A new rule to be enforced by President Barack Obama’s State Department would have a devastating effect on American hunters and sport shooters, engulfing them in a tangle of red tape when traveling to other countries.
According to NRA-ILA, exporting firearms and ammunition from the U.S. normally requires a license—from the State Department for rifles, handguns, and rifle or handgun ammunition, and from the Commerce Department for shotguns and shotgun shells. But for many years, the State Department’s International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR) have allowed Americans to temporarily export up to three non-automatic firearms and up to 1,000 rounds of ammunition without a permit by declaring them and presenting them to a Customs officer.
But a 2012 State Department rule change added an important new requirement that the traveler declare rifles or handguns “upon each departure” by presenting documentation generated through the Commerce Department’s “Automated Export System” (AES)—an online reporting tool designed for use by businesses. (Non-“combat” shotguns are not regulated by the State Department, so the AES requirement does not apply to temporary shotgun exports.)
The change was never enforced—until now. In postings on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website and in internal ICE documents obtained by NRA-ILA, ICE makes clear that it has begun enforcing the rule change. Form 4457 may no longer be used for firearms, and electronic declarations will be the norm.
ICE’s internal documents, however, acknowledge that individuals are currently unable to use the AES because the system requires entry of an Employer Identification Number. Those numbers are normally only obtained by businesses, and the Internal Revenue Service says they should only be used for tax purposes.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has, for now, implemented a stopgap plan under which Customs officers at airports can manually enter identifying information about the traveler and the firearm. While this may prevent travel plans from being ruined, it also raises questions about how long the information will be kept and how it might be used.
The NRA, along with other groups representing hunters and sport shooters, are working on an emergency rule change to solve these problems. If necessary, the NRA will also pursue shorter-term administrative changes to prevent immediate headaches, and will also consider the potential need for a long-term solution through federal legislation.
Coming just after the failed Obama/BATFE ammo ban, an unmistakable pattern of abuse is beginning to emerge, suggesting Obama’s last two years could prove the most challenging period in history for America’s gun owners.