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The United Nations General Assembly Approves Arms Trade Treaty

Delegates to the United Nations General Assembly April 2, 2013 applaud the passage of the first UN treaty regulating the international arms trade. The UN General Assembly on Tuesday adopted the first-ever treaty to regulate the $80-billion-a-year conventional arms trade. The assembly voted 154-3 for a resolution that will open the treaty for signature from June. Syria, North Korea and Iran -- which had blocked the treaty last week -- voted against it. Russia was among the 23 abstentions. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Delegates to the United Nations General Assembly April 2, 2013 applaud the passage of the first UN treaty regulating the international arms trade. The UN General Assembly on Tuesday adopted the first-ever treaty to regulate the $80-billion-a-year conventional arms trade. The assembly voted 154-3 for a resolution that will open the treaty for signature from June. Syria, North Korea and Iran — which had blocked the treaty last week — voted against it. Russia was among the 23 abstentions. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

The UN General Assembly voted Tuesday to adopt a treaty to control the trade of conventional arms.

The treaty – a historical first – passed by a majority vote of 154 to 3, with 23 nations abstaining, including Russia, China and several Latin American countries. The United States vote was in favor of the treaty despite protests from the National Rifle Association and other gun rights activists. The three votes against came from Syria, North Korea and Iran. All three nations had successfully blocked the treaty’s adoption by consensus, making the vote necessary.

The treaty would require that state exporting conventional arms would need to develop criteria to monitor and report publicly on sales and prohibit any shipments that might lead to human rights abuses, particularly against women and children. Also prohibited are shipments that would violate arms embargoes, contribute to genocidal acts or potentially land in the hands of terrorist organizations. Similar prohibitions and regulations concerning ammunition were proposed as well, but many nations – the United States included – were opposed to arms and ammunition being subject to the same terms. The language of the treaty does, however, call for some regulation concerning ammunition.

The United States Senate must favor the treaty by a two-thirds majority before the U.S. can officially participate. However, the treaty is unlikely to get such support from the Senate, as it passed a nonbinding amendment last month in opposition among concerns that the treaty does not protect individual gun rights.

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