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War on Guns: Biden Commerce Dept. Will Make Small Arms Export Pause Permanent by Jim Shepherd

 Sources tell The Outdoor Wire that Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will announce the “pause” on government export licenses for firearms, components, and ammunition for “nongovernmental end users” will be permanent. The announcement could come as soon as tomorrow.

(Photo by Peerapon Boonyakiat / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

This morning, a briefing will be held by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) for “the Hill” regarding their interim rule regarding the “pause” on the issuance of new government licenses for firearms, related components and  ammunition for “nongovernmental end users.” 

The Outdoor Wire has learned the Commerce Department plans to make that “pause” on the issuance of new export licenses for firearms, related components and ammunition permanent.

That announcement, we’ve learned, could come as soon as tomorrow and “most definitely” by the first of next week.

More than a few United States Senators are  already less than thrilled at what they call yet another example of Biden administration bureaucratic overreach, but there’s little they can do at this point.

If Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo presses forward with the change and Congress can’t reverse it, the costs to the gun industry could be as much as $238 million in annual revenues. 

That’s a far cry from the $10 million dollar cost estimate Commerce reportedly has assigned to the change. That estimate, to be clear, would put it under the threshold requiring Congressional approval.

Like the original announcement of BIS’s 90-day pause, the timing of this status change appears to be based on the old “Friday news dump” theory. Bad news, or controversial decisions, are historically dropped late on Fridays, preferably in the spring and summer. 

The “pause” has already put a financial hurt on many smaller producers in the industry. One machine company in Tennessee has already closed, putting ten people out of work. Company owners attribute the business closure to the Biden “pause” that stopped a major contract for more than $6.5 million worth of components to a single gun company.

Other small companies nationwide are suffering significant losses. Larger companies haven’t commented, but the pause has essentially stopped more than a thousand export licenses.  

The “pause” began on October 27, 2023, when the Commerce Department announced a “temporary pause” on the issuance of new licenses involving firearms, related components and ammunition for “nongovernmental end users” in certain countries.

The pause by the Commerce Department’s  Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) was to last “approximately 90 days” and  allow  the department to assess current firearm export control review policies to determine whether any changes are warranted to advance U.S.  national security and foreign policy interests.”

In February, well past the 90-day pause window, Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) sent a letter to the Commerce Department. In it, they expressed a concern that while there was little evidence the pause on new export licenses improved U.S. national security, there was extensive evidence it harmed small and medium-sized American businesses.

Here’s what they concluded:

According to industry experts, the 90-day pause implemented by the Commerce Department is likely to cost American businesses hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

The Departments pause on issuing new export licenses for firearms comes at the very same time that the Department has loosened restrictions on exporting products controlled under the Chemical Weapons Convention and Missile Technology Control Regime. 

It is difficult, therefore, for us to conclude that the Commerce Departments pause on issuing new licenses is truly motivated by a desire to promote U.S. national security. […] Nevertheless, 90 days have now passed and the Commerce Departments pause remains in full effect.”

A fairly significant political “fingerprint” indicates the whole pause scheme was initiated by the White House’s newest gun control group, the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.   

Unable to pass gun control legislation, the current administration appears to have included anti-gun moves in their “whole of government approach” to getting their agenda implemented without approval from Congress.

By changing administrative language and rule interpretations (think the ATF’s “in the business” or firearm definition changes) they achieve immediate results.

Reversing those administrative decisions requires slogging through the court system. In the interim, the damage is done, harming those affected by the rules with no risk of penalty to the administrators.

According to the Senators, the pause appeared to be a  “concerted and deliberate attempt to punitively target the American firearms industry.” They urged the Commerce Department to lift the pause and “refrain from imposing any new regulations that would unduly harm countless small and medium sized businesses across the United States.”

The letter appears to have neither motivated nor intimidated the BIS. Seven months after announcing the 90-day pause, and more than a month since the Senators’ letter was sent, the pause remains in effect. Now, it appears Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is prepared to make it permanent. 

Sources tell us the Secretary is also “cleansing” the Department of longtime employees and administrators who have gone on record as opposing the scheme. Earlier this week, a whistleblower in Commerce tipped Senators to the impending change. Shortly afterwards, he was told to “start making plans for future employment.” 

The whistleblower also told members of Congress that Commerce Department employees involved in the BIS were “assembled” and told to “either get onboard or prepare to get out”  prior to the plan being announced as permanent.

Small companies that manufacture components for firearms companies have already been suffering under the “pause.” But that doesn’t appear to bother either the bureaucrats or Secretary Raimondo one whit.

A permanent ban on exporting civilian products by the firearms industry will have a serious impact, and it won’t only hit firearms or ammunition manufacturers. Companies that supply the industry with everything from raw goods to machined component parts will share in the discomfort and some won’t survive.

We have the BIS briefing covered and as always, we’ll keep you posted.

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