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Pro-Gun Members of Congress Respond to State Department’s Disastrous Manufacturing “Guidance”

Friday, September 2, 2016

Pro-Gun Members of Congress Respond to State Department’s Disastrous Manufacturing “Guidance”

This week, pro-gun members of Congress responded to the Obama administration’s attempt at backdoor gun control through the U.S. State Department (DOS) with strongly worded letters demanding corrective action.

In July, we reported on an ill-advised attempt by the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls of DOS (DDTC) to “clarify” who is a regulated firearms “manufacturer” for purposes of the Arms Export Control Act and its implementing rules, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

As we noted in that report, DDTC’s “guidance” document creates far more confusion than clarity and threatens to chill lawful behavior and put small commercial gunsmiths who cannot afford ITAR’s heavy compliance costs out of business.

DDTC’s move is all the more egregious, considering the fact that the Obama Administration has for years pledged to remove most firearms and ammunition from ITAR’s scope, in favor of the more business-friendly jurisdiction of the Commerce Department.

This so-called Export Control Reform (ECR) initiative was originally aimed at “building higher walls around a smaller yard” by strengthening controls on America’s most sophisticated defense technologies, while reducing unnecessary restrictions and regulations on less sensitive items.

Firearms and ammunition – among the most common and least sophisticated defense technologies and technologies with obvious and legitimate markets in the private sector – were supposed to be the first categories to be moved over from DDTC’s jurisdiction to that of the Commerce Department.

But because of President Obama’s antigun politics, they remain among the last of the “munitions” categories to be amended. Meanwhile, as DDTC’s ECR website notes, the agency has already reviewed such categories as “Toxological Agents,” “Spacecraft and Related Articles,” and “Directed Energy Weapons.” For DDTC to suggest firearms and ammunition already present in tens of millions of American homes are somehow more militarily sensitive than those items is absurd on its face.

To make matters worse, DDTC has been building the “higher walls” on ITAR’s remaining items, meaning that the firearms and ammunition that remain under ITAR’s control will be even more stringently regulated than in the past.

Fortunately, pro-gun members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate are aware of the problems and sent Secretary of State John Kerry strongly-worded letters this week expressing their concerns and urging DDTC to complete the process of Export Control Reform. Dozens of senators and well over one hundred representatives signed onto the letters.

According to the letters, “the last thing [the affected small businesses] need is an edict from the federal government imposing crippling fees and requirements which are wholly unnecessary and nonsensical.” They also ask for a specific date by which the administration will finish the process of Export Control Reform.

In the meantime, NRA is working with industry representatives on corrective legislation, should DDTC prove nonresponsive.

We thank U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) for their leadership in this critical effort.

Stayed tuned for further updates on this developing situation.

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