The Trump administration’s proposals to ease restrictions on firearms exports will create “new and unacceptable risks of exacerbating gun violence, human rights abuses, and armed conflict,” a coalition of 100 organizations warned in an open letter to Congress Tuesday.
Under a proposed rule change sent to Congress last month, firearms manufacturers would no longer need to register for a license from the State Department to export semi-automatic weapons and other small arms. Instead, they would only have to apply to the Department of Commerce, where the process is simpler and less costly.
The proposed new rules would also make it easier to sell technical information and blueprints for 3D-printed guns, which are also currently under State Department license, making such weapons “readily available to terrorist groups and other criminal elements, and endanger American embassies, military bases, and passenger aircraft at home and abroad,” the letter said.
“Although proponents of the proposed changes argue that small arms are less dangerous because many can be bought in U.S. retail outlets, the fact is that armies are built from these firearms,” the organizations declared, noting that the proliferation of small arms has fanned conflicts in regions like Central America, as well as Congo, Burma and Mexico.
The letter was signed by a wide network of religious groups, national and state gun violence prevention organizations in 14 states, as well as human rights groups.
The groups said Congressional oversight over sales of all types of weapons and ammunition was in the interests of all Americans.
“Congressional notification has been an imnportant backstop, helping forestall firearms transfers to repressive forces, such as those in Turkey and the Philippines,” the letter said, noting that Congress is informed of all weapons sales valued at $1 million or more authorized by the State Department are
“No such notification requirements will exist if these weapons are transferred to Commerce control.”
The proposed changes will go into effect this month unless Congress blocks them.