Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

Just in Time for His Party’s Convention, Obama Administration Releases Latest Executive Gun Control

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Just in Time for His Party’s Convention, Obama Administration Releases Latest Executive Gun Control

On Friday, July 22, just as members of his party were gathering in Philadelphia to coronate Hillary Clinton as their presidential nominee, the Obama Administration once again released a sweeping gun control measure by executive fiat. This time the bad news came via the U.S. State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), which is primarily responsible for administering the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and its implementing rules, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). The upshot is that DDTC is labeling commercial gunsmiths as “manufacturers” for performing relatively simple work such as threading a barrel or fabricating a small custom part for an older firearm. Under the AECA, “manufacturers” are required to register with DDTC at significant expense or risk onerous criminal penalties. 

As with prior executive actions on guns, the administration released its dictate suddenly and without advance warning to or prior input from affected businesses, completely bypassing the normal formalities associated with a significant rulemaking. The guidance is also likely to result in more confusion than clarity and may significantly chill heretofore legal conduct associated with gunsmithing.

By way of background, the AECA and ITAR concern rules by which military materiel is exported from, and imported to, the United States. The so-called “defense articles” governed by the AECA/ITAR are compiled in what is known as the U.S. Munitions List and include some, but not all, firearms and ammunition, as well as their parts and components. Thus, for purposes of the regime, a spring or floorplate from the magazine of a controlled firearm is subject to the same regulatory framework as the firearm itself.

The AECA/ITAR require anybody who engages in the business of “manufacturing” a defense article to register with DDTC and pay a registration fee that for new applicants is currently $2,250 per year. These requirements apply, even if the business does not, and does not intend to, export any defense article. Moreover, under ITAR, “only one occasion of manufacturing … a defense article” is necessary for a commercial entity to be considered “engaged in the business” and therefore subject to the regime’s requirements.

Adding to the confusion, the Gun Control Act of 1968 and its amendments (GCA) also regulate firearm manufacturing, importing, and exporting. Both of the laws also use the same or similar terms but apply them in different ways. Thus, what triggers the legal requirement for an entity to be registered as a “manufacturer” under the AECA/ITAR may or may not also bring that entity within the scope of the GCA, and vice versa. 

DDTC’s new “guidance” only makes this situation worse by coming up with a confusing and counterintuitive list of activities that it considers “gunsmithing” versus “manufacturing” (despite the fact that it insists it relies on the “ordinary, contemporary, common meaning” of those terms). 

For example, DDTC generally labels procedures that involve cutting, drilling, or machining of an existing firearm in order to improve its accuracy or operation or to change its caliber as “manufacturing,” even if they do not create a new and distinct firearm. This includes threading a muzzle for a muzzle brake or blueprinting that requires machining of a barrel.   

On the other hand, DDTC contends that gunsmithing includes only very simple procedures, such as the one-for-one drop-in replacement of parts that do not require cutting, drilling, or machining for installation.  But even then, if the parts “improve the accuracy, caliber, or other aspects of firearm operation,” “manufacturing” may occur. Finishing treatments for firearms generally are not considered manufacturing under the guidance, nor are cosmetic flourishes such as engraving. Meanwhile the mounting of a scope that involves the machining of new dovetails or the drilling and tapping of holes may or not be “manufacturing,” depending on whether the scope improves the accuracy of the firearm beyond its prior configuration. 

For those who are confused by the guidance, DDTC offers the option of requesting an advisory opinion through the agency. The regulation providing for such opinions, however, states they “are not binding on the Department of State, and may not be used in future matters before the Department.” Moreover, the request involves typical bureaucratic hoops to negotiate, including providing both an original and seven copies of the request and supporting information in hardcopy form. 

DDTC’s move appears aimed at expanding the regulatory sweep of the AECA/ITAR and culling many smaller commercial gunsmithing operations that do not have the means to pay the annual registration fee or the sophistication to negotiate DDTC’s confusing maze of bureaucracy. Like ATF’s early “guidance” this year on the GCA’s licensing requirement for firearm “dealers,” it is also likely to have a significant chilling effect on activity that would not even be considered regulated.   

The administration’s latest move serves as a timely reminder of how the politicized and arrogant abuse of executive power can be used to suppress Second Amendment rights and curtail lawful firearm-related commerce. That lesson should not be forgotten when voters go to the polls this November.  

TRENDING NOW
SCOTUS Reverses and Remands Two NRA-ILA Backed Magazine Cases

News  

Thursday, June 30, 2022

SCOTUS Reverses and Remands Two NRA-ILA Backed Magazine Cases

One week after our landmark victory in NYSRPA v. Bruen, the Supreme Court issued orders in two other NRA-ILA backed cases. Those cases, ANJRPC v. Bruck and Duncan v. Bonta, challenge New Jersey and California laws that ban magazines capable ...

The Dominoes Begin to Fall: NJ Amends Permit Rules After Bruen

News  

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Dominoes Begin to Fall: NJ Amends Permit Rules After Bruen

New Jersey’s acting Attorney General, Matthew J. Platkin, issued a directive “clarifying requirements for carrying firearms in public” a day after the historic ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assoc. v. ...

California Leaks Personal Data of Carry Permit Holders

News  

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

California Leaks Personal Data of Carry Permit Holders

On Monday June 27, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the launch of the California Department of Justice (DOJ)’s Firearms Dashboard Portal. The data tool was designed to give granular firearm transaction and Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) permit ...

NRA Wins Supreme Court Case, NYSRPA v. Bruen

News  

Second Amendment  

Thursday, June 23, 2022

NRA Wins Supreme Court Case, NYSRPA v. Bruen

The National Rifle Association (NRA) welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen. The Court affirmed that the right to bear arms does not stop at a person’s front door. This is the most ...

Supreme Court Gets it Right, Congress Gets it Wrong

Friday, June 24, 2022

Supreme Court Gets it Right, Congress Gets it Wrong

On Thursday, SCOTUS released a historic decision in the NYSRPA v. Bruen case when they found the Second Amendment protects the right of law-abiding Americans to carry a firearm outside of the home. Despite the hysteria from ...

Delaware: Gun & Mag Bans Going to Gov. Carney

Friday, June 17, 2022

Delaware: Gun & Mag Bans Going to Gov. Carney

Last night, the House passed Senate Bill 6, to ban many standard capacity magazines in common use, sending it to Governor John Carney’s desk. The Senate passed House Bill 450, to ban many commonly-owned firearms, and ...

Delaware: General Assembly Passes Bills for Age Discrimination & Lawsuits Against Firearm Industry

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Delaware: General Assembly Passes Bills for Age Discrimination & Lawsuits Against Firearm Industry

Yesterday, the House voted 23-18 to pass Senate Bill 302 and the Senate voted 14-7 to pass House Bill 451. HB 451 then went back to the House, which voted 25-15 to concur. These two ...

Delaware: Senate Executive Committee Passes All Anti-Gun Bills

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Delaware: Senate Executive Committee Passes All Anti-Gun Bills

Today, the Senate Executive Committee passed all of the anti-gun bills before them. Yesterday, the House passed House Bill 423 by a vote of 40-0 and House Bill 451 by a vote of 27-13.

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

California: Legislature Ignores SCOTUS and Continues to Push Gun Control

Monday, June 27, 2022

California: Legislature Ignores SCOTUS and Continues to Push Gun Control

Last week, the United States Supreme Court handed down a huge victory for gun owners, confirming what has been known all along: that the 2nd Amendment is not a second class right and should not be treated ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.