President Obama has the ability to issue “executive orders” that direct the agencies controlled by the Office of the President to change the way they operate. Government agencies have a large amount of leeway when it comes to the interpretation of the law and how it applies to the American people, and these executive orders are intended to allow the president to specifically direct those agencies in whatever manner he sees fit.
Last Friday President Obama issued one such order which changed the definition of a “manufacturer” under the ITAR treaty regulations, a change which now means anyone who so much as threads a barrel on a firearm needs to pay thousands more dollars in fees and is subject to further registration. From the NRA:
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.
The issue is the definition of “manufacturer.” Previously, only machine shops who actually produce a firearm from scratch were required to register as a “manufacturer.” Local gun shops with a shade-tree gunsmith happily threading barrels and trueing up receivers were exempt, since they didn’t actually make anything new.
This new interpretation of the ITAR regulations has changed all that, and anyone who so much as threads a barrel now must further register with the Federal government as a “manufacturer” and pay an additional $2,250 in registration fees. That might not seem like a lot to a big shop, but for the small mom-and-pop gunsmiths this could be enough to put them out of business.
The NRA’s opinion on the matter is predictable:
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 theGCA’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.