Last month, I reported that the Obama Administration was resisting a bipartisan push to make it easier for U.S. firearms manufacturers to export. But now, that pressure has produced results.
First, a bit of background. The administration is reforming the U.S. Munitions List (USML), which sets out what defense items are subject to the stringent export control rules of the Arms Export Control Act. The principle behind the reform is sensible: Build higher walls around fewer items, and stop burdening American business if American security isn’t at risk.
So far, the administration has fully revised 15 of the 21 U.S. Munitions List categories. But it’s made no public progress on categories one through three, which cover firearms, artillery, and ammunition.
Informed observers have long hoped the Administration would get a move on. Indeed, in 2012, the National Shooting Sports Foundation expected the revisions would be out soon. By 2014, though, Jeff Grody of Orchid Advisors, which provides compliance advice to the firearms industry, noted that the reforms were “stalled due to the sensitivity of gun control issues,” even though export control reform actually has nothing to do with domestic gun control.
But the National Shooting Sports Foundation continued to make International Traffic in Arms Regulation revisions a priority, and lawmakers began to weigh in: In mid-October, Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., urged Secretary of State John Kerry to act.
In mid-November, six Democratic senators, led by Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., followed up. Then, in December, the House, led by Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., spoke up.
Today, Kelly tweeted out the administration’s response to his letter, in which the State Department promises that it is “committed to finalizing an initial review of the entire U.S. Munitions List in 2016.” That includes firearms. In reply, Kelly pledges to “hold them to” that promise.
Of course, “in 2016” includes December, i.e. after the election, and an “initial review” isn’t the end of the process. And as Kelly implies, promises are one thing, but deeds are another. Still, the administration’s promise is a step forward. Congratulations to National Shooting Sports Foundation and the bipartisan coalition that made it happen.
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