Updated Jun 5, 2024 - World

Scoop: House Oversight Dems demand briefing on U.S.-to-Haiti gun trafficking

A man evacuates due to the fire during a tanker carrying diesel exploded after being hit by projectiles fired by armed men trying to apprehend the truck in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday June 04

A tanker carrying diesel exploded after being hit by projectiles fired by armed men in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on June 4. Photo: Guerinault Louis/Anadolu via Getty Images

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are demanding answers from the Biden administration about the illegal flow of firearms to Haiti.

Why it matters: Armed gangs killed thousands of people in Haiti earlier this year and compounded the country's severe humanitarian crises. Lawmakers said in a new letter sent Wednesday that the flow of weapons to the nation is "fueling catastrophic gang violence."

  • "Once they reach Haitian soil, the firearms originating from the United States are sold at inflated prices to Haitian gang members to facilitate the ongoing violence and humanitarian crisis," the letter stated.

Driving the news: The members are demanding a briefing on federal efforts to stem the "illicit flow of American firearms to criminal organizations and gangs abroad" and how Congress can help by June 20.

  • The "vast majority" of guns used by Haitian gangs were obtained via straw purchasers in the U.S., the letter stated.
  • The letter was sent Wednesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Katrina Berger, the executive associate director of Homeland Security Investigations and Steven Dettelbach, director of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
  • The White House, Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to Axios' requests for comment on Wednesday.

The big picture: Gangs aided by access to illegal weapons have seized control of large swaths of the capital of Port-au-Prince, NBC News reported earlier this year.

  • Often, Americans will buy the guns in states with lax gun laws — like Florida and Georgia — before they are smuggled abroad, the letter noted.
  • The Department of Homeland Security has been trying to address the problem by seizing the weapons at U.S. facilities before they leave the country.
  • The problem isn't unique to Haiti, the members added. Such straw purchases also fuel a flow of guns to other parts of the Caribbean and Central America.

State of play: The lawmakers wrote that they "recognize and applaud" the steps that the Biden administration has already taken to curtail straw purchases and the flow of guns to criminal organizations.

  • However, they added: "Further action is needed to build on these efforts and ensure that American gun dealers are no longer a preferred focus of criminal international gun traffickers."

Go deeper: What to know about the crisis in Haiti after the prime minister's resignation

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