State Department Proposed Firearms Sales Surpass $600 Million

Latin America and the Caribbean
Middle East and North Africa

The State Department requested Congress to approve over $662 million worth of commercial firearms sales to 36 countries in calendar years 2015 and 2016 combined, according to recently released data on 81 congressional firearms sales notifications. Several of the countries included in these proposed firearms sales, such as Bahrain, Philippines, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia, have come under scrutiny for their potential or alleged misuse of U.S. weapons. Given the Trump Administration’s lower emphasis on human rights in arms sales, there is concern about more questionable arms sales in the future.

U.S. commercial firearms sales notifications to Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for over $351 million of the $662 million, making this region the largest potential recipient of any region. The largest recipient of firearms within this region by dollar amount was Mexico with at least $286 million of the $351 million intended for the Mexican military and police. One proposed sale in March 2015 included $266 million worth of Sig Sauer rifles and pistols, roughly 300,000-400,00 firearms for the Mexican Navy, Ministries of Defense and Interior, Federal and State Police.

Several U.S.-based non-governmental organizations have raised concerns about U.S. firearms exports to Mexico. A November 2016 American Friends Services Committee report indicated that U.S. Colt AR-15 rifles exported to the Mexican government were used by the Mexican police in an attack and disappearance of 43 student teachers. The State Department has also said the Mexican military and police have been involved in serious abuses, including unlawful killings, torture, forced disappearances, kidnapping, extortion, and cooperation with criminal organizations.

Within the Latin American and the Caribbean region, the State Department also proposed to export firearms to Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Panama, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago. The proposed sale to Brazil was the second largest in dollar value with more than $41 million worth of various semi and fully automatic firearms up to .50 calibers going to the South American country. The State Department also proposed to sell M4 carbines to the Honduran Army. A full list of all 81 State Department firearms sales notifications to Congress in 2015 and 2016 are included in Appendix A.

Congress requires the State Department to notify it of any proposed commercial firearm sale valued at $1 million or more due to concerns about the role firearms often play in unlawful killings by foreign security forces. A notification to Congress does not necessarily mean that the sale occurred; although, it is very likely that the proposed arms sale is eventually authorized by the U.S. government. Fourteen of the 81 firearms sales notifications did not have a specific dollar amount, which means the total value of the notifications is much higher.

U.S. commercial firearms sales notifications to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region accounted for at least $241 million, making it the second largest regional recipient. The country that received the most firearms within this region by dollar value was the United Arab Emirates. In 2016, the State Department notified Congress of a $22 million proposed sale of upper firearms receivers, the main firing component of a firearm, for end-use by law enforcement, security, and government organizations. The State Department also proposed to export firearms to Bahrain, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Tunisia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.

Although one major U.S. arms sale was halted this past December to Saudi Arabia because of concerns about their use of U.S. weapons in Yemen, it appears the State Department did not halt firearms sales. The State Department proposed firearms sales to Saudi Arabia amounted to at least $48 million in 2015 and 2016. The sales included M240, M2 .50 caliber, and the M2HB machine guns as well as a $5 million sale for Sig Sauer P226 Pistols TACOPS to the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defense. Bahrain was also set to receive a $9 million sale for 5.56x45 NATO caliber rifles and M4 Commando rifles.

Tunisia received over $16 million in firearms to the Ministries of Defense and Interior, including M60E4/Mk43 MOD1, M60D, M60E4, M2A2, and M2HB machine guns, 5.56x45 NATO caliber rifles, M203 40mm grenade launchers, and 9mm pistols. Turkey received close to $20 million in 2016 for fully automatic rifles, grenade launchers, 9mm and .45ACP pistols, and M134 7.62x51 machine guns. The latter of which is a vehicle-mounted, six barreled weapons system that fires up to 6,000 rounds per minute.

The State Department also notified Congress of firearms sales to several European countries. One June 2015 proposed sale to Ukraine of M107A1 .50 caliber semi-automatic sniper rifles appears to be inconsistent with the Obama Administration’s policy of withholding “lethal arms” to Ukraine. This sale was listed in a House Foreign Affairs Committee report, but it did not appear in the Federal Register as with other firearms notifications. The manufacturer of the M107A1, Barrett Firearms, allegedly had an agreement with a Ukrainian company for this rifle dating back to 2014.

U.S. firearms notifications to East Asia and the Pacific amounted to at least $44 million. Most notable of proposed U.S. firearms sales to the region was the halted sale this past November of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippine National Police amidst concerns of human rights violations and extrajudicial killings resulting from President Duterte’s anti-drug policies. The sale was apparently stopped while still in the pre-notification process, which may be why it was never recorded as a notification. In addition to halted sale, the State Department had proposed sending to Philippines $1.9 million worth of barrel blanks for the manufacture of small arms.

Although it is unclear if any of these proposed firearms sales were actually approved or specific restrictions were added to prevent the firearms from reaching abusive forces, several of the notifications raised the importance of congressional and public oversight of proposed firearms sales. With the Trump Administration’s apparent willingness to remove human rights restrictions on proposed arms sales to Saudi Arabia, this importance is heightened. Key to increasing this oversight is having the State Department make the notifications public as soon as they are submitted to Congress as opposed to several months after they have notified Congress. The timely publication of notifications is already done by the Defense Department for major government-to-government arms sales. Without timely publications, however, it will be difficult to ensure U.S. arms sales match U.S. foreign policy interests. 

Christina Arabia is a Program and Research Associate at Security Assistance Monitor.

Appendix A: State Department Notifications to Congress for Category 1 Firearms Exports 2015-2016

 

Date

Country

Amount

Item

1

January 26, 2015

Poland

$1,000,000*

semi-automatic pistols, semi-automatic rifles, magazines, and accessories

2

January 26, 2015

Trinidad and Tobago

$1,000,000*

Sig Sauer Model P229 Pistols for the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service

3

January 26, 2015

Honduras

$1,000,000*

R0977 M4 Carbine semi-automatic rifles, caliber 5.56mm and 30 round magazines for the Army of Honduras

4

March 11, 2015

Indonesia

$1,000,000*

Sig Sauer rifles model Sig 516 full-auto rifles and accessories, model 516G2 full-auto rifles and accessories, and SD rifle silencers to the Indonesian Defence Force

5

March 18, 2015

Belgium

$1,000,000*

various rifles, pistols, and revolvers with spare parts and accessories to Smith and Wesson

6

March 25, 2015

Mexico

$266,450,001

export and assembly of firearm kits of Sig Sauer rifles and pistols which will be for use by the Mexican Navy, Ministries of National Defence, and Interior and Federal and State Police Forces of Mexico

7

March 30, 2015

Chile

$1,711,484

M4 Carbines and Holographic Weapon Sights and components for the Chilean Police

8

April 15, 2015

Mexico

$3,060,300

Law Enforcement Carbines, caliber 5.56x45 NATO, semi-automatic for use by various Mexican State Governments under the Secretariat of National Defense for Mexico

9

May 1, 2015

Australia

$3,700,200

LaRue semi-automatic rifles, various calibers, and components to Heron Security and Sport PTY Ltd. in Australia for commercial resale

10

May 1, 2015

Brazil

$41,000,000

sub-.50 caliber to .50 caliber inclusive non-automatic, semi-automatic, and fully automatic firearms and components for the Brazilian Ministry of Defense and the Brazilian Federal Police

11

May 11, 2015

Australia

$1,000,000*

4x32 ACOG Riflescopes

12

May 12, 2015

Tunisia

$5,376,209

M60E4/Mk43 MOD1, M60D, and M2HB machine guns, accessories, and operator basic training Ministry of Defense in Tunisia.

13

May 12, 2016

Oman

$8,975,001

M4 Commandos, Model R0933, 5.56mm and Armorer's and Operator's Training of the M4s for the Royal Oman Police

14

May 28, 2015

Saudi Arabia

$5,972,352

Sig Sauer P226 Pistol TACOPS with Sound Suppressors and DBAL-PL Laser/illuminators for the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defense

15

June 4, 2015

Singapore

$2,212,426

Bolt and Bolt Carrier Assemblies for Colt M4/M16 and One-Piece Upper Receiver, and 14.5” Heavy Barrel Assemblies for the M4/M16 with spare parts and training  Singapore Police Logistics Department.

16

June 16, 2015

Australia

$1,940,000

various semi-automatic rifles, bolt action rifles, rifle barrels, and accessories to Delta Tactical to be used in target shooting, competition shooting, and custom rifle builds in Australia

17

June 16, 2016

Ukraine

$1,698,600

M107A1 .50 caliber semi-automatic rifle systems with day scopes including an optical ranging system, accessories and operator's manuals for the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine

18

October 23, 2015

Lebanon

$1,691,770

various calibers of machine guns to the Government of Lebanon

19

October 23, 2015

Saudi Arabia

$37,063,000

defense articles, including technical data, and defense services to the Government of Saudi Arabia related to M2 .50 cal. and M240 7.62mm machine guns

20

October 23, 2015

Jordan

$2,760,000

M4 Type Carbines to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

21

October 23, 2015

United Arab Emirates

$9,240,000

5.56 caliber upper receiver assemblies to the United Arab Emirates for incorporation into complete automatic rifles for resale to government entities within the United Arab Emirates

22

November 10, 2015

Tunisia

$1,575,300

5.56x45 NATO caliber rifles, M203 40mm grenade launchers, and accessories to the Minister of Interior of Tunisia for national defense and training purposes

23

November 24, 2015

Indonesia

$2,954,634

5.56x45 NATO caliber rifles, .56 silencers, and accessories to the Government of Indonesia

24

November 24, 2015

Tunisia

$1,145,254

9mm semi-automatic pistols and accessories to the Government of Tunisia

25

November 25, 2015

Canada

$1,000,000*

.308, .338, and .50 caliber barrel blanks to Canada for research and development

26

December 14, 2015

Indonesia

$1,285,283

7.62 x 51mm M134 Weapon Systems to the Government of Indonesia

27

December 18, 2015

Iraq

$1,318,793

9mm semi-automatic pistols and accessories for the Government of Iraq

28

December 18, 2015

Cote D' Ivoire

$2,475,000

7,500 9mm caliber pistols and accessories to the Government of Cote d'Ivoire

29

February 2, 2016

Netherlands

$1,000,000*

MAG58 (7.62x51) fully automatic machine guns and barrels to the Government of the Netherlands

30

February 2, 2016

Canada

$1,000,000*

various rifles and pistols to Canada for commercial resale

31

February 2, 2016

Pakistan

$1,000,000*

M-134 7.62x51mm machine guns to the Army of Pakistan

32

February 4, 2016

Mexico

$1,000,000*

10 Mk19 40mm grenade launchers, 5 M242 .50 caliber machine guns, 5 M240 7.62mm machine guns, and 50 M-60 machine guns for end use by the Mexican Navy

33

February 26, 2016

Mexico

$3,224,196

9mm semi-automatic pistols and .45 caliber semi-automatic pistols for resale to authorized law enforcement and military end-users in Mexico

34

February 26, 2016

United Arab Emirates

$6,705,000

upper receiver assemblies to the Government of the United Arab Emirates

35

March 30, 2016

Brunei

$1,278,694

M16A4 rifles 5.56x45mm NATO, barrels, upper receiver and barrel assemblies, and accessories to the Government of Brunei

36

March 31, 2016

Bahrain

$9,068,395

5.56x45 NATO caliber rifles, M4 Commando Rifles, and accessories to the Bahrain Defense Forces for National Defense

37

March 31, 2016

Canada

$1,032,780

Aero Survival rifles and barrel assemblies to Canada for commercial resale

38

April 18, 2016

New Zealand

$17,250,508

fully automatic rifles, grenade launchers, sound suppressors and accessories to the New Zealand Ministry of Defence

39

April 20, 2016

Oman

$4,854,800

M240/Mag58 machine guns, primary and spare barrel, and accessories to the Government of Oman

40

April 20, 2016

Oman

$2,404,800

M240 machine guns to the Government of Oman

41

April 20, 2016

Philippines

$1,900,000

barrel blanks to the Philippines for the manufacture of small arms

42

April 20, 2016

Panama

$2,191,000

submachine guns to Panama

43

April 29, 2016

France

$1,000,000*

9mm semi-automatic pistols to France for end use by the Government of France

44

April 29, 2016

Peru

$13,995,496

9mm and .357 caliber, semi-auto pistols, 9mm submachines, and 5.56 NATO carbines to Peru

45

May 16, 2016

Saudi Arabia

$1,000,000*

M240 machine guns, primary and spare barrels, and spare parts for Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

46

May 26, 2016

South Korea

$1,000,000*

defense articles, including technical data, and defense services to the Republic of Korea to support the manufacture of ammunition and ammunition components

47

June 14, 2016

Oman

$4,878,292

machine guns, and spare parts package for the Sultanate of Oman

48

June 16, 2016

Canada

$1,211,500

various revolvers, semi-auto pistols, and bolt action rifles to Canada for commercial resale

49

June 17, 2016

Tunisia

$2,074,973

M2A2 and M60E4 machine guns with components, barrels, spare parts and accessories to the Ministry of Defense of Tunisia

50

June 17, 2016

Columbia

$3,910,198

machine guns, rifles, sound suppressors and accessories to Columbia in support of counter-narcotics operations

51

June 17, 2016

Italy

$1,096,599

various barrel blanks for bolt action rifles, various rifle barrels, receivers, stocks, and accessories to Italy for commercial resale

52

June 23, 2016

Oman

$13,800,500

M400 carbines, 5.56 NATO, fully automatic, and accessories and technical data to Oman

53

June 23, 2016

Saudi Arabia

$2,640,002

M240/Mag58 machine guns, primary and spare barrel, and spare parts for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

54

June 23, 2016

Canada

$1,360,000

AR15 semi-automatic rifles and accessories to Canada for commercial resale

55

June 23, 2016

Denmark

$3,102,268

M60E6 7.62mm general purpose machine guns, bolt breech assemblies and barrel blanks to Denmark

56

June 24, 2016

Turkey

$1,341,053

9mm and .45ACP semi-automatic pistols to Turkey

57

July 8, 2016

Mexico

$2,478,000

riflescopes to Mexico for use by the Mexican Navy

58

July 11, 2016

Oman

$12,485,000

automatic and semi-automatic rifles to Oman for end-use for the Royal Oman Police

59

August 5, 2016

Saudi Arabia

$7,425,000

M2HB QCB NATO machine guns, primary and spare barrel, and spare parts package for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

60

August 5, 2016

Tunisia

$2,693,320

various automatic rifles to Tunisia for end-use by the Government of Tunisia

61

August 12, 2016

Israel

$3,264,628

semi-automatic pistols to Israel for commercial resale

62

August 12, 2016

United Arab Emirates

$22,005,000

complete upper receiver assemblies to the United Arab Emirates for end-use by law enforcement, security, and government organizations

63

August 26, 2016

Israel

$1,091,020

various hand guns, parts, and acessories to Israel for commerical resale

64

August 26, 2016

Israel

$2,745,000

various firearms and accessories to Israel for commercial resale

65

August 31, 2016

United Arab Emirates

$2,694,550

M4 and M4A1 carbines, 5.56 x 45 mm NATO, and accessories to the United Arab Emirates

66

September 14, 2016

Tunisia

$3,306,936

9mm semi-automatic pistols to Tunisia

67

September 14, 2016

Israel

$1,050,000

9mm pistols for commercial resale

68

September 20, 2016

Israel

$1,049,062

flash suppressors and receivers for rifles to Israel

69

September 20, 2016

Indonesia

$8,227,420

rifles, silencers, and accessories to Indonesia

70

September 20, 2016

United Kingdom

$1,619,459

rifles, silencers, caliber x-change kits, stocks, and spare parts to be sold to the United Kingdom

71

September 28, 2016

Mexico

$10,125,000

defense articles, including technical data, and defense services to Mexico to support the manufacture of barrels and barrel blanks for various rifles

72

October 19, 2016

United Arab Emirates

$16,500,000

semi-automatic pistols and accessories

73

October 20, 2016

Canada

$1,000,000*

centerfire bolt action rifles for commercial resale

74

October 26, 2016

Canada

$2,915,800

rifles, pistols, and barrels for commercial resale

75

October 27, 2016

France

$1,071,060

semi automatic rifles, pistols, and barrels for commercial resale

76

November 10, 2016

Turkey

$17,195,100

fully automatic rifles and grenade launchers for use by government

77

November 10, 2016

Turkey

$1,186,820

M134 7.62x51 mm gun weapons systems

78

November 14, 2016

United Arab Emirates

$14,574,000

upper receiver assemblies to be incorporated into assault rifles

79

December 5, 2016

Oman

$1,575,268

machine guns to Oman

80

December 5, 2016

Oman

$6,115,125

M16 assault rifles to Oman

81

December 5, 2016

Canada

$1,498,000

semiautomatic pistols, semi-automatic rifles, lever action rifles, barrel assemblies, barrels, receiver assemblies, spare parts, and accessories

*Notifications with $1,000,000 in the amount column means the sale was at least $1 million dollars. It's likely the sale was much higher in many of these instances.

Sources: House Foreign Affairs Committee Reports 2015, 2016