Pause on Firearms Exports is an Unjustified Attack on the Gun Industry

by Vern Evans
Ian Taylor/Unsplash Photo

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A new publication by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) shows that the stated reason for the 90-day firearm export “pause” – which is well past 160 days – is a nothingburger. It’s a sandwich with no meat but layers of government cheese. And lots of it.

Commerce Department’s BIS published a “Don’t Let this HAPPEN TO YOU!” document that was posted online in March of actual investigations of export control and antiboycott violations. Government officials highlighted approximately 20 entries for firearms or related accessories. Not a single one of those cases of illegal smuggling was the result of any licensed U.S. exporter. There are no examples of misconduct by any legitimate firearm businesses.

The instances BIS highlights are all cases of individuals attempting to illegally smuggle firearms. Contrast that with reports that U.S. arms left by President Joe Biden’s rushed Afghanistan withdrawal left the “motherlode” of small arms to be seized by Taliban terrorists. Those were reportedly being seen in Gaza when terrorists attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

The report defies what BIS officials have publicly stated and testified that there was a need to stop firearm exports to conduct a security policy review. BIS posted the notice Oct. 27, late on a Friday afternoon in what is commonly referred to as a “Friday news dump,” that new U.S. export licenses would be temporarily halted to much of the world 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.” The notice added that BIS needed to “more effectively assess and mitigate risk of firearms being diverted to entities or activities that promote regional instability, violate human rights, or fuel criminal activities.”

That was over 160 days ago. BIS is no closer to ending this 90-day pause than they were 90 days ago and it is NSSF’s understanding that we won’t see anything for another two months.

Where’s the Beef?

Just two weeks ago, U.S. Reps. Tim Burchett and Mark Green, both Tennessee Republicans, tore into BIS Under Secretary Alan Estevez during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing for BIS’s foot-dragging of the “90-day” firearm and ammunition export pause. Under Secretary Estevez had no substantial answer as to why the “pause” continued to linger, saying only it was so BIS could craft a policy to ensure firearm exports aren’t diverted to criminal elements, saying only that the process was “close” to being finished. Under Secretary Estevez also refused to answer whether his office coordinated with The White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention on the export pause.

Now, this BIS publication is showing that every time BIS is looking to bite into something that implicates U.S. firearm exporters, they’re coming up with a mouthful of nothing.

BIS cited 34 cases in the report of individuals illegally attempting to export firearms, parts, accessories or body armor as examples of illegal firearm smuggling. They were the “what not to do” highlights. None of these were licensed U.S. firearm exporters. The BIS report actually exonerates licensed U.S. firearm exporters because they’ve been doing the right thing the whole time. BIS couldn’t find one single example of a licensed U.S. exporter violating the law. So does the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) trace data that shows less than one percent of legally exported firearms are ever traced in connection with a crime taking place in a foreign country.

What’s more telling is that the BIS Office of Export Enforcement is actually successfully stopping illegal smuggling of firearms – which the firearm industry supports. If the licensed U.S. firearm exporters were the problem, cases would be filed. There would be firearm traces to show illegal activity. There would be press releases, press conferences and line-ups for the Biden administration to crow about and media to splash across the front pages or the evening news.

Instead, the silence is deafening. BIS knows there is no meat in the sandwich they’re trying to serve.

Congress is getting fed up. They’re starting to sound like the circa 1980s Wendy’s “Where the Beef” commercial because they know the truth.

BIS Ignores 16 Congressional Letters, Bills & Subpoenas

Eighty-eight Members of Congress, led by Rep. Green, signed a letter on Nov. 7, 2023, demanding answers from Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo for details surrounding the Biden administration’s decision to “pause” firearm exports to certain countries pending a review. That was followed by a Nov. 16, 2023, letter from 46 U.S. Senators, led by Sen. Tedd Budd (R-N.C.) to Secretary Raimondo asking similar questions.

Rep. Green criticized the Biden administration for “pausing” firearm exports as a politically-motivated attack on a Constitutionally-protected industry in The Washington Times on Nov. 20, 2023. That was quickly followed by Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) sending an NSSF-supported letter on Nov. 28, 2023, to Secretary Raimondo to demand answers regarding the Commerce Department’s decision to stop issuing new export licenses for most civilian firearms and ammunition sold to non-government users for 90 days.

Rep. Mark Green introduced H.R. 6504, the Protect American Gun Exporters Act, or PAGE Act, in response to the Biden administration’s 90-day firearm export “pause.” That bill, introduced Nov. 29, 2023, would prohibit any actions taken to carry out the Commerce Department’s export licensing pause for certain exports under the Commerce Control List.

U.S. House Committee on Small Business Chairman Roger Williams (R-Texas) wrote to Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security Alan Estevez on Dec. 5, 2023, demanding answers for BIS’s 90-day “pause” of issuing commercial firearm exports. Rep. Green continued to hammer for answers in a ClarksvilleNOW.com op-ed published Dec. 8, 2023.

The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Oversight and Accountability held a hearing on Dec. 12, 2023, over the Biden administration’s unprecedented decision to “pause” all new firearm export licenses to most countries for 90 days.

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced S. 3531, the Protect American Gun Exporters Act, on Dec. 14, 2023. This bill comes in response to the Bureau of Industry and Security’s (BIS) 90-day pause. This is the Senate companion to Rep. Green’s House bill of the same name.

Sens. Mike Lee, Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) wrote a letter Jan. 25 to the U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) urging them to use their authority to block the BIS plan to indefinitely extend the “pause” of firearm exports.

Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.), a combat veteran of the U.S. Army, shattered the Biden administration’s myth that U.S. firearm exports fuel human rights abuses in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Feb. 6.

The House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman Comer (R-Ky.) issued a subpoena on Feb, 15, to the Commerce Department for documents related to Commerce’s action to cease issuing new export licenses.

Sen. Lee led an NSSF-supported letter on Feb. 21 to Under Secretary Estevez telling him “Time’s up,” and urging the Biden administration to end the unilateral pause on issuing new export licenses for American firearms manufacturers by the Department of Commerce.

Rep. Green, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, sent an NSSF-supported letter on March 9, demanding the BIS 90-pause, which is long past 90 days, be immediately lifted for lack of credible information to justify it.

The Biden administration, its Commerce Department and BIS have ignored these calls because they know the truth. There’s no reason for the export “pause.” It’s a charade. It’s an unjustified attack on the firearm industry because President Biden thinks U.S. firearm manufacturers are “the enemy,” not those who attack America. The BIS export pause is a nothingburger.

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