New regulation weapons from State to Commerce Department control
March 10, 2020— Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, responded to a new Trump Administration regulation eroding oversight and regulations on the export of firearms and ammunition. This week, the new regulation takes effect, moving oversight of exports from the US State Department’s US Munitions List (USML) to the US Department of Commerce’s Control List (CCL), where the rules and procedures regarding these transactions are less stringent. Last week, more than 20 organizations, including Giffords, sent a letter to Congress urging them to block this new rule.
As written, the new regulation also impacts technical data for 3D-printed guns. After the regulation’s publication in the Federal Register, 22 states and the District of Columbia filed suit to keep the technical data for 3D-printed guns on the USML. On March 6, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington issued an injunction preventing the technical data and software for 3D-printed firearms from moving from the USML to the CCL. However, firearms, firearm parts, and ammunition will still be transferred to the CCL, subjecting sales to less scrutiny and making it easier for weapons to end up in the wrong hands.
Lindsay Nichols, Federal Policy Director at Giffords Law Center:
“The Trump Administration clearly favors giving the gun industry a windfall over concerns about national security and human rights. This decision is wrong and means that global human rights abusers, repressive forces, and terrorists are more likely to obtain deadly firearms. We are pleased that part of the new rule focused on 3D-printed guns has been blocked, but Congress should act quickly to reverse the entire regulation. Lawmakers must pass legislation to reinstate congressional oversight and ensure that the overseas sale of firearms and ammunition is properly scrutinized.”
Background on the Trump Administration Proposal
Presidents have traditionally exercised their authority to control the export of “defense articles,” including most firearms and ammunition, through the State Department. Past administrations have done so by including all handguns, rifles, and short-barreled shotguns, and certain kinds of ammunition on the US Munitions List (USML). The new regulation moves many of these weapons from the USML to the Commerce Department’s Commerce Control List (CCL). Besides physical guns themselves, the technical data regarding firearms—including the code for 3D printing guns—is currently on the USML. Posting this code online constitutes an export of that technical data.
By moving these items onto the CCL, the regulation reduces State Department and congressional oversight regarding gun exports, and eliminates protections that prevent exported firearms from falling into the hands of human rights abusers and international criminal organizations. Giffords is disappointed by this move to subject dangerous firearms, including military-style assault weapons, to this weaker set of export regulations.