Trump Proposal Would Weaken Controls on the Export of Dangerous Firearms

For Immediate Release: Jan. 17, 2020

Media Contact: Jeff Abramson, senior fellow, (202) 463-8270 ext. 112

(WASHINGTON, DC)—Today, the Trump administration released controversial changes that will be published in the Federal Register Jan. 23 to federal rules on how certain firearms and military-style weapons are sold abroad. Under the new rules, nonautomatic and semi-automatic firearms, their ammunition, and certain other weapons currently controlled under the State Department-led U.S. Munitions List (USML) would move to the Commerce Department's Commerce Control List (CCL).

One effect of the rules change would be that Congress would lose its ability to provide oversight on the sales of these weapons to other countries.

In December, after the compromise National Defense Authorization Act removed a provision in the House's version that would have prohibited the changes, Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) put a hold on the implementation of the administration’s revised firearms export rules.


"The administration's decision to no longer consider semi-automatic assault weapons, select sniper rifles, and their ammunition as weapons of war, but instead as commercial items, is dangerous and misguided. It is in the U.S. national security interest to maintain tighter control over military-style weapons that are too often misused to commit human rights abuses and perpetuate violent conflicts.

The administration’s firearms export rule changes would compound the damage caused by Trump’s rejection last year of the United States’ signature on the 2014 global Arms Trade Treaty, which requires that other states meet arms export control standards that the United States has had in place for many years.

Sadly, President Trump continues to put the profits of gun makers ahead of long-term global security and more responsible U.S. arms transfer policy."

— Jeff Abramson, Senior Fellow, Arms Control Association