Unable to get any movement at the federal level on laws that infringe the Second Amendment, the Obama Administration is going after one of the cornerstones of the firearms industry: the gunsmith.
According to this story from dailycaller.com, gunsmiths across the United States were blindsided by a new executive order from President Barack Obama that would make their trade qualify as “manufacturing” and therefore eligible to “all the mandated regulations and fees that go along with that classification.”
The story says Obama signed the order on July 22, just as the Democratic National Convention was beginning. The order conveys regulation clarifications and interpretations to the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), which is primarily in charge of managing the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), and establishing its rules, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).
With us so far?
The DDTC now names commercial gunsmiths as “manufacturers” for relatively simple tasks as threading a barrel or duplicating a small custom part of an older firearm, the story says. Under the AECA, anyone designated as a manufacturer has to register with the DDTC at a high personal cost or risk criminal penalties. Even drilling and tapping a receiver for a scope mount, just once, could make someone a “manufacturer,” according to this story fromammoland.com.
The Ammoland story says the annual registration fee for a firearm manufacturer is $2,250—perhaps not a big deal for a company that actually makes and sells firearms, but a big chunk of income for the average gunsmith.
“When you have expanded the definition of manufacturing to include enhancements and the function of the weapon, you are basically opening the door to everything you do would make you a manufacturer,” said Iowa gunsmith Mike Ware in the story.
The Ammoland story also says that reports saying this all started because of an executive action from the President are erroneous. This post from the NSSF seems to support that assertion.
Officially, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the DDTC issued “guidance” meant to clarify who is required under the AECA and the ITAR to register as a manufacturer of “defense articles,” which includes firearms and ammunition products. The law requires registration even if the manufacturer does not export and even if the manufacturer makes component parts.
“DDTC asserts that the guidance merely restates existing DDTC policy and interpretation of the AECA and ITAR manufacturer registration requirements.”
“Unfortunately, DDTC’s ‘guidance’ has created considerable and understandable confusion and concern among gunsmiths and gun owners. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) is reviewing the guidance and will send a letter of protest to DDTC expressing our strong opposition to the new ‘guidance,’ the scope of which clearly exceeds their statutory authority.
“The term ‘manufacture’ as used in the AECA and ITAR is its ordinary dictionary definition. Clearly, many of the activities DDTC claims require registration constitutes gun smithing and is not manufacturing under any reasonable dictionary definition of the term. DDTC’s position is similar to claiming an auto mechanic who fixes your car is a car manufacturer.”
“By their definition, loosely interpreted, you could say that you are a manufacturer,” Ware told the Daily Caller, noting that making any sort of adjustment that can even make a hunting rifle more accurate could put a gunsmith “in jeopardy of getting fined going to jail or having his livelihood pulled, because he is some sort of felon or lawbreaker today when he wasn’t yesterday.”
The Ammoland story says the new interpretation of regulations will put thousands of small gunsmiths out of business, and those that can afford the annual registration will be under constant threat of bankruptcy and criminal penalties if they violate any of the myriad ITAR rules, which are explained a bit more in the story.