An official website of the United States government

Domestic Firearms Regulation is a Matter Wholly within the Sovereign Powers of a Nation
June 26, 2014

Explanation of Vote: A/HRC/26/L.27 on Firearms
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
UN Human Rights Council – 26th Session
Geneva, June 26, 2014
Delivered by Ambassador Keith Harper

Thank you, Mr. President.

We regretfully have called a vote and abstain today on this resolution.

In saying this, let me first affirm the United States’ unwavering commitment to the protection of innocent civilian life against all forms of violence.

The United States has supported innumerable resolutions in support of this commitment in this and other bodies and we agree that domestic regulatory action can help deter the criminal misuse of firearms, as evidenced by our existing domestic national laws regulating firearms possession and use.

Nevertheless, we do not believe that a State’s regulation of the purely domestic acquisition, possession and use of firearms is an appropriate topic for international attention.

Domestic firearms regulation is a matter wholly within our sovereign powers as a nation, and as a result we do not believe the Human Rights Council – or any other international body — is the proper forum for this discussion.

Additionally, we do not regard the domestic actions contemplated by this resolution to be required by international human rights obligations.

As a general rule, a State’s human rights obligations would not extend to regulating the acquisition, possession or use of firearms by private persons or non-state actors.

Rather we recognize that these measures, as contemplated by this resolution, fall within the sovereign responsibility that each government owes to its population through its domestic constitutional and legal processes.

We maintain that it is the sovereign and exclusive right of any state to regulate and control conventional arms within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system.

In the United States, the Second Amendment to our Constitution protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.

The United States already has many laws and regulations to control firearms, at the national, state and local levels, consistent with our Constitution.

We do not interpret this resolution as giving any international body or its representatives a legitimate voice in the domestic regulation of firearms, a sovereign right that must be exercised by each State.

Thank you.