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Newly Proposed State Dept. Regulation Spells Trouble for Online Gun Discussions

| August 12, 2015

Most firearm enthusiasts don’t give it any second thought when they peruse their favorite forums on the internet to discuss new trends or developments in the world of firearms. Some seek information about particular types of rifle ammunition to use for different types of game, while others are perhaps curious about new 3D printing technology, and its application in producing cheaper internal gun mechanisms.

Whatever one seeks, the universe of gun knowledge is broad, detailed, and given the history of gun ownership in America, cherished. If the State Department gets its way soon, however, disseminating such information is liable to land enthusiasts in potential legal trouble.

A lot of it.

In a column for the Washington Times yesterday, Joel Stonedale, an attorney in the Center for the American Future at Texas Public Policy Foundation, highlighted a proposed expansion to the International Trafficking in Arms Regulation (ITAR), which would define the posting of certain technical data about arms on the internet as “exporting military technology—even if the technology is not military.” According to Stonedale, such information “need only be required for the ‘development’ or ‘operation’ of anything on the ‘Munitions List,’” an expansive array of technologies from small arms and electronic gear, to tanks and naval crafts:

“Perhaps most concerning, the Munitions List contains a catchall provision allowing the State Department to impose ITAR control over “any article not enumerated on the U.S. Munitions List.” Read literally, the Munitions List contains every technology on it, and any technology not on it that the State Department feels like regulating. In simpler terms, this could be expressed as “anything the State Department wants to regulate.””

Anyone wishing not to run afoul of this new expansive regulation must apply for a license, if “doubt exists as to whether the information [they seek to disseminate] is covered by ITAR.” Given the expanse of information covered by ITAR, however, this pretty much applies to everyone. Failure to do so risks criminal penalties of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Let’s consider that penalty again: 20 years. One million dollars. All to regulate speech that ten minutes ago was perfectly legal.

Just at the federal level, there are already roughly 4,500 statutes that carry criminal penalties. But, there are some 300,000 federal regulations that criminalize various and sundry activities as well, and these are just the ones we know about (at some point, those tasked with tracking these things down just stop counting.)

Stonedale states that the present administration’s failure to “restrict the size of guns’ magazines is no excuse to restrict magazines about guns.” He’s right. The Federal Register’s cup has long since runneth over, and then some. Criminalizing a brand new segment of previously benign speech is taking another step in the wrong direction, ensnaring otherwise law-abiding citizens in a net that for years has done nothing but grow.

Photo: The Blaze


MICHAEL HAUGEN is a staff writer at Right on Crime. He is a graduate of Eastern Washington University, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with Pre-Medicine Option, and a minor in Chemistry. He also holds an Associate of Arts degree in General Studies from North Idaho College. As an undergraduate, he participated in academic research in a molecular microbiology laboratory for two years, investigating genetic virulence factors and pathophysiology in microbes.

A blogger on his personal site for the last two years, he has provided insight into current topics in the news, Second Amendment issues, pro-life advocacy, as well as commentary on various ballot initiatives that have arisen in his native Washington State in recent years. His writing has appeared in National Review, Townhall, Washington Examiner, and Breitbart Texas.