December 12th, 2017

Possible Progress on ITAR Regulation of Gunsmiths

ITAR Department of State Rule Change

If you are a gunsmith, or do any machine works on firearms, you need to know about ITAR, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations which are enforced through the U.S. Department of State (DOS). ITAR applies to companies that create sophisticated weapons systems. However, under DOS interpretations in recent years, ITAR may also apply to persons and businesses that do simple, basic gunsmithing tasks. That could require filling out lots of paperwork, and paying the Fed’s hefty fees, starting at $2250 per year. A Guidance Statement issued by the DOS Directorate of Defense Trade Counsels (DDTC) in July, 2016 (under the Obama Administration) gave rise to serious concerns that DOS was going to require every gunsmith to register under ITAR, under threat of massive fines and penalties. READ About DDTC ITAR Guidance.

Thankfully, it appears that the Trump Administration is working to narrow the scope of ITAR so that it would NOT apply to basic gunsmithing activities, and not apply to common gun accessories that are not exported. IMPORTANT: Changes have NOT been made yet, but it appears the Feds are heading in the right direction, with the DOS willing to modify its definition of “manufacturing” so ITAR would not embrace basic gunsmithing tasks such as threading a muzzle.

The Gun Collective reports that: “The Directorate of Defense Trade Counsels (DDTC) is working on revising the ITAR regulations which will help the gun industry[.] Gunsmiths having to pay hefty fees, register and comply with ITAR may no longer be a problem if this goes through as planned. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait for Congress to take action, but rather an agency, which appears to be taking initiative to get it done. As always, time will tell, so be sure to keep your eye on the Federal Register….”

While nothing has happened yet, it appears that this administration is working to revise ITAR. For members of the firearms industry, this is a big deal and will be beneficial to all. There is no reason that a gunsmith should be required to register and comply with ITAR to simply thread a muzzle. It will also allow companies to more easily export their products around the world. (Source: The Gun Collective)

The Gun Collective further noted that: “The topic that will be of the most interest to us would be the definition of manufacturing[.] You may remember DDTC’s July 2016 letter, which issued “Guidance” as to who would have to register under ITAR [and suggested] that now gunsmiths would have to register as well. The definition of manufacturing is an important one to define and one that had broad ranging implications as the industries covered under ITAR are wide ranging, everything from the firearms industry to airplanes and missiles. The Guidance stated that ITAR registration was required for gunsmiths who machined or cut firearms, such as the threading of muzzles or muzzle brake installation which required machining. At a hefty $2,250 a year to register, ignoring all of the other things that go along with ITAR, it is easy to see why this would be problematic for most small businesses.”

AECA DDTC Federal export manufacturer registration requirement criminal sanctions Annual fee NRA-ILA

Here is the key language in the DDTC’s “ITAR Registration Requirements – Consolidated Guidance” Ruling of 7/22/2016:

2. Registration Required – Manufacturing: In response to questions from persons engaged in the business of gunsmithing, DDTC has found in specific cases that ITAR registration is required because the following activities meet the ordinary, contemporary, common meaning of “manufacturing” and, therefore, constitute “manufacturing” for ITAR purposes:

a) Use of any special tooling or equipment upgrading in order to improve the capability of assembled or repaired firearms;

b) Modifications to a firearm that change round capacity;

c) The production of firearm parts (including, but not limited to, barrels, stocks, cylinders, breech mechanisms, triggers, silencers, or suppressors);

d) The systemized production of ammunition, including the automated loading or reloading of ammunition;

e) The machining or cutting of firearms, e.g., threading of muzzles or muzzle brake installation requiring machining, that results in an enhanced capability;

f) Rechambering firearms through machining, cutting, or drilling;

g) Chambering, cutting, or threading barrel blanks; and

h) Blueprinting firearms by machining the barrel.

Resources for ITAR Issues:

1. Proposed ITAR Revisions to Definitions of Defense Services and Technical Data LINK
2. DDTC 2016 ITAR Registration Guidance Letter LINK
3. Export Control Reform Act of 2016 LINK

Legal Brief ITAR Episode (August 2016):

Attribution: and under Creative Commons license.

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