Bill to protect gunsmiths from new regulations introduced

A bipartisan group of lawmakers have debuted a proposal that would transfer export oversight for most gunsmiths from the State Department in an effort to curb a possible $2,250 annual fee to stay in operation.

The bicameral bill, introduced on Sept. 27 by lawmakers that include two Texas Democrats as House sponsors, would transfer regulatory responsibility on the export of non-military firearms to the U.S. Department of Commerce and comes in response to a change by the State Department that could force even hobbyist gunsmiths to register and pay a hefty annual fee to stay in operation.

“The Obama administration is continually making attempts at restricting the rights of law-abiding Americans to own guns,” said Senate sponsor Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., in a statement. “This unduly targets gunsmiths, most of whom make little to no income and simply do it for the love of the trade, or are small business owners who will be negatively impacted by this burdensome cost. This bill protects both our Second Amendment rights and our small businesses from government overreach.”

Daines’ bill, the Export Control Reform Act of 2016, filed as S.3405, moves export licensing control, oversight and enforcement for commercial and sporting firearms and related items from the State Department to the Department of Commerce. Commerce already licenses the export of shotguns and shot shells. Supporters of the measure argue this would allow non-military small arms to be regulated like any other commercial business.

On July 22, the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls issued new guidance for firearm manufacturers and gunsmiths to register as exporters under the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and pay an annual $2,250 fee — even if they had no intention of exporting. This included companies and individuals who performed minor machine work on firearms such as threading barrels, magazine modifications and rechambering.

Lawmakers, Second Amendment groups and firearms industry trade representatives argued that the move was unnecessary and unfairly targets hobbyists and small businesses while listing a range of activities that do not require a Federal Firearms License to perform.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation holds the time is now to step in and halt the change.

“Because the administration has not moved forward and gunsmiths are now being affected by the State Department’s recent guidance, it is time for the Congress to move forward with legislation to reduce unneeded and burdensome regulation while improving our global competitiveness, enhancing job creation and protecting our national security,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel.

The measure has been referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. The House companion is expected to be introduced this week. Although the 114th Congress is set to expire in just a few months, nearly 150 lawmakers sent letters to the administration in August blasting the new guidance.