The Fifth UN Biennial Meeting on the Programme of Action (PoA) on Small Arms and Light Weapons (BMS-5) was held in New York from 16 – 22 June 2014. Ambassador Zahir Tanin of Afghanistan chaired the gathering. It was extremely well attended with close to 60 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) present. Ten of the NGOs were affiliated with the firearms community and as the leading firearms group at the UN, the WFSA was asked to coordinate the efforts of these organizations. Part of the BMS-5 morning session on 19 June was set aside for NGO presentations. After intense negotiations the WFSA was allocated twenty-two and a half minutes for firearms community comments on the PoA.
The WFSA itself, along with five members and affiliates, spoke under the WFSA banner. WFSA President Herbert Keusgen addressed the meeting for WFSA; Mauro Silvis spoke for the Italian National Association of Manufacturers of Sporting and Civilian Firearms and Ammunition (ANPAM); Klaus Gotzen presented for the German Association of Manufacturers of Sporting and Hunting Firearms and Ammunition (JSM); Tony Bernardo represented the Canadian Shooting Sports Associations (CSSA); Rebecca Waterman spoke for the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association (NMLRA); and Thomas Saldias represented the first Latin American firearms association, Coalicion Armas Legales Latinoamericanas (CALL), to give a presentation representing the South American firearms community. These speeches are available at the following link: http://www.wfsa.net/leg_01.html
The following delegates spoke outside the WFSA umbrella: Ted Bromund for the Heritage Foundation; Sheldon Clare representing the Canadian National Firearms Association (NFA); Thomas Moore for the Defense Small Arms Advisory Council (DSAAC); Rick Patterson representing the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI); and Julianne Versnel for the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF).
Four anti-firearms groups also gave presentations coordinated by the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). One of the IANSA presentations was an emotional appeal by David Wheeler, a parent of one of the victims of the tragic Sandy Hook incident. His presentation had little to do with the PoA itself, but received a sympathetic response from the much of the audience. Ambassador Tanin, chair of the BMS-5, violated his role as a neutral presiding officer when he left the chair to recognize Wheeler. The act was unprecedented and unfortunately demonstrated the anti-gun bias of the meeting and the UN itself. An official from the UN admitted that he had arranged for Tanin to make this gesture.
Regardless of the bias of the meeting, the report of the gathering was relatively benign. Expanding the PoA to include regulation of civilian possession of firearms has been the goal of anti-firearms groups since the inception of the PoA. This was again avoided at the BMS-5 thanks to the efforts of the US Government. Likewise, there has also been an effort to expand the PoA to include ammunition. This too was rejected.
A further UN initiative which anti-gun groups wished to have referenced in the report of the BMS-5 and included in the PoA was the International Small Arms Control Standards or ISACS. Fortunately, all references to ISACS were dropped in the BMS-5 report.
Likewise, the PoA was not expanded was in relation to ‘smart gun’ technology. Two of the firearms community speakers, Rick Patterson of SAAMI and Thomas Moore of DSAAC, pointed out the impracticality of many of the smart gun technologies being touted by certain manufacturers. Smart guns are not favored by most military and police forces and some proposals, such as micro-stamping, can be easily defeated.
Although the PoA was not expanded and the report of the BMS-5 was relatively low key, recommendations were adopted necessitating several future meeting on the PoA. These will include an experts meeting on marking and tracing in 2015, a BMS-6 in 2016 and a PoA review conference in 2018.