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Hunting: A tradition of freedom

Late fall is a great time to be a hunter in Kansas. From wild turkey and deer, to duck and pheasant, the union of several hunting seasons offers Kansans the opportunity to pursue a variety of birds and game. Thanks to our Founding Fathers' inclusion of Second Amendment freedoms in the Bill of Rights, hunting has been an American tradition for more than 200 years -- and a source of food and enjoyment for sportsmen across the country.

But the benefits of our hunting seasons extend beyond gun owners. Hunting plays an important role in the Kansas economy as our state has become a favorite travel destination for out-of-state hunters. According to the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife-associated Recreation, more than 280,000 hunters enjoy Kansas' rich and diverse group of habitat and game species each year -- and more than one-third of these hunters live outside Kansas. These tourists help create an economically significant industry for many of our communities. In fact, hunting has an annual economic impact in our state of nearly $489 million, and supports more than 5,850 Kansas jobs.

As hunters are spending quality time in the field this fall, I am growing increasingly concerned that the fundamental right of Kansans to keep and bear arms is at risk. This summer, a treaty was proposed at the United Nations conference in New York that I found particularly troubling. The proposed Arms Trade Treaty included several provisions that would undermine the Constitutional freedoms of American gun owners.

Despite this treaty's potential to suppress Second Amendment rights, the Obama administration willfully participated in these negotiations, marking a reversal of the policies of both President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush.

If implemented, the ATT would threaten the rights of Kansas hunters and all American gun owners. The United Nations has entertained calls for bans on the civilian ownership of guns Americans use to hunt, target shoot and defend themselves. And by requiring firearms to be accounted for throughout their life span, a U.N. Arms Trade Treaty could lead to mandatory nationwide gun registration. Other proposals could result in the marking and tracking of all ammunition.

In response to this summer's misguided treaty negotiations, I led 50 of my colleagues in sending a powerful bipartisan message to the Obama administration that an ATT that does not protect ownership of civilian firearms will fail in the U.S. Senate. On July 26, we notified President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of our intent to oppose ratification of a treaty that in any way restricts Americans' Second Amendment rights. Our opposition is strong enough to block the treaty from adoption, as treaties submitted to the U.S. Senate require two-thirds approval to be ratified.

Civilian firearms and ammunition should not be included in the scope of the ATT, and regulation of American firearms and ammunition by the United Nations is simply unacceptable. Many U.N. member states, who do not share our freedoms, desire an extremely broad treaty that would be incredibly difficult to enforce and especially threatening to American companies that manufacture firearms and the law-abiding citizens who purchase them.

When the U.N. Conference dissolved this summer without a treaty, it was clearly a positive conclusion for American citizens -- and I'm glad we were able to steer the administration toward this outcome. Unfortunately, the threat is not over.

Within hours of securing his re-election, President Obama declared his support for continued negotiations of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty. A new round of negotiations is scheduled to take place in March.

While the administration previously has indicated its intent to protect Second Amendment freedoms, the president's insistence on continued ATT talks is concerning.

We must avoid a situation where the administration, due to its continued willingness to negotiate, feels pressured to sign a treaty that violates our Constitutional rights. It is now clear that Congress must reiterate its concerns with the latest draft of the treaty, and I will lead this effort once again.

As I celebrated Thanksgiving in Kansas last week, I thought back to the first Thanksgiving and imagined what the famous feast would have looked like if the Pilgrims had been prevented from hunting for wild turkey and deer. Today, such a situation isn't so farfetched.

I am committed to defending our constitutional freedoms. I will make certain the president understands our firearm freedoms are not negotiable.

Sen. Jerry Moran represents Kansas in the U.S. Senate.