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Senators Raise Concerns Over “Pause” on Issuance of New Firearm, Ammunition Export Licenses

BISMARCK – The U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced in October the 90-day pause on the issuance of new export licenses for gun manufacturers attempting to export certain firearms, related components, and ammunition under its jurisdiction to a majority of foreign end-users. During this 90-day period, the department said it would “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 moratorium on issuing new export licenses remains in effect, but the department has not issued clarification as to when it will be lifted.

U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) joined U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and their colleagues in sending a letter to the Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security of United States, stating while there is minimal evidence the Commerce Department’s pause on issuing new export licenses improved U.S. national security, there is extensive evidence it harmed small and medium-sized American businesses.

“Over these past 90 days, however, our national security has not improved. In fact, it has rapidly deteriorated. […] According to industry experts, the 90-day pause implemented by the Commerce Department is likely to cost American businesses hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue. The Department’s pause on issuing new export licenses for firearms comes at the very same time that the Department has loosened restrictions on exporting products controlled under the Chemical Weapons Convention and Missile Technology Control Regime,” the senators wrote. “It is difficult, therefore, for us to conclude that the Commerce Department’s pause on issuing new licenses is truly motivated by a desire to promote U.S. national security. […] Nevertheless, 90 days have now passed and the Commerce Department’s pause remains in full effect.”

The senators note the Commerce Department’s decision to continue implementing the pause was not properly relayed to the businesses impacted by the announcement. Additionally, leaked documents show the Commerce Department intends to improperly bypass a public comment period to impose new regulations on small and medium sized firearm manufacturing businesses. These anticipated regulations would devastate the industry and undermine competition.

“The stated mission of the Commerce Department is to, ‘create the conditions for economic growth and opportunity for all communities.’ Your department’s concerted and deliberate attempts to punitively target the American firearms industry stands in direct conflict with that mission. We urge you to uphold your commitment to promoting economic opportunity, lift the ongoing pause on issuing new export licenses, and refrain from imposing any new regulations that would unduly harm countless small and medium sized business across the United States,” the senators concluded.

In November, Senator Cramer joined his colleagues in a letter to the Secretary of Commerce, raising concerns over the BIS decision. The letter states the firearm and ammunition industry estimate a cost of $238 million annually if the pause were to become permanent.

Click here to read the letter.