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Cherfilus-McCormick, Murphy, Kaine, and Castro Lead Introduction of Caribbean Arms Trafficking Causes Harm (CATCH) Act to Curb U.S. Firearms Trafficking to the Caribbean

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-FL) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), along with Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX), introduced the Caribbean Arms Trafficking Causes Harm (CATCH) Act, legislation that would help curb illicit arms trafficking from the United States to the Caribbean.

Illicit arms trafficking from the United States to the Caribbean is a regional and national security threat. Caribbean countries accounted for half of the world’s top ten highest national murder rates. While not manufacturing any major weapons or ammunition, law enforcement officials in the Caribbean have identified Florida as a significant source of illicit firearms. The steady flow of illicit firearms has exacerbated crime and migration in the Caribbean. In Haiti, illicit firearms from the United States have enabled violent gangs to control over 80% of Port-au-Prince and have caused a dramatic increase in migration to the United States.

On June 25, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law, which created Federal criminal offenses for firearm trafficking and granted the government new authorities to prosecute these offenses. On June 8, 2023, Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the Department of Justice will name a Coordinator for Caribbean Firearms Prosecutions who will oversee arms trafficking prosecutions to the Caribbean. These vital new authorities combined with a specific coordinator to help tackle the issue are critical, but we must make sure this important work gets done.

“Weapons trafficking by way of the United States is a major contributor to Haiti’s growing gang crisis and the current instability that plagues the country,” said Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Co-Chair of the House Haiti Caucus. “We must ensure the Department of Justice is effectively utilizing the new anti-firearm-trafficking provisions in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Our standing in the region and our national security depends on it.”
“I am extremely concerned with the deteriorating security situation in Haiti and high rates of violence elsewhere in the Caribbean. The prevalence of illegal guns trafficked from the United States into the region is fueling this violence. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act made firearms trafficking a federal crime for the first time, and this legislation would ensure the newly established Coordinator for Caribbean Firearms Prosecutions is implementing the law to its fullest extent,” said Senator Chris Murphy.

“Illicit weapons are a major source of instability in the Caribbean and are fueling the horrific scourge of gun and gang violence we’ve seen in Haiti,” said Senator Tim Kaine. “The consolidation of power in Haitian gangs and the use of trafficked firearms to inflict terror in their communities is deeply concerning and an immediate threat to stability in the region. The United States must use all tools at its disposal to crack down on arms trafficking, support international efforts to restore regional stability, and secure our safety at home and abroad.” 
“Two years ago, I voted for the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to help the United States tackle the devastating toll of our gun violence crisis. Since the law went into effect, the Department of Justice has successfully prosecuted hundreds of straw purchases and gun trafficking offenses and saved countless lives,” said Congressman Joaquin Castro. “As we build on those efforts, the CATCH Act will improve transparency and accountability within U.S. antitrafficking efforts and prevent U.S. firearms from fueling gun violence in the Caribbean — especially in Haiti, where guns from the United States have played a tragic role in the ongoing security, political, and humanitarian crisis.” 

The CATCH Act will address these challenges by requiring the Coordinator for Caribbean Firearms Prosecutions to report on their implementation of anti-firearm-trafficking provisions in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which would include:

  • The number, destination, and method of transportation of firearms, ammunition, and firearms accessories.
  • Coordination efforts with Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies.
  • Coordination efforts with the Department of Justice and any regional or international organizations, such as CARICOM.

The bill text for the CATCH Act can be found here.