Political pollster and strategist Dick Morris believes that President Obama may use the United Nations to bypass congress and enact new gun restrictions. In a video message released today, Morris pointed out that Obama’s gun control proposals are unlikely to pass the senate because a number of Democratic senators are opposed to gun control.
Currently, the Democrats control the senate with 55 senators (including two independents) to 45 Republicans. Many of the Democratic senators have been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and hail from red states. In particular, Morris cites Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Kay Hagan (D.-N.C.), Tim Caine (D-Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.). Even Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the senate majority leader, has been endorsed by the NRA in the past although the group stayed neutral in his 2010 election. So far no Republican senators have signed on to Democratic gun control proposals such as a new assault weapons ban.
Under senate rules, a simple majority, 50 votes, is needed to pass legislation. However, if Republican senators filibuster gun control bills, 60 votes will be needed to overcome the filibuster. If, as seems likely, at least five Democratic senators vote against Obama’s proposals, they will not pass. Even if no Democrats oppose the bills, there would not be enough votes to overcome a filibuster without Republican help.
Morris believes that Obama’s strategy will involve the UN Arms Trade Treaty. As Examiner reported last summer, many critics believe that the treaty would allow the United Nations to define what measures the United States would have to take to combat illegal arms trafficking.
As Morris noted then, the U.S. is a signatory to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Under this treaty, once the U.S. signs the Arms Trade Treaty, it would be bound by its terms until it is rejected by the senate. Under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, treaties are the “supreme law of the land,” equal in weight to the Constitution itself. President Obama could have Secretary of State Kerry sign the treaty and then refuse to submit it to the senate for ratification. Harry Reid could also simply not bring the treaty up for a vote as he has done on budgets and other legislation. Under this scenario, the U.S. would be bound by a treaty that could effectively repeal the Second Amendment without congress ever having voted on it.
Because of the vague language of the treaty, Senate Democrats might be more likely to vote for ratification of the treaty than to vote for a specific gun control measure. Morris notes that the treaty won’t immediately ban assault rifles or other guns, but it “empowers each country to adopt national means to stop these [illegal] exports from taking place. And that’s the key. It means that over the next three or four years this UN mandate, which is now sort of open ended, will increasingly close in on the Second Amendment.”
Under the Constitution, ratification of a treaty requires the approval of two-thirds of the senators present. If all senators are present that would mean 66 votes would be needed for ratification. Some Republican votes would be needed in order to ratify the treaty. The House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans, would not vote on the treaty.
After strong opposition from Second Amendment groups the administration declined to sign the treaty last summer, but Reuters reports that the day after Obama’s reelection victory the UN voted to reopen talks. The new round of negotiations will be held March 18-28, 2013.
Recent polling by Rasmussen shows that Americans are split on the issue of gun control. Fifty-three percent favor background checks for existing gun owners and 57 percent believe that enforcing current gun laws is more important than enacting new laws. Only 41 percent believe that the U.S. needs stricter gun laws. The strongest agreement came from those who believe that there is a constitutional right to own a gun (74 percent) and that background checks should be required for anyone who wants to buy a gun (86 percent).