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A file photo of a man entering a gun shop in Salem, Ore., Feb. 19, 2021. (AP) A file photo of a man entering a gun shop in Salem, Ore., Feb. 19, 2021. (AP)

A file photo of a man entering a gun shop in Salem, Ore., Feb. 19, 2021. (AP)

Gabrielle Settles
By Gabrielle Settles November 1, 2021

Biden administration not planning an international committee to oversee US gun rights

If Your Time is short

  • The TikTok claim is based on a letter that Republican senators wrote to the Biden administration, asking for clarification if the administration intends to rejoin the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty.

  • The Arms Trade Treaty, which the United States signed in 2013, regulates international trade of conventional arms like small arms, battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships.

  • Trump “unsigned” the treaty in 2019 during a National Rifle Association conference. The NRA believes that the treaty would harm domestic gun owners’ rights. 

A TikTok post announced "urgent news" about the Second Amendment, using colorful GIFs and graphics to make the case that President Joe Biden is planning to give foreign officials a say in the Second Amendment rights of Americans.

"In short, the Biden administration wants to create an international oversight committee to watch America and decide whether or not our Second Amendment rights need to be altered or even cancelled," the TikTok user narrates. "Since when did foreign officials have a say over the American people?" 

TikTok identified this video as part of its efforts to counter inauthentic, misleading or false content. (Read more about PolitiFact's partnership with TikTok.)

The video shows a letter addressed to Biden by a group of Republican senators. One thing to note: The letter did not make the same claim as the video.

The group wrote in asking for clarification about a statement from William Malzahn, the deputy director for the Office of Conventional Arms Threat Reduction, which is part of the State Department. Malzahn spoke at the Seventh Conference of State Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty in early September. The senators said that during his statement, Malzahn indicated the Biden administration’s intention to rejoin the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty. 

The treaty regulates international trade of small arms like rifles and pistols, battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships. The Arms Control Association wrote that it "requires all states-parties to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons across international borders," among other requirements.

In 2013 under the Obama administration, the United States signed the Arms Trade Treaty, but the Senate never ratified it. In 2019, former President Donald Trump "unsigned" the treaty in front of a crowd at an annual National Rifle Association convention, an organization that has been against the treaty for years based on their stance that it could affect American gun owners.

The Republican senators pointed out a particular sentence in Malzahn’s statement. Malzahn said, "The United States has long supported strong and effective national controls on the international transfer of conventional arms, and the Arms Trade Treaty is an important tool for promoting those controls internationally." 

"We find this statement to be most concerning and contrary to the current and historical position of the United States," the senators wrote.

While the TikTok claim that the Biden administration wants to create an international oversight committee is based on this letter, that doesn’t mean it’s accurate. PolitiFact reached out to the office of Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., who along with other senators signed the letter. A spokesperson for Marshall’s office said the letter does not accuse the Biden administration of trying to create an international committee to oversee Second Amendment rights, but simply asked for clarification if Biden intends to join the treaty.

The White House also told PolitiFact that the TikTok claim is wrong. 

A State Department spokesperson said the Arms Trade Treaty regulates the international trade of conventional arms — not domestic trade or possession. In his remarks, Malzahn said that the Biden administration is going to finalize the U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, which was revised during both the Obama and Trump administrations. 

"President Biden has made clear that diplomacy and human rights are at the center of U.S. foreign policy," Malzahn said in his remarks. "We believe it’s important to publicly reflect these changes in a new CAT Policy, so we have been working to revise the policy to reflect the new administration’s priorities." 

Malzahn then said when the policy is finalized and released, the U.S. will then address other arms transfer issues, like determining its relationship with the Arms Trade Treaty. But those remarks don’t mean that a decision has already been made to join the treaty — simply that a review of that relationship is going to happen, said the State Department spokesperson.

 

Our ruling

A TikTok post claimed that the Biden administration wants to create an international oversight committee to oversee U.S. Second Amendment rights and decide if they need to be altered or cancelled.

The claim stems from a letter that Republican senators addressed to Biden asking for clarification of comments during a United Nations conference from a State Department official. The senators said these comments indicated that the Biden administration would rejoin the Arms Trade Treaty, which they were concerned could impede American gun owners’ rights.

But the letter was not accusing the Biden administration of creating an international oversight committee to regulate U.S. gun rights. The White House affirmed that the creation of such a committee is not in the works.

We rate this claim False. 

Our Sources

TikTok Post, Sept. 29, 2021

Archived TikTok post: https://archive.md/ECXUD 

Republican senators’ letter to President Joe Biden, Sept. 28, 2021

United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty, accessed Oct. 26, 2021

Arms Control Association, The Arms Trade Treaty At A Glance, August 2017

NPR, Trump Moves To Withdraw U.S. From U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, April 26, 2019

National Rifle Association, What "Unsigning" the Arms Trade Treaty Means for American Gun Owners, May 3, 2019

Statement by the United States of America at the Seventh Conference of State Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty, Aug. 31, 2021

Press release, Sens. Marshall, Moran, Inhofe: Biden Administration Must Not Support International Oversight of Americans’ 2nd Amendment Rights, Sept. 28, 2021

Obama White House, ​​Presidential Policy Directive -- United States Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, Jan 15, 2014

Trump White House, National Security Presidential Memorandum Regarding U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, April 19, 2018

Email interview with the White House Press Office, Oct. 26, 2021

Email interview with Sen. Roger Marshall’s office, Oct. 26, 2021

Email interview with the Department of State, Oct. 29, Nov. 1, 2021

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Biden administration not planning an international committee to oversee US gun rights

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