Big Government: It’s the Little Things

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As I have mentioned on Facebook, I have applied for a manufacturing FFL, and have several products that I would like to offer that fall under the ATF’s definition of “manufacturing.” This definition is expansive, covering ANY modification to a firearm that is completed on that firearm while in the possession of the FFL before delivery to the customer. Thus, if a dealer were to purchase (legally) a stripped AR receiver, already marked and serialized by the original manufacturer, and build a rifle on that receiver (using parts that are NOT controlled by the ATF and can be simply mail-ordered), that dealer is violating federal law as the ATF understands it. A manufacturing FFL is required despite the fact that the receiver, which is the actual “firearm,” has ALREADY been manufactured and recorded in the maker’s bound book.

So the ATF is being overzealous the definition of “manufacturing” here, but that’s actually not too big of a deal, because a manufacturing FFL is only $150 for 3 years, and also serves to authorize one to be a dealer.

Anyway…it came out in my research that all “manufacturers” of “defense articles” are expected to register with the State Department under the Arms Export Control Act. And guess what? Firearms are “defense articles.” That is hardly surprising—guns are a pretty basic part of military life, and we probably don’t want people sending thousands of rifles over to ISIS (not that they need it with all the US-funded armor and artillery they’ve captured, but anyway…), but if you never export so much as a single mag catch, why do you register? Well, apparently you do. And there is a fee involved. Of $2,250. For people who don’t export a damn thing.

So if you run a gun store, and you want to stick a Glock in the case with night sights that you put on…pay State two grand. Yes, really.

It gets worse. Suppose you don’t want the hassle of and FFL, but you have some experience forging aluminum, so you start offering 80% receivers (or as the ATF calls them, “receiver blanks”) for ARs or 1911s or even 10/22s. Well, guess what? Partially machined bodies and forgings are considered “defense articles,” too—hope you’ve paid up, because failing to register is a felony!

Are you an NRA-certified instructor? No, you’re a provider of “defense services.” Hope you registered. Have you shared your favorite load formulas on a gun forum? Or (heaven forfend) published a loading manual? Yikes, that’s “technical data” regarding “significant military equipment”! And guess what—since it can be viewed overseas, not only have you failed to register, you’ve exported without a license! FELON!!!

Lest you think I’m making any of this up, read a few links:

22 U.S.C. § 2278 (requiring registration of manufacturers and providers of defense services)

22 C.F.R 120.1 I(a) and (i), and III (U.S. Munitions List: defining ordinary firearms and ammunition as “significant military equipment,” and technical data and training related to firearms as controlled)

22 C.F.R 120.10 (Defining “forgings, castings, and machined bodies recognizable as intended for defense articles as controlled)

22 C.F.R. 120.8 (Defining “parts” and “components,” which are controlled by the USML).

This is big government at work. Almost everyone who is active in the gun community is required on pain of imprisonment to register with the State Department export control department at great expense—even though almost none of us will ever export anything. And small business that is struggling to grow and bring new ideas to market—has a fat expense slapped on it for no particular reason.

Most of us don’t want to sell guns to felons, or heat-seeking missiles to the Soviets, or whatever. But this is ludicrous.

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