Today is Deadline to Comment on ITAR Changes That Threaten 1st Amendment

   08.03.15

Today is Deadline to Comment on ITAR Changes That Threaten 1st Amendment

Today is the last day to comment on the proposed changes to the International Traffic In Arms Regulations (ITAR) rules that threaten to shut down gun blogs, firearms web forums, and firearms related YouTube channels.

The Federal Arms Control Export Act regulates the distribution of “defense articles” and “defense services” outside the United States. The “U.S. Munitions list” defines what items and services are included. In order to comply with the rules producers of these items must pay to register with the State Department and violators face possible Federal prosecution and heavy fines.

One of the most important items on the list is the restriction of the export of “technical data” on firearms and ammunition. While “technical data” includes “detailed design, development, production or manufacturing information” about firearms or ammunition, much of this info is currently NOT restricted because it is determined to be in the “public domain” as it is already “generally available to the public.”

This is what would change: The current proposal would essentially eliminate the “public domain” exception in practice by claiming that anything published on the internet is, in fact, “being exported” to foreign countries due to the world wide reach of the web.

As a practical matter the State Department is attempting to claim that ALL “technical data” on firearms and ammunition falls under the reach of ITAR and that anyone who publishes such information on the web is “exporting” restricted data and is in violation with all the penalties that entails.

The definition of “technical data” is so broad as to include firearms schematics (like the 1911 patent drawing shown here), video discussions of firearms take down and re-assembly, or even detailed reviews that discuss a firearm’s method of operation.

The free speech implications are chilling. While this is obviously a violation of the 1st Amendment, the State Department believes they have this power. While these rules are already in effect, the “public domain exception” has limited their impact on the general public. If this rule change goes through, that “public domain exception” will be gutted and firearms related sites, bloggers, and YouTubers could face ITAR related charges.

As required by rule making procedures, the State Department is accepting comments on this proposed change. Today is the LAST DAY to comment on this. As soon as you finish reading this submit your comment. When commenting make sure to do the following:

1. Refer to “ITAR Amendment—Revisions to Definitions; Data Transmission and Storage” in the subject line and body.

2. Make it clear you OPPOSE these changes because of their 1st Amendment restrictions.

3. Sign with your legal name and address.

Fore more information read the NRA ILA report and this blog post from the Defense Trade Blog.

The State Department website with the details of the proposed changes is HERE.

Comments may be submitted online at regulations.gov or via e-mail at [email protected] with the subject line, ‘‘ITAR Amendment—Revisions to Definitions; Data Transmission and Storage.”

The NRA ILA also recommends contacting Congress through the NRA’s Write Your Lawmakers link or through the Congressional switchboard at (202) 225-3121.

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