GOP Lawmakers Pen Letter to Stop ITAR Gun Control Targeting Gunsmiths

As GunsAmerica previously reported, last month, the State Department via the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) issued a new “guidance” that would ostensibly require machine shops, gun dealers and gunsmiths nationwide to register with ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) at a cost of $2,250 per year.

In response to that announcement, which many viewed as a backdoor way to put a financial squeeze on 2A businesses, pro-gun members of Congress penned a letter voicing their opposition.

“The vast majority of our constituents engaged in gunsmithing make little to no income from their activities and often do it as a hobby or side business,” reads the Senate version of the letter signed by Sens. Chuck Grassley, James Inhofe, Ted Cruz, John McCain, among 20 others.

“They most certainly do not export firearms.  They also do not manufacture firearms in any widely understood sense of the term,” the letter, dated Aug. 29, 2016, continues.  “Therefore, it makes no sense for them to be required to pay $2,250 and register under AECA and ITAR.”

As a reminder, ITAR requirements were created to prevent military firearms and firearm technology from being freely exported out of the United States.

In response to questions from persons engaged in the business of gunsmithing, DDTC has found in specific cases that ITAR registration is required because the following activities meet the ordinary, contemporary, common meaning of “manufacturing” and, therefore, constitute “manufacturing” for ITAR purposes:
a) Use of any special tooling or equipment upgrading in order to improve the capability of assembled or repaired firearms;
b) Modifications to a firearm that change round capacity;
c) The production of firearm parts (including, but not limited to, barrels, stocks, cylinders, breech mechanisms, triggers, silencers, or suppressors);
d) The systemized production of ammunition, including the automated loading or reloading of ammunition;
e) The machining or cutting of firearms, e.g., threading of muzzles or muzzle brake installation requiring machining, that results in an enhanced capability;
f) Rechambering firearms through machining, cutting, or drilling;
g) Chambering, cutting, or threading barrel blanks; and
h) Blueprinting firearms by machining the barrel.

The letter goes on to state that the last thing gunsmiths and machinists need “is an edict from the federal government imposing crippling fees and requirements which are wholly unnecessary and nonsensical.”

The new guidance was confusing in that it wasn’t exactly clear who would have to comply with the registration requirement.  Language within it seemed to carve out the following exemption, “traditional gunsmithing activities do not constitute manufacturing for ITAR purposes, and therefore, do not require registration.”

However, and as the lawmakers noted in the letter, the guidance also contained contradictory language that seemed to undermine that putative exemption.

“Specifically, as outlined, the activity threshold that necessitates a type 07 FFL (Federal Firearms Licensee-manufacturing) does not match up with the activities listed on page three of the guidance,” stated the lawmakers in the letter.

“That means that firearms dealers who engage in limited gunsmithing – activities that do not require a type 07 FFL – would still need to register with DDTC as manufacturers of a defense article listed on the United States Munitions List (USML),” it continued.

In the conclusion of the letter, the lawmakers requested that the regulatory responsibility of the USML be transferred from the State Department to the Department of Commerce which would effectively render the guidance null and void.  No word of yet as to whether the DDTC will relinquish control per the letter (Don’t hold your breath).

In the meantime, those concerned about the new guidance should contact the DDTC.  For that information as well as to see the regulations in full, check out the guidelines letter (.pdf).  Remember, failure to register under ITAR could result in a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $1 million, depending on the circumstances.

We’ll keep you posted as more news develops on this front.  For more context as to what exactly is going on here, check out this helpful video from The Gun Collective:

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Frank May 19, 2018, 12:59 pm

    We need no stink’n permission, remember the Alamo!

  • Don Richardson September 11, 2016, 7:29 pm

    This is it folks. Elect Trump or lose your guns. Tis that simple.
    I know that Trump is far from perfect (so are most of us), but he supports individual rights in most cases, and he supports the second amendment as an individual right.
    Hillary has promised that her first day in office she will start working to outlaw private citizens from owning guns. She doesn’t word it exactly that way, but pay attention, she has said it many ways, over and over. She says she will work on gun control every day that she is in office. And all she has to do is to appoint a liberal to the Supreme Court to replace Scalia, and the second amendment will be gone. It might take a while, but it is a 100% certainty as 4 of the judges have already voted that way on several cases. One more voting that way and it is all over for civilian gun ownership in this country.
    If you like Trump, great. If you don’t, but like the second amendment, the right to self-defense, you better bite the bullet and vote for Trump.

  • John W Miller September 10, 2016, 2:37 am

    It looks to me that the election of Billary will be the presidential election that will be held in America as we know it now. Bumbama has already destroyed the 1st and 3rd amendments, when she gets in she has already told us the first thing she will do is to go to work on the 2nd. After that the other 8 will fall like dominoes This election in 2015 is not for a candidate but for America. How anyone could ever remotely consider a chronic liar, a self centered woman who supports the greatest money laundering center in the world, the Clinton Foundation, is beyond all common sense in my book. Democrates are determined to see us as a socialist nation, just one step from communism. They accuse Trump to be buddy with Sputum ha ha, he may well be our next ruler. Not president, but the ruler, like Hitler, Stalin and the rest of the tyrants. I hope God will bless America, we are going to need it. God has been replaced by money and money is known to be the root of all evil.

  • DaveGinOly September 9, 2016, 8:51 pm

    “Language within it seemed to carve out the following exemption, ‘traditional gunsmithing activities do not constitute manufacturing for ITAR purposes, and therefore, do not require registration.’
    However, and as the lawmakers noted in the letter, the guidance also contained contradictory language that seemed to undermine that putative exemption.”

    The exemption rules language that might otherwise be interpreted to say otherwise. To view the situation in any other way (that the “contradictory language” overrides the exemption) would make the exemption useless and unnecessary, and it would therefore simply not appear. An “exemption” is a carve-out from the balance of the language and cannot be overridden by the very language it is meant to modify. That would be nonsensical. The only trap here is that the government can get into arguments with smiths over what constitutes “traditional gunsmithing activities.”

    • Fedup September 14, 2016, 8:42 am

      These scumbama minions don’t care what constitutes “traditional gunsmithing;” their intent is to kiss the king’s ass and obey him – “tax them out of business!”

  • Patriot September 9, 2016, 3:41 pm

    As usual with Obama, Clintons, Hillary and Billy and daughter Chelsea, Pelosi, Feinstein, Boxer, Schumer, Couric, Bloomberg, Soros who is the owner of Progressive insurance, Healey, Brown, Harry Reid, Dan Gross who is leader of the “Brady Bunch”, and others of the same ilk, all have something in common and it is the fact that all are ROTTEN TO THE CORE !!!! The main damn fool idiot objective is to try to make honest Americans defenseless, and that includes older people and older veterans, disabled people and even young healthy people that, when defenseless, would have a very small chance to defend themselves against a group of three robbers, rapists, and drug heads looking for money.

    The DDTC must be a shameless idiot Democrat organization to try to destroy the lives of gunsmiths and other good American people in the honest gun business. This shows how corrupt and biased the network news media is on liberal Democrat matters. Have you seen any objections to this DDTC idiot nonsense proposal by the network news media who supports Hillary and the gun control Democrats and DOES NOT SUPPORT AMERICAN FREEDOM? The truth of the matter is that the network news media will do or say anything to support all Democrats who want to destroy the Second Amendment and make Americans defenseless.

    The DDTC should completely abandon the idiot nonsense they have proposed and let Americans have the FREEDOM OF THE CONSTITUTION !!!!

  • James Walls September 9, 2016, 2:32 pm

    If i put a scope on for drilling 2 holes, i have to pay $2250.00.
    Totally insane, guess. I’ll have to move 2 China.

  • Bisley September 9, 2016, 2:07 pm

    It is the policy of this administration to end the public ownership of firearms. Since they don’t yet have the political power to just outlaw and confiscate everything, they do anything they can to make everything connected with ownership and use of firearms, their manufacture, distribution, importation, repair, etc., as well as ammunition, handloading and components, more expensive and more difficult through tax, regulation and licensing.

    This is only one thing out of hundreds that ATF is doing toward the eventual goal of disarming the public — and, if they aren’t stopped, they’ll get it done if it takes them a century to do it. ATF isn’t the only regulatory agency being used to impose political programs on us that could never get approved by Congress — EPA, DOT, OSHA and all the others are doing similar things in their particular areas. Unless Congress can be forced to revoke the authority they’ve given these regulatory agencies to write and enforce their own laws, we have a dictatorship — a president can use his control over the bureaucracy to force his political agenda on us without any input, or restraint from our elected representatives. Law is being made and enforced by unelected bureaucrats, responsible to no one, other than the president who appoints them — there is no one we can vote out of office to stop this. Regulatory agencies must be stripped of their power to make “rules” with the force of law — we don’t need government to micromanage every facet of our lives, businesses and property — this is tyranny.

    A letter isn’t going to stop this. They may back off temporarily, while the spotlight is on them, but they’ll sneak it back in (maybe in a slightly different form) later.

  • Michael Diedrich September 9, 2016, 12:53 pm

    ( c ) i cant remember or don’t recall,,, if hillary, i mean if i do any such type of repair

  • J. Dexter Smith September 9, 2016, 12:03 pm

    Well, if the ‘Crats and the goobermint is dead set on doing this, Congress should make the ATF subdivide the law to apply properly: those to repair and/or replace parts on a firearm or add to a weapon for legal enhancements, i.e., scopes, silencers, choke variations, original manufacturer’s stock variations without altering the weaponry in its original state should be called Gun Smiths; those who change the weapon’s original creation by changing a semi-automatic into a fully automatic, add rotating barrels to create a Gatling effect, add extra lengths to magazines to increase capacity, or otherwise recreate or change the intent of the original weaponry be classified as firearms machinists and have to pay said $2k+fee. Maybe charge those who qualify as Gun Smiths a $25 annual registration fee so that ATF inspectors can inspect their trade individually on an as needed basis or by complaint only basis.

    • Joe McHugh September 10, 2016, 10:32 pm

      J. Dexter Smith, you are falling into the trap that the anti-gun liberals continue to set. A “small” regulation here or an “insignificant” restriction there will be OK because it doesn’t take away our guns.

      The only answer that we, the people, should ever give when these infringements surface, is to say “Hell no!”
      The liberal politicians, and RINOs never stop seeking to make the Second Amendment a quaint artifact of the 18th century.
      The phrase “Give an inch and they take a mile.” comes to mind.

      We are the people and we control the government, not vice versa.

  • Opey September 9, 2016, 11:04 am

    One of many worries is that these guidelines are all left to interpretation by those not knowledgeable enough about firearm to interpret. To the uneducated what doesn’t increase capabilities of a firearm? One could argue that any task performed by a gunsmith increases capability. From rechambering to Ackley Improved to refinishing improve the firearms capability to do something from improved balistics to rust prevention.
    Why do we allow laws to change or be created without due process? Why are we allowing this and how much longer are we going to allow this unbridled oppression?

  • Ben September 9, 2016, 10:10 am

    I simply have one question. Is there anyone in this country that has asked for an “Advisory Opinion” and got a response of, “No, you don’t have to register.”?

  • NSK Sales Co September 9, 2016, 10:09 am

    I have both Type 1 and 6 FFL’s. and this executive order “ploy” virtually ends my gunsmithing and match ammunition business. Thank you Obama for putting my little retirement business, out of business! Way to stimulate the economy and helping all the small businesses person!

    • Rick September 9, 2016, 9:55 pm

      When my Field Agent came by last week from Springfield, MO for a visit, he told me if it went through, that anything I did much more intensive than to clean, Duracoat, or simple maintenance that changed or improved the Rifle, Shotgun, Pistol, or Revolvers function would fall under this idiotic move. If you read the exact wording of it, by simply putting a new Higher Capacity Magazine in a Pistol, you just improved its abilities. Hopefully sanity will return soon, or I will just buy and sell and close the garage shop up.

  • Caustic critic September 9, 2016, 10:09 am

    Can we attribute this “guidance” to anyone in particular? Obama or our favorite Vietnam vet/SOS or?

  • Ken September 9, 2016, 9:44 am

    Boy this is rich ….
    “As a reminder, ITAR requirements were created to prevent military firearms and firearm technology from being freely exported out of the United States.”

    With ALL of the military firearms that were unaccounted for that were left in country in our past two wars and they’re worried about Joe Blow’s gun shop on the corner of Freedom and UpYours.

  • John Taylor September 9, 2016, 9:03 am

    Forget gun and think about the “Legal Precedent”.
    An agency can without the required Public Comment period regulate an activity not normally under their authority (inter and intrastate commerce), require another agency (ATF) to enforce its regulations without prior coordination.

    Let that sink in. Now move 10-30 years forward and pick a subject: school lunch, gender identity, auto repair, health insurance, home improvement, ******therapy, etc all.

    You now have “Legal Precedent” for any agency, local, state or federal to regulate anything and require anyone to enforce it.

    Forget guns, save America.

    Out here!

  • Papa Bear September 9, 2016, 9:02 am

    Per ITAR and NFA, if you are making or modifying a weapon, ammunition, or other defense article, it is a new item different from what it was before you worked on it. If that item is never sold to the DoD, then it is not required to be on the defense munitions list. If that item (or plans for it) is never sent across a national boarder, then ITAR does not apply.

  • Raven33 September 9, 2016, 7:58 am

    “d) The systemized production of ammunition, including the automated loading or reloading of ammunition;”

    This one worries me. Sounds like anyone that does reloading. There is no mention of whether it is for personal use or resale.

  • Chief September 9, 2016, 7:57 am

    My local gunsmith said he is going to close shop because of this..I as well as several people in my family lost our Doctor because of Obamacare and with ,the debt ,food stamps ,isis on the rise etc. and people are actually going to vote for Clinton in favor of keeping this America destroying agenda going .Its mind blowing .

    • J. Dexter Smith September 9, 2016, 12:14 pm

      Conservatives, white, black, yellow, or red all need to meet via registered U.S. mail, and decide what country are we going to invade next to form a new nation, as the present one is in its final rotation before a complete flush. When there are NO MORE GOODIES to give away and NO ONE LEFT in this country to tax to get more goodies; then the mass killings and ethnic cleansing will begin.

      • Jon Arck September 10, 2016, 12:06 pm

        What about the Free State of Texas as the sanctuary of the Constitution?

  • DRAINO September 8, 2016, 8:44 am

    Just another ploy by “Da Man” to keep us Americans down….Like he has since 2008.

    Seems like yet another case of taxation without representation, to me. Same tactics Obama has been using since his crowning.

    So actually only 23 Republican senators signed the letter….because McCain doesn’t count as a republican.

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