November 13, 2019 — Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, responded to the Trump Administration’s renewed efforts to loosen restrictions on the export of firearms. Ignoring continued opposition, the White House is finalizing a proposal to deregulate firearm exports by moving oversight on the sale of firearms and ammunition to foreign actors and entities from the US State Department’s US Munitions List (USML) to the US Department of Commerce’s Control List (CCL), where the rules regarding these transactions are weaker. Just yesterday, a federal court found the administration’s first attempt to deregulate oversight unlawful, but rather than reverse course the Trump Administration has evidently doubled down on this dangerous proposal.
Statement from Robin Lloyd, managing director at Giffords:
“The Trump Administration’s reckless proposal poses a grave threat to public safety everywhere. Firearms are a dangerous export that can spark further instability in places where people are already suffering. It’s why there is an established process of congressional oversight and State Department expertise over small arms deals. Making this change will make it easier for gun manufacturers to complete their sales while making it more likely a dictator will use American firearms to oppress their own people. This White House clearly is more concerned with appeasing the gun lobby than making it harder for exported firearms to contribute to international violence and crime.”
Background on the Trump Administration Proposal
Presidents have traditionally exercised their authority to control the export of “defense articles,” including most firearms and ammunition, through the State Department. Past administrations have done so by including all handguns, rifles and short-barreled shotguns, and certain kinds of ammunition on the US Munitions List (USML). The proposed regulation would move many of these weapons from the USML to the Commerce Department’s Commerce Control List (CCL). Besides physical guns themselves, the technical data regarding firearms—including the code for 3D printing guns—is currently on the USML. Posting this code online constitutes an export of that technical data.
By moving these items onto the CCL, the proposed regulation would reduce State Department and congressional oversight regarding gun exports, and would eliminate protections that prevent exported firearms from falling into the hands of human rights abusers and international criminal organizations. Giffords is disappointed by this move to subject dangerous firearms, including military-style assault weapons, to this weaker set of export regulations.