In an announcement seemingly timed to minimize publicity, the US Commerce Department late Friday declared a 90-day freeze in the approval of exports for most American-made firearms, along with a review of the department's support of the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade -- or "SHOT" -- Show.
“The review will be conducted with urgency and will enable the Department to more effectively assess and mitigate risk of firearms being diverted to entities or activities that promote regional instability, violate human rights or fuel criminal activities,” the department said.
Before continuing, let's pause to marvel at the soaring hypocrisy of the US government -- which has armed murderous autocrats, Islamic extremists and Mexican drug cartels -- expressing concern about American weapons being used to "promote regional instability, violate human rights or fuel criminal activities."
This latest federal assault on gun rights will apply to requests to export semiautomatic and non-automatic firearms sold to non-government recipients, Bloomberg reports. Naturally, it won't apply to Ukraine or Israel, or some 40 other foreign governments that are partners to the United States in an export-control pact. However, it will apply to some of the most important markets for the domestic firearms industry, including Brazil, Thailand and Guatemala.
For those who think a strong gun industry is essential to safeguarding the right of armed self-defense, the pause isn't nearly as worrisome as what new policies may be installed after the review is complete.
Bloomberg, which is owned by a gun control enthusiast and which appeared to be first to be told of the development, is taking a victory lap over the announcement, linking it to a series of articles scrutinizing the federal government's oversight and encouragement of exports. A key milestone came in 2020, when the Trump administration moved responsibility for approving gun exports from the State Department to Commerce.
One of those recent articles focused on the SHOT Show, the enormous Las Vegas gun-trade show that attracts more than 50,000 gun company reps, dealers and individuals from all over the world. Specifically, Bloomberg questioned the propriety of the Commerce Department's participation in the SHOT Show, via an "International Trade Center" space to host foreign buyers and promote US exports, a practice that began in 2013.
"In the first year of the partnership, Commerce’s Foreign Commercial Service, which operates out of US embassies and consulates, steered 370 buyers to SHOT Show," reports Bloomberg. "By January 2023, that number had jumped to more than 3,200." Commerce employees have also organized group trips to the show from a variety of countries.
Bloomberg lamented that "American-style gun culture is starting to blossom across Latin America," and that American companies, with Commerce assistance, are pouring guns into violent and volatile Guatemala.
In September, Senator Elizabeth Warren and three other congressional Democrats sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo expressing alarm about Commerce serving as a "booster and concierge" to the firearms industry, with particular concern about the export of so-called "assault weapons." The letter included 10 detailed questions about the Commerce Department's handling of its oversight.
The export-approval freeze comes the same week that gun control czar Kamala Harris praised Australia for its approach to gun control, which includes mass confiscation and requiring citizens to prove to the government why they need to own a gun.