This past week, the National Rifle Association (NRA) issued a red alert to members concerning President Barack Obama’s end-run plan around Congress to criminalize firearms-related Free Speech that should alarm every American not just gun owners.
According to the NRA, President Obama is quietly taking “Executive Action” – through the State Department – to censor online speech related to firearms.
The regulatory assault is hidden deep inside the “”Unified Agenda” of regulatory objectives” – an Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) list of 19 gun regulations President Obama has in the pipeline and wants etched in stone before he leaves office.
These rules will regulate everything from the way guns must be stored and microstamping firearms and accessories to restricting the God given right of every American to write or even talk to other people about firearm technology and specifications.
According to the NRA:
“…the Administration has been pursuing a large-scale overhaul of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which implements the federal Arms Export Control Act (AECA).”
The Act regulates the movement of so-called “defense articles” and “defense services” in and out of the United States.
These articles and services are enumerated in a multi-part “U.S. Munitions List,” which covers everything from firearms and ammunition (and related accessories) to strategic bombers.
The transnational movement of any defense article or service on the Munitions List presumptively requires a license from the State Department. Producers of such articles and services, moreover, must register with the U.S. Government and pay a hefty fee for doing so.”
That’s not all. The NRA says so-called “technical data” about defense articles regulated under ITAR includes but is not limited to:
“…detailed design, development, production or manufacturing information” about firearms or ammunition. Specific examples of technical data are blueprints, drawings, photographs, plans, instructions or documentation.
Currently, ITAR do not regulate technical data in the “public domain” meaning information that is already published, accessible or available to the public through libraries or other sources of public documents including websites.
But because ITAR was created in the days before the Internet, State Department officials appointed by President Obama claim that anything published online in a generally-accessible location has essentially been “exported” since it would be accessible to foreign nationals both here at home and overseas.
As a result, once the new rule becomes final, the State Department says it will have the power to clarify rules concerning “technical data” posted online or otherwise “released” into the “public domain.”
To put it another way, the new rule will give State Department bureaucrats the power to restraint free speech because all technical and specification releases related to firearms would require the “authorization” of the government before they could take place.
The NRA continues:
“The cumbersome and time-consuming process of obtaining such authorizations, moreover, would make online communication about certain technical aspects of firearms and ammunition essentially impossible.
Penalties for violations are severe and for each violation could include up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. Civil penalties can also be assessed. Each unauthorized “export,” including to subsequent countries or foreign nationals, is also treated as a separate violation.
Gunsmiths, manufacturers, reloaders, and do-it-yourselfers could all find themselves muzzled under the rule and unable to distribute or obtain the information they rely on to conduct these activities. Prior restraints of the sort contemplated by this regulation are among the most disfavored regulations of speech under First Amendment case law.”
Can anyone imagine what this would do to the gun industry if law-abiding Americans had to get permission from the government every time they wanted to talk with another person about the technology and specifications of firearms and ammo?
Would the government use its vague powers under ITAR to shut down gun shows? Would the government use the murky language of the regulation to make the NRA’s Annual Meetings and Exhibits an illegal event?
These are questions that freedom loving Americans need to ask themselves and their elected representatives while there is still time to stop the president’s wish list of 19 new ATF gun control regulations from becoming final.