Federal

State Department Proposes Sweeping Ban on Firearms Speech

The State Department has long promulgated regulations under the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR) which are very familiar to people who work in the defense industry. However, it has generally not applied to ordinary speech about firearms because the law made exception for the publication of technical data that is in the public domain. The State Department published notice 9149 in the Federal Register last Wednesday proposing that the regulation be amended to remove the exception for information in the public domain, and also to consider the posting of any technical information in a public forum to constitute an export under ITAR, requiring State Department pre-clearance, and a $2000 license from the federal government.

This should essentially make it illegal to discuss in a public forum, including on the Internet, any technical data about the manufacture, repair, modification, or other technical data about any firearm, ammunition, or accessory. It believed that the State Department undertook this measure to shut down the 3D printing and CNC milling of firearms and firearms parts by home do-it-yourselfers, but the regulation sweeps even more broadly than that. Even talking about reloading data would be a crime.

In the 1990s, the State Department declared encryption technology “munitions” under ITAR and began to crack down on sharing of encryption information and source code on the Internet. They were taken to court and lost both times on First Amendment grounds, but the Clinton Administration backed down before the Supreme Court managed to hear the case.

Such a rule is almost certainly unconstitutional, but in if implemented, gun owners who exercise their right to free speech could face a 20 year prison sentence and fines reaching upwards to a million dollars for violating ITAR’s regulations until the Federal Courts sorted everything out.

Biggest Reform to the Gun Control Act of 1968 Introduced in House Since the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986

Just today, Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT) introduced a bill that would significantly reform the Gun Control Act of 1968. According to the NRA, the major steps this bill would take are:

  • Eliminate ATF’s authority to reclassify popular rifle ammunition as “armor piercing ammunition.” The federal law governing armor piercing ammunition was passed by Congress to target handgun projectiles, but BATFE has used the law to ban common and popular rifle ammunition, as it recently attempted with M855/SS109 5.56×45 ammunition.
  • Provide for the lawful importation of any non-NFA firearm or ammunition that may otherwise be lawfully possessed and sold within the United States. BATFE has used the current discretionary “sporting purposes” standard to deny the importation of firearms that would be perfectly legal to manufacture, sell, and possess in the United States.
  • Protect shotguns, shotgun shells, and certain rifles from arbitrary classification as “destructive devices.” Classification as a destructive device subjects a firearm to the registration and taxation provisions of the National Firearms Act (NFA) and creates a ban on possession of such firearms in some states.
  • Broaden the temporary interstate transfer provision to allow temporary transfers for all lawful purposes rather than just for “sporting purposes.”

Please write Rep. Fitzpatrick and ask him to support this bill.