The gun industry wants the Trump administration to move oversight of certain gun and ammunition exports from the State Department to the Commerce Department, saying the State Department is snaring gunsmiths and hobbyists in arcane rules and fees.
Industry officials said the State Department effectively puts standard handguns on nearly equal footing with military-grade weaponry such as aircraft, missiles and explosives, imposing restrictions that are far tighter than they need to be.
The department also charges a $2,250 fee for those who fall under its purview.
“When you’re exporting what’s clearly a commercial item, but it’s being treated as if it’s a grenade launcher, it’s a little tough,” said Frank Harris, vice president of sales and marketing at Kahr Firearms Group.
The State Department has oversight because of a law requiring manufacturers of “defense” items, which include certain semiautomatic firearms, silencers and ammunition, to register with the department and pay the associated fee.
But industry officials said many of those items don’t belong in the same conversation as military-grade technology.
They also say changes would allow State to focus its resources on cracking down on exporters who might be shipping their goods to terrorists, rather than sweeping up other manufacturers selling legal products to reputable customers.
More than 140 members of Congress, led by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, have weighed in backing the changes, saying in a letter that Commerce Department oversight would “enhance our national security and better protect America’s most sensitive defense technologies, while improving U.S. competitiveness by reducing unnecessary restrictions on exports of less sensitive commercial items.”
A State Department official said Monday that the administration is actively reviewing a proposal to change the jurisdiction for commercially available firearms and related ammunition.
“We anticipate completing this review shortly,” the official said.
The members of Congress also objected to the $2,250 fee the State Department imposed last July as part of new registration requirements for manufacturers.
The lawmakers said many of those snared by the change are repairmen or hobbyists who don’t make or export anything.
The guidance was intended to clarify the rules on who has to register with the department as a manufacturer under the Arms Export Control Act.
The new rules don’t apply to people who make cosmetic alterations to a gun, but do apply to those who upgrade the capability of a firearm.
Gun rights activists said the new guidance is overly burdensome and still sweeps up small business owners or hobbyists.
Shifting oversight to the Commerce Department would mean the new rule wouldn’t apply to affected firearms.
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