I spent some time investigating ITAR in regards to the files for 3-D printing of weapons. It’s interesting stuff. The implications are huge.
I am not a lawyer although one or more of my sources for this post are. But none claim expertise in this area because it is such a specialized field. One source did claim “I know something about this”. The following may be a too broad interpretation of the law and the legal experts in the field will have to give us a more factual read.
The U.S. Department of State Directorate of Defense Trade Controls is the agency we have concerns about. Their mission is stated as:
The U.S. Government views the sale, export, and re-transfer of defense articles and defense services as an integral part of safeguarding U.S. national security and furthering U.S. foreign policy objectives. The Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), in accordance with 22 U.S.C. 2778-2780 of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) (22 CFR Parts 120-130), is charged with controlling the export and temporary import of defense articles and defense services covered by the United States Munitions List (USML).
The documents of particular interest in figuring out the implications appear to be these two:
- SUBCHAPTER M—INTERNATIONAL TRAFFIC IN ARMS REGULATIONS: PART 120—PURPOSE AND DEFINITIONS
- Title 22: Foreign Relations: PART 121—THE UNITED STATES MUNITIONS LIST
One of my sources ran up against ITAR due to being an NRA Firearms instructor. The NRA recently sent out a notice to instructors telling them not to provide training to foreign students. This is because, according to the first document above:
§ 120.9 Defense service.
(a) Defense service means:
(1) The furnishing of assistance (including
training) to foreign persons,
whether in the United States or abroad
in the design, development, engineering,
manufacture, production, assembly,
testing, repair, maintenance,
modification, operation, demilitarization,
destruction, processing or use of
(2) The furnishing to foreign persons
of any technical data controlled under
this subchapter (see § 120.10), whether
in the United States or abroad; or
(3) Military training of foreign units
and forces, regular and irregular, including
formal or informal instruction
of foreign persons in the United States
or abroad or by correspondence
courses, technical, educational, or information
publications and media of
all kinds, training aid, orientation,
training exercise, and military advice.
(See also § 124.1.)
In the last few months the Department of State is taking a much broader interpretation of this and other sections of U.S. code and applying it to gun owners, manufacturers, and instructors. There are two hypotheses for the change. One is that John Kerry is driving the change. The other is that is part of what Obama was talking about when he said he was working on gun control “under the radar”. The failure to get any gun control through Congress could have inflamed him enough that he sent out the word to find ways to punish us for our success in blocking him.
The law was intended to apply to people selling and providing real militarily useful products and training to our Cold War enemies. Things like night vision equipment and training on tank warfare or repairing high performance jet engines were valid things to be concerned about. And even though rifles that were particularly well suited for winning NRA High Power competition and training for doing better at USPSA matches could have military application the people at the Department of State ignored that. They were concerned with the nation states of the world that declared us their enemies rather than the “right-wing NRA domestic terrorists” who taught Home Firearm Safety classes a few times a year.
The law was written before the Internet and personal computers existed and some of the concepts that made sense then are absurd now. In the mid ‘90s we had the battle over encryption technology being declared an export restricted munitions. This was ultimately decided in favor of freedom under the First Amendment (the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Bernstein case and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Junger case). I don’t see why the present issue wouldn’t fall under the same protection and it might. But being right and being able to fight it to the end in court are two different things.
My sources seem to think the biggest concern is that all firearms instructors, “Mom and Pop” FFLs, and of course libertarian college students with a mischievous streak (borrowing and mangling a phrase from Paul Barrett) will be required to pay the $2000+/year license fees to register with the Department of State. This would be even though there was no technology, products, or training being exported. Just that you’re “in the business” could make you subject to the restrictions and require that you register with the Department of State and pay the annual fee. The government wouldn’t have to directly “stop the signal” in it’s entirety. There a million different signals and they only have to make examples of a few people and most others would want to avoid the hassle and “would lead more compliant lifestyles”. There is very little profit to be made in being a martyr for the cause. The 3-D printer issue could just be noise and a distraction to a much bigger concern.
Ultimately the courts and Congress can probably get most of this straightened out on the side of freedom. If they don’t freedom will be lost to faceless bureaucrats not “blue helmeted elk” that you can shoot at as they go door-to-door confiscating your guns.
In the mean time an enraged narcissist who didn’t get his way with the legislature could conceivably apply the regulations to people posting YouTube videos on how to grip your pistol.