Biden Adminstration Plays Politics With Gun Export Rules

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Last fall the Biden administration announced a 90-day "pause" on approving most new export licenses for firearms manufacturers while the Commerce Department reviewed its current policies and practices. Now the administration is expected to release 150 pages of new regulations later today dealing with firearm exports and cracking down on shipments to three dozen countries across the globe. 


As the NSSF pointed out earlier this month, the 90-day "pause" has now stretched out for more than 150 days, and so far the Commerce Department has yet to identify any "examples of misconduct by any legitimate firearm businesses."

The instances BIS highlights are all cases of individuals attempting to illegally smuggle firearms. Contrast that with reports that U.S. arms left by President Joe Biden’s rushed Afghanistan withdrawal left the “motherlode” of small arms to be seized by Taliban terrorists. Those were reportedly being seen in Gaza when terrorists attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

The report defies what BIS officials have publicly stated and testified that there was a need to stop firearm exports to conduct a security policy review. BIS posted the notice Oct. 27, late on a Friday afternoon in what is commonly referred to as a “Friday news dump,” that new U.S. export licenses would be temporarily halted to much of the world to “assess current firearm export control review policies to determine whether any changes are warranted to advance U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.” The notice added that BIS needed to “more effectively assess and mitigate risk of firearms being diverted to entities or activities that promote regional instability, violate human rights, or fuel criminal activities.”

Here we are on another Friday, and once again we're set to get a late afternoon "news dump"; this time imposing more bureaucracy and red tape on firearm exporters with an eye toward shutting them off from many foreign markets. 


“The rule will simply shutter small businesses all across America by cutting them off from the export market, resulting in the loss of good paying jobs,” Larry Keane, senior vice president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said in an email Thursday night. The new regulations will “do nothing to improve national security,” he added.

The measure falls short of President Biden’s campaign promise to return oversight of gun exports to the State Department, which regulated foreign gun sales until March 2020. It will now lead an inter-agency review process that will examine any export applications involving potential human rights concerns. 

Those reviews will include any application to export U.S. guns to countries that the State Department has identified as a risk for human-rights abuses and arms trafficking. The new rules require Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s department to evaluate commercial export license applications to those countries with a presumption of denial rather than the current presumption of approval.

The list of countries deemed high risk includes many where the influx of U.S.-made weapons have been linked to widespread violence, including Vietnam, Jamaica, Indonesia and Pakistan as well as countries in the Organization of American States, which includes much of Central and South America.

But the high-risk list omits several places where U.S. guns have been tied to violent gangs or human rights violations, such as Mexico, Thailand, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia.

All you need to know about the politicization of these export rules is to look at who's exempt from the new controls. Mexico's government is currently suing most major U.S. gun makers, accusing them of actively aiding and abetting cartel violence south of the border. You'd think that would be the first country to be labeled "high risk", but it's not even on the Commerce Department's list. 


Why is that? Probably because Mexico's government spent almost $40 million in 2022 importing arms from the United States, and Biden doesn't want to do anything to upset Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador. We've already learned that the Biden administration halted an investigation into alleged ties between Obrador's administration and the Sinaloa cartel, and this is just another piece of evidence that Biden is bending over backward to appease his Mexican counterpart, who just this week described cartel members as "respectful people" who "respect the citizenry". It's no secret that corrupt government officials are diverting legally imported firearms to cartels, but so long as Obrador wants to keep shipping them into the country Biden doesn't dare cut off his access to U.S. arms. 

A 2018 report by the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights affirms that legally imported firearms have been used by police and military units in gross human rights abuses. The local police who attacked the 43 Ayotzinapa students who disappeared in September 2014 were armed with legally imported Colt AR-6530 rifles. In 2011, a man was arrested in Tamaulipas for allegedly belonging to a criminal organization; while he was in custody, a navy lieutenant killed him with a 5.56 mm Colt M16 rifle.

Legally acquired firearms from military and law enforcement stocks are also diverted with the cooperation of corrupt authorities. Between 2006 and 2017, more than 20,000 firearms were reported as lost or stolen, according to the Mexican defense ministry. Last year, a leak of more than 4 million confidential documents from the ministry by the hacker activist group Guacamaya revealed that high-level military members had sold guns, grenades, and tactical equipment to criminal organizations.


Keane is right. These new regulations aren't going to make the U.S. (or any other country) safer. Ultimately, this is another attempt by the Biden administration to do harm to the firearms industry by choking off its access to dozens of foreign markets. If Biden were serious about stopping human rights abuses overseas he'd be demanding more accountability from leaders like Obrador. Instead, he's once again blaming U.S. gun makers for the actions of criminals. 

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