History is Made: The United States and the Arms Trade Treaty

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), adopted by the UN and signed by the U.S. in 2013, is the first treaty regulating the trade of conventional weapons. Prior to the ATT, there were more laws governing the international sale of bananas and iPods than grenade launchers and AK-47s, making it easy for weapons to fall into the hands of warlords, dictators and terrorists. U.S. leadership was crucial to passing the treaty, but powerful domestic opponents–the NRA and Heritage Foundation-saw it as a good fundraising tool and opportunity to flex their political muscles. AVN got involved in the ATT push in 2010 to counteract the influence of these special interests and mobilize faith, military, and values communities around the treaty.

Our work began by asking former child soldier turned peace activist and head of the Evangelical churches of South Sudan, Bishop Elias Taban, to issue a call to American Christians to support the ATT because of the strong mission ties between US evangelicals and Sudan. The 3,500 churches that responded to that call helped us build a unique coalition of faith, military, humanitarian, and security groups to combat misinformation about the treaty in the media and build positive momentum for it. In order to provide the Administration with the political cover it needed to push the ATT, we brought in major faith leaders and retired generals to meet with Senators and the Administration, ran op-eds, and organized church petitions through 2012 and helped reframe the debate as a question of siding with terrorists and dictators or our troops and missionaries. Then as the treaty moved toward a possible vote in 2013, AVN launched a robust campaign including emails urging people to pledge to participate in a Day of Prayer, full-page print ads in Politico, op-eds, and a viral video targeting Christian voters and influential leaders in Washington.