The House of Representatives moved last week to block the Trump Administration from easing its small arms export policy. Right now, exporting small arms like Ruger 10/22 rifles is treated the same as F-35 fighters. The Trump Administration wants to change that.
Or, they say they do.
House votes to block Trump bid to ease small-arms exports
Legislation approved by the U.S. House of Representatives would block President Donald Trump’s plan to overhaul small-arms export policy to make it easier for gun makers to sell weapons like flamethrowers and grenades to foreign buyers.
The administration’s proposal would transfer regulation of some firearms exports to the Commerce Department from the State Department, which critics said would lessen oversight of such sales.
What are the changes the Trump administration is proposing?
As Reuters notes, they want to move oversight over small arms exports from the State Department to the Commerce department. The change would mean a lot of commercially available handguns and long guns would be removed from State’s list of tightly controlled exports.
The change would allow gun makers to sell many of the same guns that are sold to civilians in America overseas, without jumping through the same hoops required of Lockheed-Martin to sell Saudi Arabia state-of-the-art fighter jets.
The move to Commerce would also help America’s gunsmiths. Because of an Obama executive order redefining what constitutes a gun manufacturer, every gunsmith in the US has to pay a $2,250 tax under ITAR regulations. That burden would go away.
Fortunately, this latest House action has a long way to go before it will block implementation of these common-sense reforms.
The measure is several steps from becoming law. Now that the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-led Senate have both passed versions of the NDAA, they must come up with a compromise bill that must pass both chambers and be signed by Trump.
Obviously the export control reform would also help create jobs and increase business for American companies.
Back in May 2017, a bi-partisan group of legislators from both the House and the Senate sent letters to (then) Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross urging these changes to be made.
The final rule effecting the change was published in February. That started a 30-clock ticking that meant the change could have been made in March.
Apparently standing in the way of this is an apparatchik in the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). Sources tell TTAG that acting undersecretary Nazak Nikakhtar has been slow-walking the export control reforms, preventing the change from taking effect.
Why? We hear she’s worried about the imminent dangers of…3D-printed guns.
Never mind that 3D printed guns (or the plans for creating them) have nothing whatsoever to do with exporting currently available small arms made by American manufacturers. Or that the dissemination of 3D gun files is virtually un-controllable in a world with the Internet — even Facebook has reportedly lifted its ban on distributing 3D gun plans.
This un-necessary delay in implementing the change has given the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives an opportunity to try to block Trump’s effort to allow American companies to compete on a more level playing field.
Interestingly, Nikakhtar’s name hasn’t been forwarded to the Senate to schedule confirmation hearings when a number of others have. It could be that the administration knows she’ll face some uncomfortable questions about delaying the export reform that members on both sides have supported.
Hopefully President Trump or one of his advisors will let acting undersecretary Nikakhtar that the administration wants to see this go forward. Now.