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Trump Administration Proposes Changes to Gun Export Rules, Opens Comment Period

By: Robert Davis

The Trump administration’s Department of State has proposed revisions to rules regarding the export of items currently on the U.S. Munitions List (USML).

“The rule changes would move the oversight of commercial firearm exports from the U.S. Department of State to the Department of Commerce,” Reuters.com reported.

The purpose is to amend the Armed Export Control Act (AECA) and “reduce the procedural burdens and costs of export compliance on the U.S. firearms industry while allowing the U.S. Government to enforce export controls for firearms appropriately and to make better use of its export control resources,” according to a Department of Commerce statement addressing the proposed rule change.

“[The Department] is engaged in an effort to revise the U.S. Munitions List so that its scope is limited to those defense articles that provide the United States with a critical military or intelligence advantage or, in the case of weapons, are inherently for military end use,” the rule, published by the Federal Register, states.

“[The reforms] didn’t originate with the Trump administration,” Ted Bromund, a Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Institute, reported on Forbes.com. “It was the Obama administration that launched export control reform, and which completed 18 of the 21 categories of that reform.

“I see this as Trump stopping the political bias against the gun industry from Obama’s terms in office,” Bromund told Gunpowder Magazine. “It is universally believed that President Obama held off on this proposal for political reasons.”

Bromund called the old system of exports “baroque and burdensome,” explaining that firearms exporters had to tailor their business to comply with the legislation.
Under the proposed rule, Bromund says, firearms exporters will receive many long-term benefits, while bearing the short-term costs of realigning their business practices.

One advantage to the proposed rule is that gun manufactures and associated business would no longer have to register as exporters with the State Department. By shifting this procedure to the Commerce Department, manufacturers can get an export license on the basis of a proposal or letter of intent. So, if a foreign entity offers a manufacturer a deal to purchase weapons, the manufacturer can take that proposal to the Commerce Department and receive their export license. Banks can use the same measures the help businesses expand to meet the demands of their clients as well.

Other advantages include streamlining the process for cosmetic changes to guns, employing non-U.S. nationals to help develop firearms, relaxing regulations to control and train firearms personnel, and not requiring support businesses such as engravers to register as exporters.

These rules do not apply to any person or country currently under sanction by the U.S. government.

On the downside, control of the export of suppressors will remain with the State Department. The rationale is, according to Bromund, that suppressors provide a military advantage.

“This is perhaps a true statement, but the idea that we can stop other countries from having suppressors is not true,” Bromund said.

“…These reforms have positively, absolutely nothing to do with the sale of firearms to civilians in the United States, and similarly nothing to do with the permanent import of firearms into the United States for the civilian marketplace,” Bromund reported. “…Nothing about the proposed rule changes will make it easier to buy a firearm in the United States.”

According to Reuters, “The expected relaxing of rules could increase foreign gun sales by as much as 20 percent, the National Sports Shooting Foundation has estimated. As well as the industry’s big players, it may also help small gunsmiths and specialists who are currently required to pay an annual federal fee to export relatively minor amounts of products.”

The comment period for this proposed rule is open until July 9.

Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. Contact him with comments or tips at RobertDavis0414@gmail.com.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.