Groups fight fed rule on gun ex­ports

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Dan Freed­man

WASH­ING­TON — Two Con­necti­cut gun-vi­o­lence-pre­ven­tion groups are among more than 100 that signed a let­ter Tues­day urg­ing Congress to block a pro­posed fed­eral rule to ease re­stric­tions on U.S. firearms man­u­fac­turer sales to for­eign na­tions and pos­si­bly make it eas­ier to dis­sem­i­nate un­trace­able weapons made with 3D print­ers.

Trans­fer­ring U.S. gov­ern­ment over­sight of such trans­ac­tions from the State De­part­ment to the Com­merce De­part­ment would “cre­ate new and un­ac­cept­able

risks of ex­ac­er­bat­ing gun vi­o­lence, hu­man rights abuses, and armed con­flict” over­seas, the let­ter stated.

Con­necti­cut Against Gun Vi­o­lence and New­town Ac­tion Al­liance were among the sig­na­to­ries. The gun-vi­o­lence is­sue res­onates in Con­necti­cut in large mea­sure be­cause of the mass shoot­ing at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School on Dec. 14, 2012.

Firearms man­u­fac­turer groups such as the New­town-based Na­tional Shoot­ing Sports Foun­da­tion hailed the rule when it was pro­posed last year. Con­necti­cut gun man­u­fac­tur­ers such as Colt, Stag Arms and O.F. Moss­berg & Sons would stand to ben­e­fit from in­creased sales.

In ad­di­tion to the gun­con­trol groups, Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blu­men­thal have signed on to leg­is­la­tion that would keep the State De­part­ment in charge of li­cens­ing gun sales abroad.

“Gun vi­o­lence is an epi­demic that has claimed thou­sands of Amer­i­can lives and torn apart com­mu­ni­ties from coast to coast,” Blu­men­thal said. “So what is the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion do­ing about it? Loos­en­ing re­stric­tions on the flow of for­eign small arms into our coun­try and giv­ing a free pass to any­one with a 3D printer and ac­cess to the in­ter­net who wants to cre­ate their own un­reg­is­tered as­sault weapon, pis­tol or shot­gun.”

The sen­a­tors and the groups may have the un­like­li­est ally of all: Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. De­spite reg­u­lar ap­pear­ances at an­nual Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion con­ven­tions and sup­port for armed teach­ers as the an­ti­dote to school shoot­ings, Trump may have misgivings about do­ing any­thing that makes it eas­ier to ob­tain 3D-printer weapons, known as “ghost guns.”

Last sum­mer, he tweeted his doubts about 3D weaponry, which can be pro­duced at home with no se­rial num­bers, and is vir­tu­ally un­trace­able.

But Trump sup­ports the shift of over­sight from State to Com­merce, so it is not clear whether qualms about 3D print­ing would im­peril the en­tire rule. A White House spokesman de­clined to com­ment.

“I am look­ing into 3-D Plas­tic Guns be­ing sold to the pub­lic,” Trump tweeted on July 31. “Al­ready spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

New­town Ac­tion Al­liance, Con­necti­cut Against Gun Vi­o­lence and the other groups are in­vok­ing images of ter­ror­ists eas­ily ob­tain­ing weapons to rally sup­port against the rule.

The let­ter Tues­day said: “The pro­posal would also trans­fer con­trol of the tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion and blue­prints for po­ten­tially un­de­tectable 3D-printed guns from State to Com­merce, a move that could fa­cil­i­tate print­ing of 3D guns world­wide, make these weapons read­ily avail­able to ter­ror­ist groups and other crim­i­nal el­e­ments, and en­dan­ger Amer­i­can embassies, mil­i­tary bases, and pas­sen­ger air­craft at home and abroad.”

Their prin­ci­ple ob­jec­tion is that un­der State De­part­ment over­sight of its Mu­ni­tions Con­trol List, Congress is au­to­mat­i­cally no­ti­fied of gun sales over­seas that ex­ceed $1 mil­lion in value. Un­der Com­merce De­part­ment con­trol, there would be no no­ti­fi­ca­tion. They point to con­gres­sional no­ti­fi­ca­tion forc­ing the can­cel­la­tion of sales to po­lice forces in Turkey and the Philip­pines.

A spokesman for the NSSF ar­gued that fed­eral law dat­ing to the 1980s al­ready for­bids man­u­fac­tur­ing and pos­ses­sion of un­de­tectable weapons.

“An ex­port li­cense would be re­quired now to ex­port the tech­nol­ogy to 3D print a firearm, and will re­main so af­ter the ad­min­is­tra­tion pub­lishes the fi­nal rules,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF se­nior vice pres­i­dent and gen­eral coun­sel.

The group, the main trade or­ga­ni­za­tion of the firearms in­dus­try, re­mains op­ti­mistic the rule will go into ef­fect even­tu­ally.

“We have ev­ery rea­son to be­lieve the U.S Mu­ni­tions List tran­si­tion to the Com­merce Con­trol List will be signed in a mat­ter of weeks,” said NSSF spokesman Mark Oliva.

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