American-made guns are linked to violent crimes all over the world, and as federal regulation of small arms exports went from bad to worse in recent years, the problem has accelerated. Now, more than a dozen members of the U.S. House are backing legislation to change that.
The Americas Regional Monitoring of Arms Sales Act — led by Representatives Joaquin Castro of Texas, Norma Torres of California, Dan Goldman of New York, and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick of Florida — would most notably restore oversight of small arms exports to the State Department. In 2020, the Trump administration shifted that responsibility to the Commerce Department, an arrangement that dramatically reduced restrictions on who can sell weapons internationally and gutted oversight of where guns end up. It was also a major victory for the gun industry, The Trace’s Champe Barton reported at the time, which had lobbied for the change for over a decade. In an investigation published earlier this year, Bloomberg detailed the Commerce Department’s long-standing relationship with the gun industry, and broke down how international firearm sales skyrocketed once the new rules took effect.
The ARMAS Act focuses on improving oversight of gun exports to Latin America and the Caribbean, where loosened regulatory control may have helped fuel arms trafficking patterns. It comes amid a 90-day pause, ordered by the Commerce Department in late October, on exports of most American-made firearms.
“Nearly four years ago, the Trump administration worked with the National Rifle Association to loosen gun export regulations and unleash a flood of American-made guns on the Western Hemisphere,” Castro said in a statement. “As we work with our allies and partners to address shared regional challenges, including forced migration and drug trafficking, Congress needs to address the role of U.S. gun exports in driving violence and instability abroad.”
What to Know Today
FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers that reported hate crimes have spiked since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, saying the agency has “been opening I think 60 percent more hate crimes investigations post-October 7, than compared to the comparable period pre-October 7.” As The Trace reported earlier this week, the surge follows a similar pattern to previous times in history, when international conflicts have fed hate crime in the U.S. [The Hill]
At least three people were killed in a shooting on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, campus on Wednesday afternoon. At a news conference, police announced that the suspected perpetrator is dead. [CNN]
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has mostly made the news for leveling criminal charges against Donald Trump for trying to overturn the 2020 election. But the Georgia prosecutor is also trying to hold federal officials accountable in two other cases, each against members of Justice Department law enforcement task forces who shot and killed someone while on duty. She has better odds of convicting the former president. [NBC]
A group of activist nuns are pursuing an unusual legal tactic to pressure Smith & Wesson to alter the way it markets its popular AR-15-style rifle, which has been used in several mass shootings in recent years. The nuns, who own a stake in the company, filed a shareholder lawsuit alleging that the gunmaker’s leaders are putting shareholders at risk by exposing the company to liability. [The Wall Street Journal]
Six people were killed and three were injured Tuesday in what police believe was a daylong shooting spree in San Antonio and Austin; one of the shootings took place near a high school. A suspect is in law enforcement custody. [KUT]
Two Democrats in Congress — Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Georgia Representative Hank Johnson — reintroduced the Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act, a 281-page bill that proposes comprehensively reforming the country’s federal firearm regulations. The effort was timed around the 30th anniversary of the Brady Bill, which established a national background check system and fundamentally changed how guns are bought and sold in the U.S. [The 19th]
An in-depth survey of 354 Wisconsin firearm owners indicates that the state’s gun culture, long dominated by hunting, is changing as more people purchase guns for self-protection, echoing national trends. Among the other takeaways from the poll: A majority of respondents said they keep guns secured in a safe or with a locking device; just seven reported that they had fired a gun in self-defense; and about one in five said they knew a gun owner who had suicidal thoughts. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
Inside a State Legislator’s Fight Against the Gun Industry’s Legal Immunity: Several states have passed laws requiring gun companies to impose “reasonable controls” on their marketing and distribution practices. All of them took inspiration from the same New York bill. (August 2023)