The Trump administration’s decision to end the ban on sales of firearm sound suppressors, also known as silencers, to foreign private buyers prompted an investigation by a congressional committee Tuesday.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security is investigating the level of involvement that then-Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor to the White House Chief of Staff Michael B. Williams played in the decision earlier this month as he has personal financial ties to the American Suppressor Association (ASA) – whose sponsors stand to make millions off of the administration's recent decision.
Earlier this month, the White House rolled back a 2002 State Department ban that limited the sale of silencers to “only official end users such as government or military entities.”
The policy was a move that aimed to “prevent American equipment from being used against American service members.”
Williams worked as a general counsel to the ASA for two years prior to joining the Trump administration, alongside his brother Knox Williams, who is the ASA president and executive director.
The ASA could reportedly make up to $250 million a year from overseas companies, due to this policy change.
“The overseas sale of U.S. defense articles, especially when those weapons could endanger the safety and security of our men and women in uniform, cannot and should not be influenced by personal financial or political interests,” Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass. and chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, wrote in a letter to the director of the Office of Management and Budget Tuesday.
According to a report from the New York Times earlier this month, Williams worked to overturn the State Department ban prior to joining the White House.
Following the White House’s decision to lift the ban on July 10, the ASA released a statement claiming that the new policy would create hundreds of American jobs and “generate millions of dollars in annual revenue for small businesses across the country.”
“Michael Williams’ involvement in U.S. gun policy, and specifically his reported role in overturning the State Department’s 2002 restrictions on the foreign export of firearm suppressors, raises significant concerns about whether the safety of our men and women in uniform is being exchanged for personal or commercial profit,” Lynch wrote.
The ASA president and executive director praised the decision, saying that the ASA had been working on reversing this ban for six years – inclusive of the period of time when Michael Williams was with the lobbying group.
“For six years, the American Suppressor Association has worked to legalize the commercial exportation of suppressors,” Knox Williams said in a statement on July 10. “We submitted FOIA requests, helped draft and introduce the Suppressor Export Act of 2016, and educated members of the State Department and White House about the realities of suppressor technology.”
The committee has asked that the Office of Management and Budget hand over all emails, records and communication of any kind from January 2019 to July 2020 between Williams and the ASA, SilencerCo., the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Donald Trump Jr., Peter Navarro and several state agencies to aid in the investigation regarding any conflict of interest.
Congressman Lynch, the White House and Williams could not be immediately reached for comment.