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US Nixes Britain-Gun Exports

April 23, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States is revoking all licenses for export of firearms to Britain _ an action approved by the British government, a State Department spokesman said today.

The action arises out of concern for the prospect that weapons could be diverted from Britain and other European countries to countries not eligible to receive the weapons, said spokesman James P. Rubin.

The revocation will last until licenses can be re-issued to reflect new British laws governing the re-export of guns to other countries, he said.

There is no plan to halt firearm sales to other Europe Union countries, Rubin said.

``The decision to revoke outstanding munitions licenses for firearms destined to the U.K. was taken in consultation with the U.K. after discussions with them. It was not an action directed against United Kingdom policy,″ the spokesman said.

He said there was no evidence that U.S. firearms exported to Europe have actually found their way into the wrong hands, such as Iran or Iraq.

``It’s a concern,″ he said. ``It’s not something we believe has already happened.″

The temporary ban on firearms exports to Britain resulted from continuous monitoring of the British laws and regulations ``to ensure that retransfer and important controls are sufficiently strong,″ Rubin said.

He said the problem was with new British laws governing handguns, not with any actions by British importers.

``Wherever possible, actions are taken both by countries to align import and export actions, and this can take the form of license revocations. This is what happened in the case of the U.K.,″ the spokesman said.

``Our European allies share our broad objectives and concerns about the need to work together to prevent diversions of firearms,″ Rubin said.

``With regard to the United Kingdom, this issue came up because they changed their laws on handguns, so it required us to take a re-look at all the licenses so that we would be able to re-implement licenses with them,″ Rubin said.

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