For those people that are around me or listen to my podcasts know that I’ve been saying that something like this is possible for years now. It’s a scary realization of power and certainly hits home for myself and many of my fellow bloggers and friends. Published in the June 3rd issue of the Federal Register, the Department of State, the entity responsible for ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) and firearms export regulations, is proposing changes to ITAR as part of the President’s Export Control Reform (ECR) initiative.
ITAR regulates the manufacturing and import/export of so-called “defense articles” and “defense services” in and out of the United States. Most importantly, ITAR regulates so-called “technical data” regarding these “defense articles” as well. These include detailed information about design, development, or production information about firearms or ammunition. For example, blueprints, gunsmithing information, CAD models and other information that is freely available on the Internet right now.
In its current form, ITAR does not regulate the information that is considered “public domain,” which is information that has been published or which is considered to be generally available to the public. Generally, this has been accepted to include information that has been made available on websites because most libraries provide Internet access for free. However, ITAR was perpetuated before the Internet was used by the public, or widely used at all for that matter.
The problem now, is that some State Department officials are considering that any information available publicly on the Internet is considered “exported” because it would be accessible by foreign nationals that may be in the United States or overseas. The part of the Federal Register that was published on June 3rd that is catching fire by the NRA, and also by the rest of us Internet-savvy 2A advocates can be seen here:
Paragraph (b) of the revised definition explicitly sets forth the Department’s requirement of authorization to release information into the ‘‘public domain.’’ Prior to making available ‘‘technical data’’ or software subject to the ITAR, the U.S. government must approve the release through one of the following: (1) The Department; (2) the Department of Defense’s Office of Security Review; (3) a relevant U.S. government contracting authority with authority to allow the ‘‘technical data’’ or software to be made available to the public, if one exists; or (4) another U.S. government official with authority to allow the ‘‘technical data’’ or software to be made available to the public.
The requirements of paragraph (b) are not new. Rather, they are a more explicit statement of the ITAR’s requirement that one must seek and receive a license or other authorization from the Department or other cognizant U.S. government authority to release ITAR controlled ‘‘technical data,’’ as defined in § 120.10. A release of ‘‘technical data’’ may occur by disseminating ‘‘technical data’’ at a public conference or trade show, publishing ‘‘technical data’’ in a book or journal article, or posting ‘‘technical data’’ to the Internet. This proposed provision will enhance compliance with the ITAR by clarifying that ‘‘technical data’’ may not be made available to the public without authorization. Persons who intend to discuss ‘‘technical data’’ at a conference or trade show, or to publish it, must ensure that they obtain the appropriate authorization.
Information that is excluded from the definition of ‘‘defense article’’ in the new § 120.6(b) is not ‘‘technical data’’ and therefore does not require authorization prior to release into the ‘‘public domain.’’ This includes information that arises during or results from ‘‘fundamental research,’’ as described in the new § 120.49; general scientific, mathematical, or engineering principles commonly taught in schools, and information that is contained in patents.
Penalties for violating are very severe can can carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison as well as a fine of up to $1 million. Additionally, civil penalties could be assessed.
Generally, manufactuers, gunsmiths, reloaders and any do-it-yourselfers could find themselves in trouble under this new proposed law. However, let’s expand on this further… Websites such as this one, NYFirearms.com, Ammoland.com, Guns.com and more could fall under this new law and find themselves censored out of existence.
[Tin Foil Hat Warning] Some of y’all know that I also own and run a web hosting company, a.k.a an Internet Service Provider (ISP), called True Negative. We pride ourselves in being small business focused, and especially 1A/2A friendly. The scary thought is what if our upstream providers are not, or they’re subpoenaed by the government to block routes to our servers, essentially shutting us down and all of the 2A-friendly websites that we host? Some food for thought….[/Tin Foil Hat Warning]
As always, the U.S. Constitution seemingly means nothing to politicians and they will do whatever they want to exert their control over the American public.
What can you do? Public comments for the new regulations will be accepted until August 3rd, 2015. Comments may be submitted online at regulations.gov, or via email at DDTCPublicComments@state.gov with the subject line, ‘‘ITAR Amendment—Revisions to Definitions; Data Transmission and Storage.’’ DO YOUR PART NOW, or just stop complaining.
Lastly, make sure you write your U.S. Senators and Congressman to urge them to oppose the State Department’s proposed new regulations. Use the Write Your Lawmakers feature of the NRA-ILA or or call the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 225-3121.