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American Guns: Global Tools of Destruction

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Americans tell many myths about themselves that greatly damage the rest of the world. Of course, all peoples tell myths about themselves, but the U.S. has the geopolitical power to impose them on others. One of the most pernicious myths is that the United States is good for the world, a beacon of freedom and democracy. If you squint, you can see it, but if you look at how American capitalism and American foreign policy affect the rest of the world, the assertion is outright laughable. A piece of why is American gun manufacturers and the global arms trade. The flow of guns south of the border is a big part of the reason for the violence that is forcing so many Central Americans to flee north, freaking out the same racist white people who love gun culture to begin with. Here’s another example:

High-powered hunting rifles are the tools of the trade for poachers in South Africa and Mozambique. Steady and deadly accurate, the rifles are capable of dropping a rhinoceros with one shot from long distances, and are a major reason the rhinos in those African countries, highly valued for their horns, are dwindling toward extinction.

Three years ago, Sandy McDonald began finding the rifles, left behind by poachers, scattered near the dead rhinos he found in the game reserve he owns in Mozambique, just across the border from South Africa.

Mr. McDonald immediately recognized the weapons. They were .375-caliber Safari Classics, made by CZUB or just CZ, a firearms manufacturer based in the Czech Republic. Upon closer inspection, Mr. McDonald noticed something else on the rifles. Carved into the metal were the words “CZ-USA, Kansas City, KS,” suggesting that the weapons were from the American subsidiary of the arms company.

“Coming from a firearms background I recognized that these were rifles that are quite common in the U.S.,” Mr. McDonald said. “It left me wondering how they got out of the U.S. and into the hands of Mozambican poaching syndicates.”

His question is at the heart of multiple investigations by a congressional committee and an array of federal agencies into whether an American gun manufacturer has become entangled in the shadowy and illegal world of arms smuggling and wildlife poaching that both President Trump and former President Barack Obama have committed to combating. Neither CZ nor its American subsidiary has been accused of a crime by federal authorities.

In a 2013 executive order, Mr. Obama called wildlife trafficking a national security issue because of its devastation of African wildlife and its destabilizing effect on local communities. Another order signed by Mr. Trump last year directed law enforcement agencies to increase their efforts to dismantle transnational smuggling organizations, including wildlife traffickers.

The American government has also stationed law enforcement officers from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in several African countries, including Botswana, to help local officials fight poachers. Over all, the American government spends about $150 million a year in efforts to fight wildlife trafficking and poaching.

Now agents from the Commerce Department and the Department of Homeland Security are investigating whether CZ or its subsidiary violated American laws by exporting rifles to Mozambique and whether the company continued to sell weapons even after being warned as early as 2015 that the rifles were used by poachers to kill protected wildlife in South Africa.

This fall, the House Foreign Affairs Committee began its own investigation into the use of possible illegally exported rifles in poaching crimes, requesting from federal agencies “any and all information related to CZUB and its subsidiary CZ-USA and the selling of rifles to transnational criminal organizations,” according to a staff member on the committee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about the investigation.

Of course, given the predilection of Qusay and Uday Trump to kill large beasts and the utter indifference of the American government as it is presently constructed to anything that would protect the future, it’s hardly surprising that American gun manufacturers would supply poachers. There’s profit to be made after all.

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