Trump Administration Eases Gun Export Regs, Outrage Ensues

There are strict laws on firearm exports, and that makes sense. After all, we don’t want people selling guns to folks who turn out to be members of ISIS, for example. While I’m sure no American gun company would do so willingly, it’s hard to do due diligence half a world away, even in this highly connected day and age.


However, sometimes the burdens get to be a little much.

Now, President Trump is easing those regulations, and folks are less than pleased.

American gun manufacturers and their allies have pressed the federal government for years to change the way it regulates small-arms exports in an effort to ease restrictions, boost gun sales abroad and lower costs at home. The Trump administration appears to be on the brink of delivering.

Officials from the State and Commerce Departments — the two entities tasked with regulating arms sales internationally — privately told Congress this week that they intend to finalize rules next week that would shuffle which agency oversees most consumer gun exports, relaxing export regulations and oversight, according to congressional aides familiar with the plans. Once Congress receives formal notification of the rule change, lawmakers will have 30 days to decide whether to intervene or let the new rules take effect.

Under the changes, many American gun and ammunition manufacturers that sell primarily to consumers would no longer be required to register with the State Department, which currently licenses international arms sales, or to pay the department an annual fee. Instead, those sales would be licensed by the Commerce Department, which has a simpler process and does not charge a fee.

The changes are almost certain to provoke resistance from some Democratic lawmakers, who fear that lighter regulation will lead to a proliferation of American guns, including AR-15s and similar semiautomatic rifles frequently used in mass shootings, around the world and exacerbate illegal arms trafficking. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has such strong concerns that he plans to place a hold on the new rule — a step that his staff believes could effectively bar it being carried out for a period of time to allow for negotiations over his objections.


In other words, Sen. Menendez is trying to make sure that should he be prosecuted for corruption yet again, he can pretend it has to do with his opposition to the president.

Now, that’s just a guess. Who knows, maybe the senator means it, but I doubt it.

The truth is that easing export restrictions will make it easier for struggling gun companies to make up for recent shortfalls by finding new markets overseas. There’s no real reason to oppose this except for two possibles. One is that they hate the president so much that they will resist anything he tries to do on general principle. The other is that they want to see gun companies fail, figuring that if we have no guns to buy, they won’t have to fight to pass gun control.

I don’t rule out the possibility that the answer is both of these.

We’ll have to see what happens.

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