Saturday, October 28, 2023

U.S. Commerce Department Temporarily Halts Export Licenses for Civilian Firearms and Ammunition, Citing National Security Concerns

On Friday, the Commerce Department of the United States declared a temporary halt on the issuance of export licenses for a majority of civilian firearms and ammunition, including shotguns and optical sights, for a 90-day period, applicable to all non-governmental users. This decision was made with the intention of safeguarding national security and upholding foreign policy interests.

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The department has refrained from providing additional details about this interruption but has emphasized the necessity of conducting a prompt and thorough review. This evaluation aims to determine the potential risks associated with firearms being misdirected toward entities or activities that could potentially destabilize regions, infringe upon human rights, or contribute to criminal endeavors. The Commerce Department has chosen not to elaborate further on this matter beyond their online announcement.

According to Johanna Reeves, an attorney at Reeves & Dola in Washington specializing in export controls and firearms law, this suspension encompasses a large portion of firearms and ammunition that are available for purchase in U.S. gun stores. Reeves expressed that she has not witnessed such a comprehensive measure being taken by the Commerce Department in the past. "They have policies specific to individual countries – but nothing to this extent," she remarked.

However, it is important to note that export licenses for Ukraine, Israel, and certain other close allies will remain unaffected by this temporary suspension.

American firearm manufacturing companies such as Sturm Ruger & Co., Smith & Wesson Brands, and Vista Outdoor might experience repercussions as a result of this export prohibition. The clientele affected by this suspension predominantly consists of distributors and retail outlets dealing in firearms outside of the United States.

During this 90-day period, exporters are still permitted to submit their license applications; however, these applications will be "held without action" until the suspension is lifted. The Commerce Department has clarified that export licenses issued prior to the suspension will remain valid and unaffected.

In instances where shipments are intended for government clients, exporters are required to precisely identify the end users. Conversely, applications that fail to specify government, military, or police end users will be "returned without action."

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