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Cardin, Kaine, Murphy, Durbin to Introduce Legislation to Disrupt the Illicit Flow of U.S. Weapons Across the Hemisphere

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) announced they will introduce the Americas Regional Monitoring of Arms Sales (ARMAS) Act to help stem the flow of U.S.-manufactured weapons across the Americas, which threatens regional stability, U.S. security, the lives of Americans and others, and endangers U.S. foreign policy goals across the Hemisphere. Evidence has shown that firearms from the U.S. contribute substantially to gang violence, human rights violations, and political instability.

The ARMAS Act would transfer small arms authority from the Department of Commerce back to the State Department, require the development of a comprehensive interagency strategy and program to disrupt arms trafficking, and take other steps to improve congressional and administration oversight. As Congress observes Gun Violence Awareness month, similar legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Joaquin Castro (Texas-20).

“From Mexico to Haiti to Ecuador, criminal gangs are using American-made weapons to commit record levels of violence, fueling insecurity throughout the hemisphere and undermining U.S. national interests in the process,” said Chair Cardin. “If we truly care about keeping the American people safe at home and beyond our borders, then it is past time for Congress to prioritize fending off the rampant illegal export and trafficking of firearms. The ARMAS Act would play a pivotal role in advancing this goal by strengthening congressional oversight of how and what kinds of firearms are exported abroad, improving data collection of trafficked firearms, and establishing a whole-of-government effort to ensure U.S. guns don't end up in the hands of the very transnational criminal organizations seeking to do us harm.”

“The illegal trafficking of firearms in the Western Hemisphere is fueling instability, violence, and migration and directly impacts Americans right here at home. We must use all tools at our disposal to ensure U.S. small arms exports arrive at the right destination and do not fall into the hands of gangs and cartels,” said Kaine, Chair of the SFRC Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. “This legislation would create stronger oversight of U.S. small arms exports in order to disrupt arms trafficking and diversion of exported firearms.”

“There is a direct line from the hundreds of thousands of illegal guns trafficked from the U.S. to the violence and political instability in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act made firearms trafficking a federal crime for the first time, but there’s more the federal government can do to crack down on traffickers and ensure illegal guns don’t end up in the hands of gangs and cartels. The ARMAS Act would increase transparency of arms exports and help disrupt trafficking circles to help make communities safer both at home and abroad,” said Senator Murphy.

“Our nation’s weak gun laws have perpetuated the deadly cycle of firearms trafficking, allowing a steady stream of illicit guns into Latin America and the Caribbean. With the ARMAS Act, my colleagues and I are standing for stronger oversight of America’s gun exports by requiring interagency strategies and disrupting illegal arms trafficking,” said Senator Durbin.

Full text of the legislation to be introduced is available here.