Now Obama’s Targeting Gunsmiths

Improving the trigger and accuracy of a 70-year old, bolt-action, Mosin Nagantrifle, as I detailed in a recent article for FirearmsNews.com, would require registration under ITAR and payment of a $2250 fee.
Improving the trigger and accuracy of a 70-year old, bolt-action, Mosin Nagantrifle, as I detailed in a recent article for FirearmsNews.com, would require registration under ITAR and payment of a $2250 fee.
Jeff Knox
Jeff Knox

USA-(Ammoland.com)- The Obama administration has announced new regulatory guidelines that will drive thousands of small gunsmiths out of business. This reinterpretation of existing regulations lowers the bar for what constitutes “manufacturing” of firearms and will require that any gunsmith who performs any service more involved than simply cleaning or replacing old parts with functionally identical new parts register as a firearm manufacturer and pay a $2,250 annual registration fee.

Media reports about this bureaucratic sleight of hand, primarily in the gun press, have ranged from bad to cataclysmic, and many of the reports erroneously state that the new standards are part of an executive order from the president. It’s important to understand the real threat posed by this regulatory policy shift. Exaggeration and inaccuracy only serve to confuse the matter and will lead to concerns being dismissed as paranoid hype.

Here’s what is really happening, and how it will negatively impact gunsmiths and gun owners.

Licensing of firearms businesses was instituted under the Gun Control Act of 1968. Prior to that, there were no licensing requirements for firearm dealers or gunsmiths. After World War II, during the Cold War, various nations got together and began implementing structured agreements regarding the export of military hardware and technology that might serve to escalate conflict, foment war, or support international terrorism. Like gun control laws in the U.S., the stated rationale for the agreements was to keep weapons of war out of the hands of dangerous people; in this case revolutionary groups, tyrannical dictators, or governments engaged in territorial disputes. This effort culminated in the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, or AECA, and its accompanying regulations, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR, which all fall under the purview of the State Department – you know, that outfit Hillary Clinton used to head, which is now headed by famous war protester John Kerry.

When most people think of military arms control, they think of nuclear missiles, fighter jets, tanks and artillery, but the AECA and ITAR reach far beyond bombs and cannons. Almost anything that can be construed to be related to military activities or weaponry can be regulated under ITAR, including small arms, communications equipment and technical information on any relevant subject such as encryption technology. This broad and growing definition of “Arms” has generated confusion and frustration in a wide variety of areas. Since 1999 there has been a controversy raging over the State Department’s use of the AECA to assume control over U.S. satellite technology. Academics and the satellite industry argue that ITAR restrictions have seriously damaged the U.S. commercial satellite business and is harming academic advancement in a variety of fields by restricting who can participate in development, or even discussion, of various technology projects.

Defense Distributed Liberator Pistol
Defense Distributed Liberator Pistol

When the hardcore libertarian group Defense Distributed developed plans for printing a single-shot pistol and a functional action for an AR15-style rifle on 3D printers, it was ITAR that was used to pull those plans off of the Internet – even though plans and CNC machining programs for making the same parts the old-fashioned way have been in common circulation for decades. This led to a proposal that could have illegalized just about any technical discussion of firearms or other “Arms-related” subjects on the Internet or in periodicals that are sold in other countries. This could have impacted everyone from HAM radio buffs to computer programmers and all those people on YouTube who delve into electronics and model rockets.

Thankfully, the objections to that proposal were loud enough to cause the administration to back away from the plan, but now they are declaring their intention to treat even the most basic of gunsmithing tasks as protected AECA technology. Under these new guidelines, any gunsmith who does any work that “improves” the function or accuracy of a firearm is engaged in “manufacturing” and subject to ITAR. That means that threading a barrel or drilling holes for a scope mount – even just once – makes that gunsmith a manufacturer, required to register under ITAR, pay a minimum $2,250 registration fee annually, and be subject to prosecution and stiff fines for violating any of the myriad rules and regulations dealing with “export” of military technology.

From a practical standpoint, it is unlikely that government enforcers would go after a gunsmith who re-barrels a target rifle for a resident alien competitive shooter – which would be completely legal under federal gun laws, but a felony under ITAR because it would be considered an export, even if the guy never takes the gun out of the States – but they say they are going to demand that every gunsmith who performs this sort of work register under ITAR and pay the $2,250 fee. That’s a significant hit for a small business, especially considering that the business gets absolutely nothing in return except additional paperwork requirements and the threat of arrest and bankruptcy at the whim of a faceless bureaucrat if he doesn’t figure out and follow every ITAR rule.

Ayn Rand said: “The hallmark of authoritarian systems is the creation of innumerable, indecipherable laws. Such systems make everyone an un-indicted felon and allow for the exercise of arbitrary government power via selective prosecution.”

That is what we see in this expansion of ITAR, a government driving productive businesses into the ground and laying the groundwork to destroy those that remain.

Congress must address this injustice, but the only way they will act is if people stand in righteous outrage at this overreach of federal authority.

You can contact your members of Congress by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

  • 12 thoughts on “Now Obama’s Targeting Gunsmiths

    1. If this crap were to stand I would suggest all rifles come with no scope mounts. Then we get them drilled at our local gunsmith (who is now a manufacturer). As a manufacturer, he would then have to register the “manufactured” firearm on the appropriate form. If it can’t be re-registered he obviously didn’t manufacture anything. Mounds and mounds of duplicate previously registered serial numbers. Paperwork disaster. Or would you need a manufacturers serial number for each job done. Scope mounts, new barrel, trigger job, custom bolt carrier. I can see the side of my AR covered with roll stamps and serial numbers.

    2. ITAR only applies if you are going to export items. It does not mean EVERY manufacturer has to pay the export fee.
      I believe you might be misunderstanding this.

      1. There is obviously a covert reason for these EOs Denton. ObaMAO is attempting to “register” gunsmiths so that govt. will know who they all are and so they can be regulated. When one files the paperwork and pays this fee, he/she will go on a list. Another prong to this plan is that and he seeks to dissuade people from doing business as gunsmiths with this exorbitant yearly licensing fee. Ask yourself: How many small gun shops that employ a gunsmith engage in import and export? Not too many, if any. So the ITAR language is just to distract everyone from his true intent which is to identify who is a gunsmith so that govt. can regulate their activity and/or make it cost prohibitive for them to do their job. If these EOs are not invalidated, all they will accomplish is to drive the gunsmithing profession underground.

        1. Thanks for the reply.
          Hasn’t it been that if a gunsmith as much as refinishes a stock, then he is considered a manufacturer? It is my understanding that this is the case. I also understand that the ITAR requirement can be confusing, and many have erroneously thought they were required to pay the export fee.

          What I am trying to find is what would be the smoking gun in this; has the regulation changed to where a manufacturer is assumed to be an exporter and therefore must pay the $2,250/year?

          1. As I understand this, if you’re just replace factory parts, with no alteration to those parts, you won’t be required to get this license. But if you do anything to make a firearm better, what a gunsmith does, you’ll have to. Since aftermarket parts require fitting in most cases, touch a sear or hammer with a file or stone and you’re a manufacturer. Glass bed a stock to make a rifle shoot more accurately and you’re a manufacturer. Drill holes in the top of a receiver to mount a picatinny rail or scope base and you’re a manufacturer. As I said though, import/export are out of the realm of most local gun stores/gunsmiths, but other aspects of it will increase the price of the parts they buy because the manufacturers of those parts, big or small, will be required to pay this unconstitutional fee. As far as refinishing a stock goes, in my experience, that has never been considered manufacturing. I believe one reason that this BRAVO SIERRA has come about is to regulate the popularity of the 80% firearms market. Un-prohibited people are allowed to build their own personal firearms. Firearms the government know nothing about with no serial numbers. The problem is that most people usually need a gunsmith to help them with the machining and/or drilling of the lower receiver and then after the assembly of the firearm, the checking of the headspace to make sure the firearm is safe to fire. Gunsmiths get paid for their time usually under the table for this. I believe that regulating or jailing them is Obozo’s goal.

            1. Gunsmiths are already licensed; it is a matter of whether one is “manufacturing.” Even chapter 7 states there is no clear definition of “manufacturing” and from what I have been told by FFL holders who are members of closed FFL boards, ATF has chastised gunsmiths for doing something as simple as refinishing a customer’s wood stock even though chapter 7 indicates it isn’t manufacturing unless the gunsmith is doing it to resell the weapon.
              Confusing,huh?
              All that aside, ITAR doesn’t apply unless one is planning on exporting products. Who is responsible for paying the additional fee is a bit confusing, but it only applies to those exporting. That is the regulation and is how it is understood by the ATF. What I have been asking is why Mr. Knox wrote this as if gunsmiths would now be required to pay the $2,250 ITAR fee. I figured I was missing something. If being deemed a “manufacturer” is all it is, I doubt that nominal fee is going to run anyone out of the field.

    3. We need to examine this illegal dictatorial edict as to its constitutionality. I’ve yet to read or hear anyone do this so I did it myself. Article VI, Clause 2 (the supremacy clause) directs that the U.S. Constitution is the “supreme law” of this republic. Furthermore, the SCOTUS confirmed that fact in the landmark decision Marbury v. Madison: 5 US 137, when Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that ‘No provision of the Constitution is designed to be without effect and that ANYTHING that is in conflict with its guarantees is null and void of law.’ And being that these regulations are derived from “executive orders” (Presidential fiat) and did not originate in and were not passed by congress, they are violations of Article I, Sec. 1 which states that congress is where the legislative powers reside, they are therefore not binding law. Furthermore, since it goes without saying that Americans have the “right” to make a living in the “lawful” fields of their choice and until, if ever, guns are made unlawful, repairing them will remain a lawful activity. Now that we have determined that we have the right to earn a living (or even just extra money) in the lawful profession of our choice, we must now determine if the government has the lawful ability to “chill” that right. To answer that we need only review other SCOTUS decisions. In Murdock v. Pennsylvania: 319 US 105, the SCOTUS ruled that ‘A state (or the federal govt.) may not convert a secured right into a privilege (government authorized) and impose a charge (licensing fee) in order for the people to exercise that right.’ What’s more, in Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham, AL, the SCOTUS went even further and ruled that ‘If the state (or federal government) does convert a right into a privilege and require a license and fee, then we can ignore the license and fee and exercise that right with impunity.’ And if you were to choose to ignore these unconstitutional edicts, they can do nothing about it because United States v. Bishop: 412 US 346 clearly states that for anyone to be guilty of a “criminal violation”, that he/she must exhibit “willful intent”. Willfulness is defined as: “An evil motive or intent to avoid a known duty or task under a law, with a moral certainty.” And since we are simply following what we know to be the “supreme law” and the SCOTUS’ interpretations of it, no court can convict us for not complying with these unconstitutional edicts (executive orders). Study your Constitution my friends!

    4. We can’t be rid of this punk soon enough, he has done to the whole country the same injustices that the BLM punks have done to individual cities. A vote for Hildebitch Clinton promises a continuation of Obamathug’s policies.

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