Democrats Investigating Trump Administration’s Reversal of Gun Silencer Export Ban

July 29, 2020 Updated: July 29, 2020

In response to the Trump administration’s repeal on banning the sale of gun suppressors, better known as silencers, to foreign countries, House Democrats have begun an investigation into the July 10 decision.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, requested documents related to the new policy, saying in a letter to the Director Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Russell Vought that the committee is “deeply concerned” that a White House official motivated by personal gain led the charge to undo the ban.

“The Subcommittee on National Security is deeply concerned by the Trump Administration’s July 10, 2020, decision to overturn a longstanding prohibition on the export of firearm sound suppressors to private entities located in foreign countries,” wrote Lynch in a letter (pdf) to the White House.

The American Suppressor Association (ASA), a trade group representing silencer manufacturers, on their webpage stated, “We exist for one reason and one reason only: to fight for pro-suppressor reform nationwide.”

The Democrats’ letter goes on to say that the change in policy may risk the safety of U.S. military personnel, but did not specify how.

ASA wrote in a July statement that their organization was “thrilled” with the Trump administration’s decision on the export of suppressors, specifically in the ability of American suppressor makers to profit.

“The State Department’s rescission of the misguided and ill-informed April 18, 2002, internal memorandum that unilaterally prohibited the commercial exportation of suppressors is the culmination of six years of work by the American Suppressor Association,” the ASA statement said.

“The ability to compete in existing foreign markets will generate millions of dollars in annual revenue for small businesses across the country, increasing US exports and creating hundreds of American jobs in the process,” the ASA statement added.

Meanwhile, for Democrats, ASA’s ability to profit from the policy change was of grave concern.

“We are further disturbed by recent reports that the decision was made at the urging of a White House official with personal and financial ties to the American Suppressor Association (ASA), whose sponsors stand to make potentially millions of dollars as a direct result of the new policy,” Lynch added

According to ASA, the previous ban on exporting silencers was based on the “common misconception” that silencers completely eliminate the noise of a gunshot. They say on average silencers reduce the noise of a gunshot by 20 – 35 decibels, about the same as earplugs or earmuffs would.

The Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) web notice stated that the old policy only exported the suppressors to official end-users such as governments or military users. With the new policy, applicants must still “identify a specific end-user,” but those end users can include foreign private companies.

“We applaud the Trump Administration for taking charge and allowing American businesses to compete in thriving markets abroad. This change in policy will create hundreds of jobs at a time when our country needs them most,” the ASA said.