April 03, 2023

Top House Foreign Affairs Democrats, Senate Judiciary Chair Request GAO Probe into Trafficking of U.S.-Origin Firearms to Caribbean

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Congressman Gregory W. Meeks (NY-05), and Senator Dick Durbin (Ill.) wrote to the Comptroller General of the U.S. Government Accountability Office calling for a federal probe into the consequences of firearms trafficking from the United States to the Caribbean. Congressman Castro is the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Congressman Meeks is the Ranking Member of the full House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Senator Durbin is the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Recently, we have seen high levels of gun violence and trafficking of illicit firearms across the Western Hemisphere. This deadly trend has a tremendous impact on the people of the region and was the impetus for previous requests from our offices for GAO reports on U.S. efforts to counter firearms trafficking to Mexico (2021) and U.S. efforts to counter firearms trafficking to criminal organizations in Central America (2022). This new request, focused on the Caribbean, will allow us to obtain a more robust picture of the overall impact of the illicit trafficking and use of deadly weapons and munitions in the region,” the members wrote.

“We are particularly concerned about the effects of illicit U.S. firearms on the security situation in Haiti. Most recently, these concerns were raised in a September 29, 2022 House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing titled Haiti at the Crossroads: Civil Society Responses for a Haitian-led Solution….Witnesses agreed that the United States is the principal source of weapons being used by criminal gangs, who are destabilizing the country, preventing the provision of basic government services, thwarting the distribution of humanitarian assistance, increasing levels of deadly violence, and causing an ever-increasing number of Haitians to lose hope and flee the country. Many are arriving at U.S. borders and are exacerbating the record-high level of irregular migration. Haiti does not stand alone as a Caribbean nation being destabilized by the influx of illicit American firearms. The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime’s Global Study on Firearms Trafficking 2020 evaluated firearms trafficking seizure levels in seven Caribbean countries in 2016 and 2017. The study found that between 2,000 and 3,000 firearms were seized each year, with Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas accounting for most of these seizures.” the members continued.

In 2021 and 2022, the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s reports on violence in Mexico and Central America noted significant national security and regional stability concerns from the trafficking of U.S.-origin firearms.

The full letter can be viewed here.