A Bid to Increase Gun Exports, Stalled After Sandy Hook, Moves Ahead

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When cigarette, Coca Cola or whiskey sales fall in the United States, manufacturers look to recoup their losses by promoting sales of their lethal but legal products overseas, especially to the growing middle classes in middle income nations like China, Brazil, Mexico and India.  Now the Trump administration wants to streamline the process for exporting American firearms, reports the New York Times,  a change sought for years by domestic gun companies as a way to increase sales of both military weapons and small arms.

“A proposed rule published in the Federal Register would transfer jurisdiction of consumer gun exports from the State Department, where the licensing process is expensive and extensive, to the Commerce Department, which has a simpler application process.

Gun industry groups said that the shift, which was first conceived during the Obama administration but halted after the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, would pare down a bureaucratic process that currently discourages American firearms companies from sending their products abroad.

Lawrence Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation called the proposal “a significant positive development for the industry that will allow members to reduce costs and compete in the global marketplace more effectively, all while not in any way hindering national security.”

But critics of the proposal worry that American guns, including AR-15s and similar semiautomatic rifles frequently used in mass shootings, could more easily find their way into the hands of foreign criminals. Among the reasons: a change in the disclosure rules for certain sales. The State Department is required by the Arms Export Control Act to submit any commercial arms sale worth $1 million or more to congressional review. The Commerce Department has no equivalent mandate.”

Firearm sales in the United States have struggled since President Trump, a vocal supporter of the gun industry, was elected. Fears of gun control, which helped propel demand to record highs during the Obama administration, have waned during Mr. Trump’s tenure.

Representative Elizabeth Esty, whose Connecticut district includes Newtown, said on Wednesday that she would try to “stop this if I can.” “This is a national security and diplomacy question, but moving it to Commerce makes it an economic promotion of an industry,” she said. “It’s putting profits ahead of people.”