Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut was the keynote speaker at a forum on the global arms trade in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Murphy said the country’s domestic attitude towards guns is having a global impact.
Murph, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the sky high gun violence in the United States makes the country an embarrassing outlier compared to the rest of the world.
“The United States runs at the very back of the pack. We compound this national gun violence epidemic by exporting that epidemic to other places.”
Murphy said where the U.S. does lead is in arms sales to other nations.
“We love to sell guns and weapons abroad. 2016 marked the ninth straight year that the United States led the world in arm sales to foreign countries.”
Murphy said in 2016 the U.S. sold about $40 billion in arms, 34 percent of the global market share.
He said there are places where he supports arm sales because they can be an important security tool. However, he noted that often there is a lack of oversight and accountability.
“For instance, we routinely sell weapons to countries with an embarrassing human rights records, which in turn are then used to do harm and repress civilians. Sometimes it’s impossible to know where our weapons go.”
Murphy mentioned the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia as an example. He said they often end up fueling the conflict in Yemen, which has sustained a large number of civilian casualties. 246 people were killed in April alone.
Murphy also said the fervor over the Second Amendment has influenced foreign policy. He cited the United Nations’ arms treaty, which regulates international sales to make sure weapons are not used for human rights abuses.
“The Senate voted the treaty down in 2013 largely due to these misguided fears of its intersection with the Second Amendment. That’s a terrible signal for the United States Congress to be sending.”
Murphy said since that time there hasn’t been much debate in the Senate on this issue. He said he hopes his colleagues will join him to push for an open public debate about global arms sales and the impact they have around the world.