Commerce Announces Permanent ‘Pause’ on Firearm Exports

US Department of Commerce
Courtesy Dept. of Commerce

Later this morning, the Commerce Department will announce a new rule making their Bureau of Industry and Security’s alleged “90-day pause” to review current firearm export review policies permanent. The new rule will be effective on May 30 as “interim final” with a 60-day wind-down for existing licenses. A comment period will be provided to July 1, 2024.

The BIS’s 90-day pause (now in its sixth month) has already taken a toll on small companies supplying component parts to the rest of the industry. With today’s announcement, it appears the pause might more accurately be described as a BIS trial balloon.

The negative impact on American businesses wasn’t supposed to be the stated purpose of the pause, that was allegedly to assess policies and security issues. Yet in an administration that has declared the gun industry to be “the enemy,” the negative effects are probably seen as added benefits rather than an abandonment of the Commerce’s mission to champion the cause of U.S. commerce.

According to briefers Thea Kendler and Jim Golsen, changes under this new rule will: separate non-semi automatic weapons from automatic ones, include a new requirement for a license for all jurisdictions, include more rigorous standards for review, including ending presumption of approval for OAS states, extend denials to all countries with arms embargoes under ITAR, and change foreign policy factors for license determinations.

There will also be additional requirements for licenses, including a passport and national identity cards for individuals listed as end users, along with a reduction of license validity periods to one year.

While the briefing and announcement might have come as a surprise to people inside the beltway, it wasn’t unexpected news to anyone outside it. The administration has repeatedly taken unprecedented actions against gun makers, retailers and consumers. They remain undeterred by squawks of protest by Congress and have given the proverbial middle finger to the Supreme Court, finding “work-arounds” when rulings didn’t go their way.

For outside observers, the only unexpected portion of the announcement was that there would be a public comment period.

The sixty-day window should allow individuals and businesses to express their position on the BIS ruling, as well as the real and potential business impacts.

During the briefing, BIS was “unwilling” to provide any economic impact assessment. The industry estimates the potential impact at $258 million per year.

Numbers of those size are essentially meaningless to most of us. Throw in enough zeroes and numbers leave us numb. But the effects of the pause and the new rule aren’t just about import/export numbers, they’re also about real people’s lives and livelihood.

Speak with the Chamber of Commerce in Celina, Tennessee and they’ll give you numbers from a totally different perspective. One of the companies that couldn’t survive the pause was located there. Despite what was described as a “great plan, excellent equipment and skilled workers,” Outdoorsman Precision Manufacturing is out of business. In a town with only 1,400 residents, every job matters. Ten jobs lost is a potential calamity.

Washington doesn’t see the impact of their regulatory decisions, good or bad. Celina, like many other small towns doesn’t just see the impact, they live with it.

With major manufacturers like Barrett, Beretta, and Smith & Wesson located in Tennessee, there is considerable attention being paid to Commerce and its planned rule change. Despite the Department downplaying any impact of their 180-plus day “pause” on industry, the latest export numbers indicate there most certainly was a negative impact.

That 90-day pause has now exceeded two business quarters. The January, 2024 Firearms and Ammunition Export numbers from the NSSF show a decline of 38.6 percent for the handgun category, a two-plus percent drop in rifle exports and a 23 percent decrease in shotguns over 2023. Ammunition (other than shotgun cartridges) dropped 7.8 percent and shotgun ammunition decreased 14 percent.

Compare that with significant increases in exports of telescopic sights, binoculars and sound suppressors and there’s a spread that simply doesn’t jibe with any assertion of the new rule having a “limited impact.”

The impact is genuine. Claims to the contrary are not.

As always, we’ll keep you posted.

10 Responses

  1. Like the rest of Bidens ‘Marxist soci alist’ government today, we need to pause the Commerce Department and clean house.

  2. The right to self defense isn’t just a USA right, it belongs to all people world-wide without exception. To those ends, the world must be allowed to buy USA-produced weapons if they desire.

    The gun makers need to sue the living crap out of the US government to allow such sales, and we have a current US Supreme Court bench make-up able to see that happen.

    Let the lawsuits begin!

    1. there’s no fundamental human right to buy u.s. made guns.

      i don’t see anything in the commerce clause prohibiting this other than the fact that congress did not authorize the action.

      i agree there is a fundamental human right to self defense.

      a better argument against this is that it’s a war on small business and a war against american jobs and american manufacturing. that’s not, however, a legal argument that can be won in court.

      commerce clause might be the best legal attack on this. the legal issue will be whether congress delegated authority to the commerce department to take this action. probably congress did not.

  3. we also need more clarity on where these arms were going. i don’t believe it was individual buyers, but rather foreign governments and militaries.

  4. and i’m sorry for the impacted businesses but if these sales were going to shady governments that are not our allies (ie cartels) it’s good for the u.s. that we stop fueling them with weapons.

    1. Sure, but that isn’t why they’re doing this. The cartels love the Biden administration. The US has a long history of going out of it’s way to continually fund global conflict, including intentionally arming known extremists. Putin and Xi both support a Biden presidency over a Trump presidency. Those aren’t theories. They’re known, but rarely reported facts.

      Almost everything the Regime does is either punishing people/entities who aren’t supporting them, or rewarding people/entities who are supporting them. It isn’t like they’re holding a daily meeting to brainstorm how best to help Americans. The meetings are more like, “how do we spin this to hide what we’re doing?”

      1. Dude that’s the truth. Russia and China wanted hitlery and bidum over Trump. Yet the left screams Trump is a Russian agent. Accusing the other side of what they themselves are guilty of.

    2. They were not going to shady governments – the exported firearms could only be exported to the governments/countries approved by the U.S. Government. If those governments failed to keep the firearms out of the hands of bad actors that’s not the fault of U.S. gun manufacturers. Once that gun is received by/in the U.S. government ‘approved’ country/government it is not the fault of U.S. gun manufacturers as to what happens to it after that. For example, more than 40% of the firearms sold to the Mexican government, a U.S. government approved ‘government’ for U.S. gun manufacturers to sell to, more than 40% of those end up in cartel hands after the Mexican government receives them so is that the fault of U.S. gun manufacturers?

      For example, if you own a gun and don’t secure it and someone steals it is it the gun manufacturers fault? Of course not, once you took possession of that gun its security because your responsibility. Its the same thing.

      1. 40 I don’t know anymore look at the Hyundai/Kia disaster. Cars get stolen and the blame gets put on the manufacturer not the thrives. I know it’s not exactly the same but in this clown world we call our government what can I say

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