September 28, 2022
The Honorable Gina Raimondo
Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20230
Dear Secretary Raimondo:
We are writing with grave concern about Commerce Department actions that have weakened
oversight of assault weapon and high-capacity magazine exports, padding the gun industry’s
profits while putting deadly weapons in the hands of corrupt actors around the world. As
Democrats in Congress work to crack down on the deadly use of these weapons on our streets,1
your agency approved nearly $16 billion in firearms export licenses in the first 16 months after it
took over authority over small arms exports from the State Department – a roughly 30 percent
increase from the State Department’s rate of approval – while denying only 0.4 percent of
This increase started during the Trump Administration and continued under your
watch. We seek further information about your approvals of assault weapons exports, and urge
you to revise your approach to align with President Biden’s gun safety agenda in prioritizing
national security and human lives over gun industry profits.
Assault weapons are semi-automatic firearms designed for offensive combat operations, not selfdefense, and are intended for “quick, efficient killing.”3
Mass shooters have used these weapons
to inflict staggering death and destruction in horrific episodes of domestic terrorism in Uvalde,
Orlando, at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and too many more.4
In 1994, Congress recognized
the danger of these weapons and instituted a federal ban prohibiting the “manufacture, transfer,
or possession” of assault weapons.5
The ban was effective, and the gun lobby’s successful
campaign against its renewal has been deadly: in the decade after the ban expired, the number of
assault weapon fatalities shot up by 239 percent and massacres increased by 183 percent.6
1 Assault Weapons Ban of 2021, S. 736,
2 U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, “The Eighth USML to CCL Regulatory Change
Firearms,” July 2021,
2021-june-statistics-of-8th-of-usml-to-ccl-regulatory-changes/file; U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of
Industry and Security, “BIS Licensing of 600-series, 9×515 and Firearms Items,” June 2021,
Brady, “What Are Assault Weapons And High-Capacity Magazines?,”
4 Everytown for Gun Safety, “Mass Shootings in America,”
Axios, “Everything you need to know about a federal assault weapons ban,” Herb Scribner, June 3, 2022,
Brady, “What Are Assault Weapons And High-Capacity Magazines?,”