Susan Waltz published an essay in the Washington Post on Monday, June 4, in which she explains the implications of a rule change proposed by the Trump administration. The change would loosen the export requirements on semiautomatic weapons, such as the AR-15 rifle. Waltz’s article, titled “The Trump administration wants to make it easier to sell U.S. guns abroad. Here’s what you need to know,” was published in the Post’s Monkey Cage section, which highlights contributions by political scientists to public debates.
Waltz shares several insights into the proposed rule change. Later this year, when the changes are likely to go into effect, semiautomatic weapons would no longer be classified as military grade weapons, making it easier for American manufacturers to export them. In her essay, Waltz notes that changes will also allow the creators of plans for 3-D-printed guns to distribute these plans freely–which they are currently prohibited from doing under arms export laws.
It will also become harder to control the flow of arms abroad, writes Waltz. Brokers of semiautomatic weapons who previously had to go through the State Department’s tough, costly licensing process will now be able to use the Commerce Department’s less stringent process. “Both firearms manufacturers and the attorneys who represent them welcome the changes — not least because manufacturers will shift the cost of licensing to taxpayers,” writes Waltz.
Susan Waltz is a Professor of Public Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Her essay draws on years of experience in promoting the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty. She also chaired a working group on small arms transfers for Amnesty International, where she served as chair of the international governing board.