he said of the United Nations, contending that the body was influenced by "a whole intellectual academic industry on small arms that is filling the vacumn left by the end of the cold war."
He added, "The primary people are the Japanese, who have no firearms in their society, so when you're talking to the Japanese, it's like being from Venus and they're from Mars. It's extremely hard to work with them."
Ms Metaksa said Japan played a major role in financing anti-gun efforts through the United Nations and recently paid for a gun buy-back program in South Africa, where weapons are common place.
"Japan has extremely strict laws and is on a mission at the UN to try to export their brand of firearms regulations throughout the rest of the world, and they are willing to put their money where their mouth is," Ms Metaksa said, "Their ulterior motive is that they want a seat on the Security Council."
Japan, along with with Colombia, India, Russia and other nations, have blamed lax laws in the United States for the smuggled firearms flooding into their countries. But Japan, worried about the growth of an armed criminal underworld, has been particularly active.
Beyond that, the Japanese have a terrible relationship with the American gun-lobby since 1992, when a man in Louisana shot a Japanese exchange student to death on Halloween and was later acquitted of manslaughter.
The Japanese, who could not fathom such an outcome, have had stringent gun-control laws for centuries. There are only about 50 privately owned handguns in Japan, and they must be kept locked up at shooting ranges. Police carry handguns, but they must leave them at the police station when they go home.
Ms Goldring, of the British-American Security Information Council said that "Japan has been an extraordinarily productive contributor to myriad efforts at the UN to reduce global violence." She scoffed at the assertion that Japan was trying to buy a seat on the Security Council by financing anti-gun panels. Rather, she said, "stirring up anti-japanese sentiment can be to the NRA's organisational advantage."
The Rifle Association spokesman said that alerting its members to the international threat was a useful fund raising tool. "We put it in some of our mail that the UN has this ongoing effort funded by the Japanese and managed by the Canadians, to regulate guns worldwide," Ms Metaksa said.