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Biden Administration Targets Lawful Firearm Exports in Latest Antigun Crackdown

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Biden Administration Targets Lawful Firearm Exports in Latest Antigun Crackdown

If you want to know what gun control proponents would do given unchecked authority, just watch how the Biden White House abuses its executive powers to harass and persecute the lawful firearms industry, which Biden himself has referred to as “the enemy.” Biden’s latest moves show him leveraging his foreign affairs apparatus to crack down on American firearm exports to law-abiding end users.  Not only is this nakedly antagonistic, it’s counterproductive to international peace and stability, to say nothing of disadvantaging U.S. businesses in world markets. To understand how, you need look no further than the official policy of the Obama/Biden regime itself, which began the very process of export reform Biden now seeks to unravel.

The federal government oversees the export of goods destined for both the commercial and defense sectors. Starting with the Obama/Biden administration, there was an effort to reform export practices for so-called “dual use items,” i.e., those with both commercial and military applications but whose technical information was already readily available in the public domain. Experts in the field believed that rules arising from the Cold War Era devoted too many resources to micromanaging exports of dual use items that were lawful for commercial sale, widely available in different countries, and produced by U.S. companies. This not only disadvantaged U.S. companies from competing in international markets, it diverted the government’s limited export control resources from stricter oversight of game-changing military technology with true strategic importance.

The processing of reforming this state of affairs began in earnest under the Obama/Biden administration. A series of public rulemakings set out to establish which types of defense articles “provide the United States with a critical military or intelligence advantage, or, in the case of weapons, are inherently for military end use.” Export of these items would be overseen by the U.S. Department of State, with priority given to concerns of national defense and of preserving international peace and stability.

Export of items that did not meet this threshold would be overseen by the U.S. Department of Commerce, which would more holistically promote American goods against foreign competitors, while ensuring sufficient safeguards remained to protect U.S. exports from diversion or misuse. The idea, as summarized by one official, was to “build a taller fence around a smaller yard.” The upshot would be tighter control of the most sensitive military technology, and more competitiveness for U.S. businesses. Steering international buyers to U.S. companies also meant the U.S. government would have a greater role in ensuring these sales met more stringent security and human rights oversight and greater visibility of the goods’ ultimate destinations.

The advantages of this plan were so obvious that it proceeded largely with bi-partisan support … except when it came to firearms. The subject matter experts drafting the rules actually took up firearms as one of the earliest categories of good to be recategorized, since there is a robust and legitimate international market for them and because America’s firearms were considered highly desirable to foreign buyers. Nevertheless, the antigun politics of the Obama/Biden administration pushed guns to the back of the line, even as more exotic and far-reaching technology -- including spacecraft and satellites, explosives and propellants, and toxicological agents – were recategorized with little controversy.

It wasn’t until President Trump took office that the project of completing export reform was finally completed, ending where it began with the recategorizing of ordinary firearms readily available in America from gun shops and even some big box retailers. Trump’s involvement, however, allowed firearm prohibition groups to be fully mobilized against the change, and they invoked their usual tactics of lawsuits, anti-gun litigation, and media propaganda to stop it. These efforts failed, however, and American businesses have been selling guns abroad to police forces, militaries, and private businesses with the support and oversight of the Commerce Department since Biden took office, much to the fury of his gun control supporters.

It was, however, only a matter of time before anti-gun activists within the Biden Administration revisited this state of affairs, not because the status quo has proven unworkable but merely because the issue provided a ready way to persecute the U.S. firearms industry, one of Biden’s primary political targets.

As is often the case, the administration’s moves have coincided with a supposed “investigation” by one of the regime’s media collaborators that tried to gin up a phony scandal over the unremarkable fact that the Commerce Department was promoting U.S. gun businesses to legitimate and eligible foreign clients. The outlet, Bloomberg News, is of course backed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, perhaps the single largest funder of anti-gun efforts in America. A follow-up Bloomberg News article focused on a horrible 2022 mass murder in Thailand that, while involving a pistol of U.S. origin, was “mostly” committed with a knife, according to local officials cited in another media report, and also included the perpetrator running people down with his vehicle. The Bloomberg News article made much of one U.S. gun company’s attempts to expand its markets overseas but acknowledged that China and Turkey, among other countries, also supply guns to Thailand. 

Nevertheless, the reporting helped to fortify the Biden White House’s unprecedented and heavy-handed “pause” on otherwise lawful firearm exports that began last October, supposedly to assess whether current controls were sufficient to prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands.

Meanwhile, rules were quietly being drafted to roll back the reforms of firearm exports that originally began under the Obama/Biden Administration, demonstrating Biden’s commitment to anti-gun politics continues to supersede his commitment to sound and rational policy. A version of those rules was leaked to the press, indicating that the administration’s seeks to limit civilian access to firearms even (perhaps especially) in the Ukraine and West Bank conflict zones where civilians as well as military troops are being targeted by the enemies of American allies.

If that weren’t enough, a partisan group of anti-gun senators and members of Congress are demanding Biden extend his export “pause” past the original 90-day deadline, which ended on Jan. 24 (not coincidentally the day Bloomberg News published follow-ups to its “investigation”). The letter demands additional crackdowns on firearms exports, including withdrawing the Commerce Department’s involvement in promoting U.S. gun companies to foreign buyers.

Of course, demand for firearms by overseas buyers will continue, whether or not U.S. companies and the U.S. export regime is involved. The export crackdown firearm prohibitionists are now insisting upon may simply divert these sales to suppliers in other countries, including those who are far less concerned with and capable of preventing diversion and misuse than the companies and officials involved in U.S. exports. Indeed, the political games anti-gunners are playing with this issue may have real-world consequences that are exactly opposite to what they profess to be their own objectives.

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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.