WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
today announced he will again block the Trump Administration from drastically weakening firearms export regulations, stopping an imminent change to strip oversight authority of U.S.
firearm sales abroad from the State Department's
Munitions List (USML).
This is the second time Senator Menendez will prevent the transfer to the Commerce Department's less-strict export system over concerns that the Trump Administration is seeking to eliminate meaningful congressional oversight of the proposed foreign sales of these lethal weapons.
"As you no doubt are aware, firearms and ammunition - especially those derived from military models and widely in-use by military and security services - are uniquely dangerous,"
wrote Senator Menendez
addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. "They are easily modified, diverted, and proliferated, and are the primary means of injury, death, and destruction in civil and military conflicts throughout the world. As such, they should be subject to more rigorous export controls and oversight, not less."
The current review process allows Congress notification and review of proposed sales of firearms, including the export of assault-style semi-automatic rifles and sniper-rifles. That process has halted major proposed arm sales by the White House, including a sale of automatic combat rifles to the Philippine police, who were caught executing civilians without trial, and semiautomatic pistols to the bodyguards of Turkey's President who violently attacked peaceful protestors in Washington, D.C. without consequence.
As the top Senate Democrat with oversight on U.S. firearms exports and weapons sales, Menendez first refused to clear on the proposed transfer at the beginning of this year, demanding the Trump administration be more forthcoming in responding to his questions around the proposed transfer. Since then, and in response, the Commerce Department has agreed to impose a far more restrictive policy on the publication of instructions for 3D-printed guns on the Internet.
Menendez, however, raised concerns over the new proposed change and indicated his hold will remain in place until the Department guarantees that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committees are "immediately informed of any proposed license to export firearms formerly controlled on the USML at the appropriate dollar threshold mandated in the Arms Export Control Act."
Menendez's efforts follow
new statutory requirements on the President and Secretary of Commerce demanding they fully control emerging technologies like 3D printing. 3D printing of nearly-undetectable guns by terrorist groups present a real and present danger to
American embassies, military bases, and passenger air carriers abroad.