Senate

Senate Democrats call on Biden to restore oversight of semiautomatic and sniper rifle exports

The chairs of two Senate committees called on President Biden to restore congressional oversight of the sale of sniper rifles and semiautomatic assault-style weapons after Congress's oversight power on the issue was lost under the Trump administration.

In a statement Monday, Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) wrote that Biden should immediately transfer firearms sales back to the State Department's Munitions List from the Commerce Department, thereby restoring congressional oversight of all sales of such items.

"These lethal weapons are the most easily proliferated and hardest to control, and are used far more often in atrocities against innocents than any other weapon or weapon system. These are truly weapons of war, designed to kill large numbers of people very quickly," read their joint statement.

"As such, they have been used in mass shooting after mass shooting since the assault rifle ban expired in 2004. They have no place being sold to civilians in this country or any other; we cannot, therefore, leave in place the less-restrictive controls at the Commerce Department on exports of these lethal weapons," the senators continued.

Leahy and Mendendez chair the Appropriations and Foreign Relations committees, respectively, while Feinstein previously served as the chair of the Judiciary Committee.

The Trump administration changed the rules governing exports of so-called "small guns" in 2018, handing a win to U.S. firearm manufacturers while foreign policy experts warned that the change would lead to more U.S.-made guns winding up in the hands of criminal organizations.

The change at the time did not affect munition parts such as silencers, sound suppressors or parts for fully automatic weapons.

"The Biden administration should take immediate steps to rein in ... runaway U.S. gun exports," wrote John Lindsay-Polland, the coordinator of Stop U.S. Guns to Mexico, and William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy, in an op-ed urging the Biden administration to reverse those changes last month.

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