Today, our firm filed comments with the U.S. Department of State, Office of Defense Trade Controls Policy, on behalf of Gun Owners of America, Inc. and Gun Owners Foundation, regarding proposed revisions to the State Department’s International Traffic In Arms Regulations (“ITAR”). Pursuant to the Arms Export Control Act, the State Department regulates the export of “defense articles and services.” Typically, these regulations apply to businesses which manufacture weapons of war such as tanks and bombs, and there generally was no need for ordinary Americans to worry about this incredibly complex and convoluted area of the law.
These new regulations apparently were motivated by a desire to limit access to blueprints for the 3-D printing of firearms, but they likely have gone much further than that, and could potentially now prohibit constitutionally protected First and Second Amendment activities.
Our comments point out that State’s new proposed regulations are so broad as to potentially apply to ordinary persons doing ordinary things — particularly, gun owners. Potentially, ITAR could now be interpreted to prohibit gun owners from sharing information like ballistic tables, blueprints, manuals, etc. by telephone, text messages, E-mail, internet posts, etc.
Next, our comments noted that ITAR traditionally did not apply to information that was already in the public domain, but the proposed regulations would severely limit that exemption to apply only if the original release of information to the public was “lawful.” How could anyone possibly know that?
Next, our comments expressed concern that the proposed regulations claim that anyone who sends an e-mail, text message, etc — and that message is unknowingly routed through servers outside the country (as is often the case with the Internet) — has “exported” the information contained. Therefore, if two U.S. firearm enthusiasts simply share reloading information over the Internet, the State Department might claim they had “exported” “technical data” without proper authorization.