A new proposed regulation announced this week by the Department of State could alleviate the massive annual registration fee that has for years kept small gunsmiths and FFLs out of business.
The regulatory amendment would transfer defense articles to the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce if they are not inherently for military end use and are widely available in retail outlets. The change would remove the annual $2,250 fee required by the Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Control (DDTC), which the Obama administration imposed on gunsmiths who “manufacture” firearms and ammunition.
In 2012 the Obama administration stepped up enforcement of a regulation that required firearm and ammunition manufacturers to register with the DDTC under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Because they said that even small gunsmiths engage in activities that are regulated under the ITAR. Many of these small shops closed down because they couldn’t afford the annual registration fee along with compliance costs.
Now the Trump administration’s Department of State is looking to revise these regulations by transferring items currently listed in the United States Munitions List and controlled by the ITAR to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), which is controlled by the Department of Commerce. These items include non-automatic and semi-automatic firearms and ammunition, as well as their related parts and services. This is good news for gunsmiths because the Department of Commerce does not impose a registration requirement for the manufacture of controlled items and there is no annual fee.
Fully automatic weapons will remain under the ITAR, but so will suppressors, suppressor parts, and any related services. Magazines that have a capacity in excess of 50 rounds will also remain on the list, and companies that manufacture these accessories will be required to register under the ITAR.
The decision to retain these items in the USML seems to contradict the Department of State’s stated goal to “revise the U.S. Munitions List so that its scope is limited to those defense articles that provide the United States with a critical military or intelligence advantage or, in the case of weapons, are inherently for military end use.”
Suppressors and 50+ round magazines are not inherently for military use and are widely available in commercial retail stores throughout the United States. It is unclear why the Department of State would deregulate semi-automatic firearms but retain the burdensome registration fee for companies that manufacture suppressors and high-capacity magazines.
Interested parties may submit comments on the new regs by emailing: DDTCPublicComments@state.gov with the subject line, “ITAR Amendment – Categories I, II, and III.”