Legislators Tell Biden to Stop the Anti-Gun Export ‘Pause’ Charade

US Department of Commerce
Courtesy Dept. of Commerce

It’s no surprise the Biden administration will go to great lengths to punish and pulverize the lawful and constitutionally protected firearm industry, including the millions of Americans who rely on the industry to exercise their Second Amendment rights. After all, the president started his campaign for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue by deeming the nearly 400,000 Americans who work in the firearm and ammunition business “the enemy.”

The latest White House ploy is not only impacting the firearm industry domestically, but also other countries that rely on America. The latest anti-gun gimmicks from the Biden administration present new national security concerns as well.

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) “paused” firearm exports to allow for a policy review to consider human rights, despite there already being strict end-to-end verifications and the ability for the State, Defense, and Commerce Departments to halt an export license if an end-user can’t be certified. A “pause” was unnecessary and unjustified because BIS is continually assessing export licensing policies. It can walk and chew gum at the same time. Allegedly.

The Biden administration’s BIS has drawn the ire of Congress because it’s expected BIS will make the export “pause” a permanent policy. “And furthermore, just in a broader issue, we are not selling U.S. arms in a vacuum. If we care about human rights… We want them buying from the United States where we do have appropriate oversight,” said U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) in a recent Congressional hearing.

The White House should heed his warning but signs seem to suggest they have turned a blind eye.

Pause and Effect

The White House’s stated goal of the initial 90-day pause was to “further assess current firearm export control review policies to determine whether any changes are warranted to advance U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.”

However, it’s clear the decision was made to appease gun control activists pushing the president to “do more” to combat “gun violence,” including criminal and narco-terrorist violence in countries beyond U.S. borders, including in Mexico. Besides, it isn’t lost on anyone in the firearm industry that it was the Biden administration that abandoned several billion dollars worth of arms in his botched and deadly Afghanistan withdrawal that ended up in the hands of the Taliban.

Since the decision was made on a late Friday afternoon with hardly any advance warning, members of Congress have made their opposition to the decision known, including how backwards the logic is.

“We don’t want countries buying from China, we don’t want countries buying from Russia,” Rep. Waltz said. “We want them buying from the United States where we do have appropriate oversight, but we cannot make it so bureaucratic, so slow, so difficult to even get a part, that eventually they buy – and we see this on the international market – where countries say, ‘You know what, I’m going to buy a lesser system, and the Chinese, the Russians, they’re not going to bother me about it at all.’”

In a letter to Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security Alan Estevez, U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R- Utah) addressed the initial stated goal for The White House’s edict.

Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security Alan Estevez
Courtesy NTD

“Over these past 90 days, however, our national security has not improved. In fact, it has rapidly deteriorated. Today, our country faces a situation where American servicemembers are subjected to a constant barrage of attacks from hostile terrorist groups, where our border is overwhelmed by an endless flow of illegal migrants, and where our defense supply base continues to be depleted at a shocking rate,” Sen. Lee wrote. “Of course, none of these threats to our national security were caused by the law-abiding Americans whose only ‘crime’ was to pursue a career in the firearms industry.”

Members of the House of Representatives and Senate offered bills to stop the administration from taking further action, including Sen. Lee, who was joined on his bill by colleagues Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wy.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.).

Minimal Impact Abroad, Large Impact at Home

The firearm export 90-day pause expired at the end of last month. It is suspected BIS will publish its interim final rule in the beginning of March with a public comment period. Regarding “national security concerns” abroad, the pause should reveal very little. Notably, all firearm and ammunition exports are – and always were – subject to both Defense and State Department review, and either can halt the export if there are security or human rights concerns. This was the case for many years before the announced pause and remains the case today. Firearm and ammunition license applications undergo a 100 percent end-user check by the BIS Office of Export Enforcement (OEE), regardless of how long an exporting company has been doing business with that customer, regardless of how many times the buyer was subjected to an end-user check and regardless of whether BIS has no derogatory information on that customer, even if the end-user was recently approved.  At present, no other commodity is subject to the same 100 percent check.

Further, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) reported that 11 percent – or 18,749 – firearms recovered at crime scenes in foreign nations were lawfully exported from the United States and later recovered between 2017-2021. That’s not the entire picture, though. NSSF pointed out in a White Paper that these firearms recovered at crime scenes in a foreign nation and traced represent less than one percent of the total – or 2,793,002 – firearms that were lawfully exported out of the United States between 2016 and 2020.

The problem isn’t the lack of safeguards around U.S. firearm exports. The problem is international firearm trafficking in foreign countries. The data clearly shows these traffickers are smuggling guns from other nations at a much higher rate.

At home, the impact has been significantly larger and immediately felt by U.S. companies and their employees. During a House committee hearing in December, Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) questioned Biden administration officials about the pause and anticipated domestic impacts.

“Firearm manufacturers have told me they were given no warning. Also, why were the firearms industry – why were they singled out in this issue?” Rep. Burchett asked.

“We look at regional stability issues and particularly in the Western hemisphere, we have gun violence issues that lead to regional instability,” Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration within BIS, Thea Rozman Kendler answered.

“But these people are in business, ma’am. And if you cut them off… governments can just print more money. These people can’t,” Congressman Burchett said.

Assistant Secretary Kendler admitted the pause is, in fact, having a negative impact on commerce licenses being sought.

“NATO license applications are still being processed. That’s about, frankly, 75 percent by value of our license applications that we continue to process,” she said.

In other words, Kendler admitted there was a change in policy that has reduced – by at least 25 percent – the number of commercial firearm export licenses by American firearm industry manufacturers. That’s a tremendous dent in the livelihoods of Americans making a living in the firearm industry.

Rinse and Repeat

The White House, it appears, isn’t satisfied with the now over 90 day-long pause from BIS and hinted at next steps. They also recently released a White House Memorandum titled, “National Security Memorandum on Safeguards and Accountability With Respect to Transferred Defense Articles and Defense Services.” The memo lays out The White House guidance on supplying U.S. allies and other countries “appropriate transfers of defense articles by the Department of State and the Department of Defense” to “advance United States foreign policy and national security objectives.”

“For these reasons, I am issuing this memorandum, which requires the Secretary of State to obtain certain credible and reliable written assurances from foreign governments receiving defense articles and, as appropriate, defense services, from the Departments of State and Defense, and requires the Secretaries of State and Defense to provide periodic congressional reports to enable meaningful oversight,” the president asserted.

Feedback from Capitol Hill was similar to what was heard following the BIS “pause” edict. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) led the charge.

“The Biden Administration’s new arms transfer policy demonstrates a pattern of shortsighted decisions that prioritize virtue signaling to political constituencies over the security needs of the United States and its allies. The burdensome reporting requirements will add layers of red tape and further slow the delivery of security assistance to our partners,” the senator stated. “Human rights have long-been a vital factor informing our security assistance decisions, as evidenced by the policies of the Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump Administrations. The Biden Administration’s new policy, however, misses the mark.”

The Biden administration placates partisan gun control activists instead of listening to the experts, following the data and protecting law-abiding Americans. American national security concerns have always been – and remain – a top priority to the hundreds of thousands of Americans working in the firearm industry who know there are numerous layers of security checks in place when American-made arms are delivered to countries abroad.

None of that matters to an administration bent on harassing hardworking Americans who not only provide for the means of millions of law-abiding Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights, but also provide the means for pro-Democracy friends abroad to battle against terrorists and tyranny.


Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

2 Responses

  1. An upcoming ruling in the SCotUS ‘Rahimi’ case that means only convicted violent felons have no 2A rights will mean *millions* of newly-eligible gun owners looking to buy them a gun or three.

    Or more. 🙂

    And the sounds of gnashing teeth, and the lamentation of their women will be sweet, sweet music to our ears…

  2. Exactly so, Geoff.

    More and more folk keep and bear arms.

    Maybe that will help us get back to being g a polite society….but I am not holding g my breath.

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