The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) is warning gun owners about an Obama State Department move to censor online speech related to firearms— including forums, videos, and blogs like the Shooter’s Log. Gunsmiths, manufacturers, reloaders, and do-it-yourselfers could all find themselves muzzled under the proposed State Department rule and would be unable to distribute or obtain technical information on and about firearms without a license.
The State Department claims to be “clarifying” the rules concerning technical firearms data posted online or otherwise released into the public domain in the June 3 issue of the Federal Register.
With the new proposal that begins on page 31525 of Vol. 80 No. 106 of the Federal Register, the State Department would have oversight over releases of “technical data” about defense articles, including, “detailed design, development, production or manufacturing information” about firearms or ammunition. Specific examples of technical data are blueprints, drawings, photographs, plans, instructions or documentation.
How does the State Department claim this authority?
As an NRA-ILA statement explained, “For the past several years, the Administration has been pursuing a large-scale overhaul of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which implement the federal Arms Export Control Act (AECA). The Act regulates the movement of so-called ‘defense articles’ and ‘defense services’ in and out of the United States. These articles and services are enumerated in a multi-part ‘U.S. Munitions List,’ which covers everything from firearms and ammunition (and related accessories) to strategic bombers.
“The transnational movement of any defense article or service on the Munitions List presumptively requires a license from the State Department. Producers of such articles and services, moreover, must register with the U.S. Government and pay a hefty fee for doing so.” Penalties for violations are severe and for each violation could include up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. Civil penalties can also be assessed. Each unauthorized “export,” including to subsequent countries or foreign nationals, is also treated as a separate violation.
The regulations regarding export of “defense articles” were originally promulgated in the days before the Internet. Some State Department officials now insist that anything published online in a generally accessible location has essentially been “exported,” as it would be accessible to foreign nationals both in the U.S. and overseas.
Also, in an attached regulatory analysis and notice in the Federal Register, the State Department “is of the opinion that its proposed rule is exempt from the rulemaking provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act,” which require disclosure under specified procedures. But the department is “publishing this rule with a 60-day provision for public comment and without prejudice to its determination that controlling the import and export of defense services is a foreign affairs function.” Public comment will be accepted on the proposed regulation until August 3, 2015. Comments may be submitted online at regulations.gov or via e-mail at DDTCPublicComments@state.gov with the subject line, ‘‘ITAR Amendment—Revisions to Definitions; Data Transmission and Storage.” Read More
Do you think this proposed rule is another backdoor attempt at curtailing gun freedoms, like the MX855 ammo ban? Or is NRA-ILA overreacting? Let us hear your opinions in the comments section below.