On March 26, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing, “Proposed Small Arms Transfers: Big Implications for U.S. Foreign Policy,” on proposed rule changes for weapons exports that would reduce transparency and Congressional oversight over the international arms trade, undermining safeguards intended to prevent military grade firearms from ending up in the wrong hands.

The hearing video appears here. Read the testimony of Jeff Abramson of the Arms Control Association and Dr. Susan Waltz of University of Michigan.

The gun export rule changes would transfer jurisdiction over the export of a range of different weapons, including semi-automatic rifles, from the Department of State to the Department of Commerce. Whereas the State Department is required and equipped to vet gun exports on the basis of human rights and foreign policy interests, the Commerce Department’s mandate is to increase trade – to sell more things.

In addition, the transfer of responsibility would bypass previous legal requirements mandating that Congress be notified of weapons sales worth more than a million dollars, further reducing transparency and minimizing Congressional oversight. Two bills have been introduced that would prevent the transfer of jurisdiction – the Prevent Crime and Terrorism Act and the Stopping the Traffic in Overseas Proliferation of Ghost Guns Act.

Additional background on the proposed rule changes can be found here.

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