The U.S. gun manufacturing industry just got a boost in economic opportunity and potential jobs growth. It comes via President Donald Trump removing a federal barrier to the export of commercial firearms and ammunition contracts exceeding $1 million. Instead of gun manufacturing contracts undergoing scrutiny by members of Congress via State Department review, the U.S. Commerce Department now handles contractual okaying of large contracts.
The rule change streamlines the completion of perfectly legitimate arms sales contracts with foreign entities. Those contracts mostly are with military and law enforcement entities in allied nations.
The prior rule charged a fee of about $2,300 and required Congressional review of any potential contracts. Even if contracts were in place and approved, any subtle change would trigger another Congressional review. A change might be as simple as another entity, like an additional law enforcement agency, being added to the list of arms recipients. The additional months or longer of Congressional review and the fees hamstrung domestic arms exports.
Among large deals recently nixed was a sale of small arms to law enforcement in the Philippines that had been arranged in 2016. Valued at about $1.26 million, the planned shipment of 26,000 “assault rifles” to the Philippines national police died after Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) opposed it. Cardin at the time was the ranking Democrat member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He cited concerns the Philippines police would use the firearms to violate human rights while cracking down on illegal drug trafficking within its own borders.
A single Democrat from Maryland, who was a minority member of a Senate committee, killed a valuable arms sale that would have benefited an American company and the many people it employs. The canceled sale of AR-15 rifles did not stop the Philippines police from obtaining small arms. They simply bought them elsewhere.
Another recently nixed contract involved the sale of pistols valued at about $1 million to law enforcement in Turkey. Some members of Congress worried the pistols might be used in oppressive acts against minority groups within Turkey. Such concerns are great for stirring emotional support but often wind up being nothing more than ghosts.
U.S. arms manufacturers do not want to arm oppressive regimes. They also do not want to arm criminals. The federal government, however, does and has done both. Most recently, President Barack Obama’s administration okayed the sale of the very same arms to people they knew likely were fronting purchases for Mexican drug cartels. They knew the arms would flow south of the porous U.S. border and result in countless deaths in Mexico. They let it happen in an incredibly ill-advised federal ATF “Fast ‘n Furious” operation that wholly backfired.
Somehow, though, U.S. arms manufacturers were not trusted to avoid doing the same. The stifling of U.S. civilian arms exports only inflated domestic supplies of the same arms. That made them more affordable and more available in the U.S. The supply of civilian AR-15s flooding the market triggered an end to new production at Colt. That means a loss of good-paying jobs because AR-15s are more plentiful. With more exports enabled, that likely will change for the better.