WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and U.S. Representatives Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-Fla.) and Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) introduced the Caribbean Arms Trafficking Causes Harm (CATCH) Act, legislation that would help curb illicit arms trafficking from the United States to the Caribbean by requiring the Coordinator for Caribbean Firearms Prosecutions to report on the implementation of anti-firearm-trafficking provisions included in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

Illicit arms trafficking from the United States to the Caribbean is a regional and national security threat. While Caribbean countries do not manufacture firearms or ammunition or import either on a large scale, they account for half of the world’s top ten highest national murder rates. Law enforcement officials in the Caribbean have identified Florida as a significant source of the illicit firearms that are exacerbating crime in their countries. In Haiti, the steady flow of illicit firearms from the United States has enabled violent gangs to take control over 80% of Port-au-Prince and caused a dramatic increase in migration to the United States.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, championed by Sen. Murphy and signed into law in June 2022, created federal criminal offenses for firearm trafficking and granted the government new authorities to prosecute these crimes. In 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice named its first Coordinator for Caribbean Firearms Prosecutions to specifically oversee these cases of arms trafficking prosecutions involving the Caribbean.

The CATCH Act will require the Coordinator for Caribbean Firearms Prosecutions to report on its progress prosecuting these cases, including:

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

“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 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 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.”

“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 Cherfilus-McCormick. “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.”

“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 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 text of the legislation can be found HERE.