WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement after the Trump Administration informed Congress it is moving ahead with a plan to transfer from the State to the Commerce Department, oversight of small arms and munitions exports. The new structure would undo the current policy of automatic Congressional review for sales over $1 million. A 45 day public comment period now commences before the policy is changed:
“For years, I advised both the Obama and Trump Administrations against this type of transfer. Weakened Congressional oversight of international small arms and munitions sales is extremely hazardous to global security. Small arms and light weapons are among the most lethal weapons that we and other countries export because these are the weapons that are most likely to be used to commit atrocities and suppress human rights, either by individuals, non-state groups, or governmental security and para-military forces.
“This decision is also politically tone-deaf as our nation reckons with a gun violence epidemic.
“As the public comment period begins, I encourage the American people and relevant stakeholders to weigh in with the Administration and speak out against the forces really driving this policy change – the gun lobby.”
In October 2016, Senator Cardin was able to raise awareness of and ultimately stop the sale of rifles to the Philippine national police, due to his concerns about the extrajudicial killings called for by that country’s president to combat drugs. Such oversight would have been unlikely under the new proposed rule change. Senator Cardin and Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) have previously written to both the Obama and Trump Administrations advising against the policy change.