Work on my aluminum 1911 is currently at a standstill. Why?
Well, the State Department’s ITAR regs (based on the Arms Export Control Act) requires all manufacturers of “defense articles” (which includes most guns) to register at the astonishing cost of $2,250 annually. Note that a manufacturing FFL costs only $150 for THREE YEARS. Why is the State Department involved at all? Well, they issue export licenses, so that hopefully nobody will be exporting guns and missiles to ISIS or Iran. Which is all well and good, except that…I DON’T EXPORT ANYTHING! So why the outrageous fee merely to put a company name on a list which will never export and requires nothing from the export control people?
That’s a serious question. You can register as a customer at this very website at no cost–and it requires about the same amount of information that export compliance registration requires. It costs them nearly nothing to put a name and address on a list. But they charge so much that, realistically, I’d have to sell 20 guns at wholesale just pay their fee–assuming that those 20 guns sold with no marketing costs whatsoever.
I am trying to get them to call me back (3 weeks and counting) and I have asked my Congressional reps for help (we’ll see if that works) but as a last resort, I may sue on several legal theories: 1) because the AECA is predicated on Congress’ foreign commerce power, it can’t reach a purely domestic company, 2) the delegation of the fee-setting power to State without any constraints or guidelines is excessive delegation and void, and 3) that the fee impairs the right to keep and bear arms by being unreasonably high and not rationally related to the (admittedly legitimate) government purpose of preventing the sale of guns to terrorists. Will any of these win? I don’t know. But I can’t afford it otherwise, so I rather hope so.
You know who else is required to register? Your favorite 80% frames maker. Yep, they don’t need FFLs, but they’re making precursor parts, so State wants them to pay. Plus makers of all manner of gun parts (barrels, trigger mechanisms), accessories, and ammunition. There are a lot of non-compliant companies out there, I’m guessing, and that means that a hostile administration can make our lives miserable and attack the Second Amendment without any new laws at all. All they need to do is crank that fee up even higher and then start enforcing it. Unfortunately I don’t think organizations like the NSSF much care, because most of their members are large companies who DO engage in exporting–so they pay the fee cheerfully. Small business, meanwhile, gets squished.
If I sue, I may ask for your donations to help pay for it and keep the lights on while I focus on the lawsuit instead of churning out more products for you. It’s a huge waste of my time but a win would mean the Feds have one less tool to attack our rights with, so it would be worth it.
I’ll keep you posted on what happens.