Treaties Don’t Trump the Constitution

American Thinker

By Congressman Steve Stockman

Can  the President and Senate invest the federal government with new powers not  enumerated in the U.S. Constitution simply by signing and ratifying a  treaty?  Can the treaty power be used to override the Tenth Amendment and  render it a dead letter?  Those issues will be argued before the U.S.  Supreme Court on November 5, 2013, in the case of Bond  v. United States.

 When  I returned to Congress in January, I also wanted to return to the House  Committee on Foreign Affairs on which I had served almost 20 years  ago.  I also wanted to serve on the  Subcommittee that oversees the United Nations and other international organizations that  continue to push treaties on us that could jeopardize the sovereignty of our  nation. 

 Indeed,  I am so concerned about these threats to national sovereignty that I filed an  amicus  curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court to undo an 86-year old case  under which a treaty, in essence, amends the U.S. Constitution.  I was  pleased to be joined in this amicus curiae brief by Gun  Owners of America, Gun Owners  Foundation, Citizens United’s  American Sovereignty Action Project, U.S.  Justice Foundation, The Lincoln  Institute, The Institute on the  Constitution, The Abraham Lincoln Foundation, Downsize  DC Foundation,, Policy Analysis Center, Conservative  Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Tenth  Amendment Center.  I want to thank each of these groups for their  commitment to this issue. 

 Here’s  what this case is about.  Mrs. Bond, a Pennsylvania woman learned that her  husband had impregnated her best friend, and set about to harm her in some way  by smearing some chemicals she obtained from work where the other woman would  touch them, including her mailbox.  Her attempts only gave her victim a  chemical burn on her thumb.

 However,  based on the woman’s complaint to a mail carrier, the U.S. Postal Inspectors  decided to make a federal case out of it.  They set up surveillance  cameras, searched her car, home and workplace, arrested Mrs. Bond, and  incarcerated her initially in a post office.  To make it seem like a postal  matter, Mrs. Bond was charged with stealing two envelopes.  But the Justice  Department also charged her with two counts of violating a statute which  implemented the Chemical Weapons Convention — a treaty designed to prevent  countries from engaging in chemical warfare. 

 Mrs.  Bond’s actions are like the types of cases handled every day by state and local  law enforcement.  Under Pennsylvania law, she could have been charged with assault, and very likely could have been  convicted, and could have received a sentence appropriate for the crime.   She was charged under federal law instead.  These federal investigations  and demands by federal prosecutors for punishment for dubious federal crimes are  intruding on the police powers of state and local governments.  Congress  has no authority to criminalize simple assault, or the use of household  chemicals, but claimed the authority based on the treaty the Senate had  ratified.  The crime with which she was charged was considered a way to  implement the terms of the Chemical Weapons treaty. 

 The  concept that the federal government can give itself additional powers by signing  a treaty with a foreign power was invented nearly a century ago to justify  federal laws regulating bird hunting.  In Missouri  v. Holland, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could  regulate bird hunting — not because it had that power under the Constitution —  but because the Senate had ratified a treaty on bird hunting.  A prior  federal law regulating bird hunting, the Weeks-McLean Act, had been conceded as  likely unconstitutional even by its supporters.

 The  Missouri v. Holland court decision was written by Justice Oliver  Wendell Holmes, Jr. beloved by left-wing statists as an early proponent of the  concept of the Constitution as a “living document.”  Holmes declared that  cases before the Supreme Court “must be considered in the light of our whole  experience and not merely in that of what was said a hundred years ago.”   Holmes embraced a formula for a nation without a written Constitution – not  applicable to the United States of America.

 One  of my biggest concerns about the Missouri v. Holland case then, and  about the Bond case now, is that this method could be used to  criminalize other behavior that the federal government may not regulate, such as  gun ownership.  President Obama and Eric Holder have been searching for a  way to implement gun control.  Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney, when asked  recently about the issue, told us “sometimes these efforts don’t succeed  initially, but … this is going to get done.”  Could Obama draw on the  treaty power to impose further regulations on firearms?

 On  April 2, 2013, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a  treaty designed to regulate global trade in conventional weapons.  The Arms Trade Treaty, posted on the  UN’s Disarmament page, regulates small arms and ammunition.  Article 8 of  the Treaty requires the government of any country which imports guns to “take  measures to ensure that appropriate and relevant information is provided” to the  government of the exporting country, stating “such measures may include end use  or end user documentation.”  This and other similar articles in the treaty,  such as the duty to maintain a national control system, would open the door to a national registry of guns,  facilitating the confiscation of firearms of the citizenry in an emergency  declared by the President.  Predictably, on September 25, 2013, Secretary  of State John Kerry signed this treaty on behalf of the United States,  presenting it to the U.S. Senate for ratification.

 If  President Obama could form another “Gang of Eight” Senators to join him to  ratify this UN gun treaty, a Supreme Court with just one new member could find  an excuse to claim a powerful new theory to erode gun rights.  Even since  District  of Columbia v. Heller, no federal firearms law has been struck down by  the Supreme Court on Second Amendment grounds.  The only federal gun law  struck down by the Supreme Court implicated the Tenth Amendment.  If  Missouri v. Holland is not overruled, a UN treaty could be used as a  basis to implement a national gun registry, or other restrictions on  guns.

 But  firearms are just one reason why my amicus brief asks the Supreme Court to  recognize the text and meaning of the Tenth Amendment, and to repudiate  Missouri v. Holland as unconstitutional.  There are other threats  as well, including UN efforts to override US law limiting access to nutritional  supplements, and to control our use of  energy.  If we don’t stop the federal government here in the Bond  case, the internationalists at home and abroad will keep trying to reduce  the individual freedom of Americans, so that we are more like the citizens of  other nations.  Well, we don’t want to be like the other nations.  Our  job is to defend America against enemies foreign and domestic — and, sadly,  there is no shortage of either.

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2 thoughts on “Treaties Don’t Trump the Constitution

  1. Reblogged this on BPI reblog and commented:
    Treaties Don’t Trump the Constitution

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