Biden Administration Takes Aim At Firearms Industry's Commercial Exports

(AP Photo/AJ Mast, File)

The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Larry Keane reported on Friday afternoon that the Commerce Department was going to issue a late-Friday-afternoon decision halting many commercial firearm exports for 90 days, and Keane’s sources proved accurate as just a few hours after his original tweet he sent out this followup.


Here’s the opening text of the Frequently Asked Questions that the Bureau of Industry and Security released in conjunction with its “Firearms Pause & Review”.

Effective immediately, the U.S. Department of Commerce (the Department) is pausing for approximately 90 days the issuance of new export licenses involving certain firearms, related components, and ammunition under its jurisdiction and the provision of new export assistance activities for such products to all non-governmental end users worldwide, apart from those in certain destinations. The Department may take additional steps to further U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.

During this “pause” period, the Department will further assess current firearm export control review policies to determine whether any changes are warranted to advance U.S. national security and foreign policy interests. The review will be conducted with urgency and will enable the Department to more effectively assess and mitigate risk of firearms being diverted to entities or activities that promote regional instability, violate human rights, or fuel criminal activities.

This pause applies to the Bureau of Industry and Security’s (BIS) issuance of new licenses involving certain firearms, related components, and ammunition controlled on the Commerce Control List, Supp. No. 1 to part 774 of the Export Administration Regulations, 15 CFR parts 730-774 (EAR), specifically, the following four Export Control Classification Numbers (ECCNs): ECCN 0A501, ECCN 0A502, ECCN 0A504, and ECCN 0A505, that are destined for non-governmental end users worldwide apart from those located in Ukraine, Israel, or a country in Country Group A:1 (Wassenaar Arrangement Participating States), Supp. No. 1 to part 740 of the EAR.


Why the Commerce Department needs to “pause” all new commercial export licenses (excepting those shipments headed to Ukraine, Israel, or NATO states) while it conducts this review is beyond me, though I suspect it has more to do with bullying the firearms industry than anything else. I do find it somewhat ironic that Biden is still willing to grant new export licenses for commercial arms shipped to war zones like Ukraine and Israel while he’s trying to prevent us here at home from fully exercising our Second Amendment rights, but maybe that’s just me.

It’s also important to note that the Commerce Department isn’t halting all existing export licenses, though its FAQ maintains “[d]uring this review period, the Department may take additional steps to further U.S. national security and foreign policy interests”, and that “BIS retains the authority to modify, suspend, or revoke licenses as appropriate.”

I can’t help but notice that the Frequently Asked Questions release doesn’t answer the most important question of all: Why is this “pause” necessary? Can’t the BIS conduct its assessment of “current firearm export control review policies” while the current system is in place, especially since the existing licenses are still valid? After the 90-day “pause” is complete, is the BIS going to immediately implement changes to the export licensing process, or will there be a period for public comment before any changes are finalized? And if that is the case, then why not just implement the “pause” during the comment period itself?


I reached out to the National Shooting Sports Foundation to get the organization’s take on the administration’s move, and the organization’s public affairs director Mark Oliva had this to say:

This move to “pause” firearm, ammunition and accessories exports is highly irregular. There are already end-to-end user checks as part of the verification process required by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security. In fact, the whole reason for the U.S. Munitions List to Commerce Control List reforms, that were completed by the Trump administration, was to ensure a higher fence around a smaller yard of those actual items that are considered defense-related articles. The Biden administration hasn’t offered any explanation for this, so it seems that the timing of this, in the wake of the White Office of Gun Violence Prevention meeting with gun control groups and lieutenant governors, seems suspiciously political. It is another instance the Biden administration doing all they can to disrupt the firearm industry and weaken the industry that provides the means for exercising Second Amendment rights.

Another instance, but hardly the last.


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