With negotiations for a new U.N. treaty set to begin next week, advocates for stronger controls on the international weapons trade, a $60 billion business, say controls could help stop the flow of arms into Syria and other conflict-ridden countries.
Kerry released a statement Friday calling for a system to prevent conventional weapons from being used for "the world's worst crimes, including those involving terrorism and serious human rights violations," the Los Angeles Times reported.
He said the Obama administration is "steadfast in its commitment to achieve a strong and effective arms trade treaty."
The United States is the largest exporter of weapons. Backers of a strong treaty say the country must support stronger controls to get other major arms suppliers to follow suit.
About 25 percent of arms-exporting countries have no laws of their own controlling the trade.
Gun-rights advocates fear a treaty could make importing weapons into the United States more difficult.
Kerry said a treaty, to be effective, must recognize countries have the right to make their own rules.
"We will not support any treaty that would be inconsistent with U.S. law and the rights of American citizens under our Constitution, including the Second Amendment," Kerry said.