Government considering "assault weapons" legislation wants to lead in arms dealing

The U.S. may or may not be considering new gun control legislation, but it also wants to become one of the leaders in arm dealing. Sources told The Washington Times President Donald Trump’s plan is all about “Buy American,” instead of Chinese, Russian, or Israeli.

The new policy features a streamlined process for approving arms deals while working with American defense firms to develop cheaper, more exportable versions of American arms. That move could open the door for sales to countries that Washington has traditionally shied away from, industry sources said.

American defense industry giants such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing already manufacture scaled-down versions of their premier weapons platforms for international consumption. But federal guidelines on the sales of certain technologies — such as unmanned aircraft or long-range missile systems — include restrictions to ensure that the foreign purchasers do not use those weapons on their own people.

The Reuters news agency reported last month that one policy change would affect the sales of small-arms weaponry and ammunition, transferring oversight from the State Department to the Commerce Department, an agency far more committed in its basic mission to maximizing U.S. export opportunities. Another change would be to enlist American diplomats and the Pentagon’s defense attaches to act much more as “unfettered salesmen” for American weaponry and defense systems abroad.

Oh Odin in Valhalla with all his warriors and Valkyries. This screams of hypocrisy for certain members of Congress, especially considering some of the most ardent gun control zealots are the ones voting in favor of arms sales.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein is Exhibit A of this double-talk. The California Democrat has released eight statements over the last two months calling for gun control and blasting Republicans for not doing anything about it. Her comments include saying, “When will this end?” or “meaningful action” is needed to prevent “hundreds more Americans were murdered with these weapons of war.” It’s pretty strong language, meant to tug at the hearts of Americans, and try to get them on her side of banning AR-15-style rifles or items like bump stocks.

Yet, Feinstein appears to be mostly okay with the government selling arms to other countries. Feinstein voted in favor of tabling a 2016 bill which would have blocked the sale of $1.15B in arms to Saudi Arabia (she did later vote in favor of a bill which condemned said sale, but didn’t say why). She also sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying the Administration needed to be careful before removing firearms from the U.S. Munitions List, because Congress needed to have oversight over those types of weapon sales. But Feinstein also helped scuttle a plan by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to stop the sale of F-16s to Pakistan in 2016. Paul later noted the Senate hardly ever tries to stop arms sales, and it had been 30 years since a vote on the issue had even happened.

This is obviously quite irksome for people like Reason Senior Editor Brian Doherty, who aren’t interested in the government being involved in the weapons industry.

“The reason is that, for whatever reason, the people on the strong gun control side of the aisle just have this magical view of government,” Doherty told me, while also noting the irony of gun controllers complaining about police brutality, but also wanting officers to have all the weapons. “They shouldn’t have that magical view of government. That is by no means the case that, well if it is the state owning the weapons or an agent of the state owning the weapons or the state selling the weapons that somehow that’s okay. Like, both historically and even right now, agents of the state with weapons cause far more chaos, murder, and death than private owners of weapons tend to do.”

Politicians like Feinstein or Claire McCaskill or Mark Warner are hypocrites because of this stance of letting the state have control of all the weapons, and deciding who gets to own and use them. This is despite their promise of “oversight” when it comes to arms sales to other countries.

There are people in Washington who are consistent in their belief the government shouldn’t really have a say in arms deals or gun control measures like Paul. Utah Senator Mike Lee, and Congressmen Justin Amash and Thomas Massie have either voted against arms deals or signed letters asking the White House to delay certain arms sales. Doherty believes they deserve praise for their consistency.

“I also imagine that they recognize [the Saudi] government is particularly evil and repressive,” Doherty declared, while also pointing out America probably should not do weapons sales. “We know that they do harm to their own citizens, we have strong reason to believe they are behind, finance, help planned, harmed other people-citizens elsewhere. It’s not an entity we want to be arming.”

Doherty’s right in saying he doesn’t believe the U.S. government should do arms sales. There’s nothing stopping individual companies from doing business with other governments or individuals in other countries. It may not be wise to sell arms to governments like Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or Turkmenistan, but Americans would have an easier time keeping arms makers in check by hitting their bottom line or doing divestment campaigns versus trying to keep unelected bureaucrats (and a lot of politicians) in check.