Washington: Negotiators at the United Nations are working to put final touches on a treaty cracking down on the global, USD 60 billion business of illicit trading in small arms, a move aimed at curbing violence in some of the most troubled corners of the world.
In the United States, gun activists denounce it as an attack on their constitutional right to bear arms.
"Without apology, the NRA wants no part of any treaty that infringes on the precious right of lawful Americans to keep and bear arms," National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre told the UN this month.
"Any treaty that includes civilian firearms ownership in its scope will be met with the NRA`s greatest force of opposition."
And treaty opponent John Bolton, who was president George W Bush`s ambassador to the UN, wrote that gun control advocates "hope to use restrictions on international gun sales to control gun sales at home”.
But what both ignore is a well-enshrined legal principle that says no treaty can override the Constitution or US laws.
In fact, a draft of the treaty circulated in New York this week has been criticised by arms control activists for containing too many loopholes.
For instance, it doesn`t include a proposed ban on ammunition trade. Gun activists are standing firm in near-blanket opposition to such a ban, as last Friday`s deadly Colorado theatre rampage puts pressure on the issue.
A later draft closed some of those loopholes and negotiators hoped to reach a final agreement by a Friday deadline for action.
While the treaty controversy is simmering in Congress and on the Internet, it hasn`t yet become a burning issue in the presidential race.
President Barack Obama supports the treaty effort but hasn`t talked about it on the campaign trail. Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney hasn`t specifically addressed the treaty but broadly opposes what he sees as overreach by the UN on many fronts.
"I`m willing to talk there. I`m not willing to give the United Nations sovereignty in any way or form" over US citizens or law, Romney said on July 18.
Romney and Obama did touch on the issue of US Gun control laws this week, with Obama suggesting stiffer regulations in a speech Wednesday night to the National Urban League and Romney arguing in an NBC interview from London, where he is travelling, that America does not need new gun laws.