U.S. Departments of State and Commerce Propose Rules to Transition Firearms and Ammunition from the USML to the CCL

2018/06/29

(Source: Reeves & Dola LLP Alert, 1 June 2018. Available via jreeves@reevesdola.com)

By: Johanna Reeves, Esq., jreeves@reevesdola.com, 202-715-994; and Katherine Heubert, Esq., 202-715-9940, kheubert@reevesdola.com. Both of Reeves & Dola LLP

On May 24, 2018, the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce officially published proposed rules to transition most firearms and ammunition away from the export controls of the Department of State’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) over to the controls of the Department of Commerce’s Export Administration Regulations (EAR). In this alert, the second of four installments, we will examine the proposed revisions to the ITAR control list, the U.S. Munitions List (USML) Category I, and the Department of Commerce’s proposed companion rule amending the Commerce Control List (CCL).

Both the State and Commerce Departments are seeking written comments on the proposed rules, which will be accepted until July 9, 2018.  We strongly encourage industry to take time to carefully review the revised categories and provide actionable commentary to the proposed rules. This is a critical opportunity for industry to provide comments that would assist the government in reducing jurisdictional ambiguities and clarifying the articles that will remain subject to the ITAR. The specific instructions for submitting comments are included in each proposed rule.

Proposed Transitions from USML Cat. I to CCL

Title for this category will change from “Firearms, Close Assault Weapons and Combat Shotguns” to “Firearms and Related Articles.”

Articles Removed from USML Cat. I – State’s rule proposes to transition away from the USML non-automatic and semi-automatic firearms up to and including .50 caliber currently controlled under paragraph (a), as well as all parts, components, accessories and attachments specially designed for those firearms. These items will be subject to the EAR under newly created “500 series” Export Control Classification Numbers (ECCNs).

Commerce originally created the “500 series” as part of “Export Control Reform” under the Obama Administration to control items that had been from the USML or certain items on the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual Use Goods and Technologies Munitions List (the “Wassenaar List” or WAML). Compared to the “600 series” ECCNs, which control items of a military nature removed from the USML, the “500 series” contain items not appropriate for the 600 series control because they have predominant civil, recreational, law enforcement, or other non-military applications.

To capture the firearms and ammunition in USML Cats. I-III that will transition to the CCL, Commerce proposes in its companion rule to create a total of 17 new ECCNs. For the firearms, parts, components, accessories and attachments that will transition from USML Cat. I, the proposed new ECCNs are:

– 0A501 (Firearms and related commodities)

– 0A502 (Shotguns and certain related commodities)

– 0A504 (Optical sighting devices and certain related commodities)

– 0E501 (Technology for firearms and certain related items)

– 0E502 (Technology for shotguns)

– 0E504 (Technology for certain optical sighting devices)

Articles Still Controlled Under USML Cat. I – items that would remain under Category I are positively listed as follows, including the corresponding paragraph (Significant Military Equipment (SME) is designated with an asterisk (*)):

*(a) Firearms using caseless ammunition.

*(b) Fully automatic firearms to .50 caliber (12.7 mm) inclusive.

*(c) Firearms specially designed [emphasis added] to integrate fire control, automatic tracking, or automatic firing (e.g., Precision Guided Firearms (PGFs)), and specially designed parts and components therefor.

Note to paragraph (c): Integration does not include only attaching to the firearm or rail.

*(d) Fully automatic shotguns regardless of gauge.

*(e) Silencers, mufflers, and sound suppressors, and specially designed [emphasis added] parts and components therefor (flash suppressors move to CCL).

(f) [Reserved]

(g) Barrels, receivers (frames), bolts, bolt carriers, slides, or sears specially designed [emphasis added] for the articles in paragraphs (a), (b), and (d) of this category.

(h) Parts, components, accessories, and attachments, as follows:

(1) Drum and other magazines for firearms to .50 caliber (12.7 mm) inclusive with a capacity greater than 50 rounds, regardless of jurisdiction of the firearm, and specially designed [emphasis added] parts and components therefor;

(2) Parts and components specially designed for conversion of a semiautomatic firearm to a fully automatic firearm[emphasis added].

(3) Accessories or attachments specially designed to automatically stabilize aim (other than gun rests) or for automatic targeting, and specially designed parts and components therefor [emphasis added].

Technical Data and Defense Services – paragraph (i) specifies “technical data,” as defined in ITAR §120.10, and “defense services,” as defined in ITAR §120.9, directly related to the defense articles described in paragraphs (a), (b), (d), (e), (g), and (h) of Cat. I, and classified technical data directly related to items controlled in ECCNs 0A501, 0B501, 0D501, and 0E501 and defense services using the classified technical data. Exemptions will continue to be covered in ITAR §125.4.

Revised USML Cat. I will also include several notes to explain what items are excluded by the category (non-automatic and semi-automatic firearms up to and including .50 caliber; non-automatic shotguns; BB, pellet, and muzzle loading (e.g., black powder) firearms; and parts, components, accessories, and attachments of firearms and shotguns in paragraphs (a), (b), (d), and (g) of Cat. I that are common to non-automatic firearms and shotguns) and what is meant by firearm, fully automatic firearm or shotgun, or caseless ammunition.

The proposed rule also adds a new paragraph (x) to Cats. I, II and III to allow for ITAR licensing of commodities, software and technology subject to the EAR, which paragraph has already been added to all of the other USML categories that have gone through the rewrite process.  It is important to note that paragraph (x) is only available if those items EAR items are to be used in or with defense articles controlled in USML Cat. I, and the items are described in the purchase documentation submitted with the ITAR license application. Further, it is important to understand that such EAR items, even if included on an ITAR export license under USML Cat. I(x), would remain subject to the controls of the EAR, despite the appearance of the ITAR license.  Use of paragraph(x) is a licensing convenience only; it does not change the jurisdictional status of an item. Consequently, it will be incumbent on the U.S. exporter to properly educate its customers on the proper licensing authority, especially for reexport and retransfer requests.

CCL Controls

A key fact in the proposed rules is that the transition from USML to CCL will NOT result in a decontrol of firearms or ammunition. Firearms transitioning from the USML to CCL will be subject to controls under National Security (NS), Regional Stability (RS), Crime Control and Detection (CC), Firearms Convention (FC), United Nations Sanctions (UN) and Anti-Terrorism (AT). Indeed, the proposed rules make it abundantly clear that BIS will require licenses to export or reexport to ANY country firearms or other weapons that transitions from the USML to the CCL.

License exceptions, such as limited value shipments (LVS), government (GOV), baggage (BAG) and strategic trade authorization (STA) will be very limited for small arms formerly on the USML, so industry should carefully review the ECCNs in the proposed rule to see what license exceptions are available for each ECCN and the limitations.

Each new ECCN will be made up of technically specific subparagraphs in an enumerated “List of Items Controlled.” For example, the list of items controlled under ECCN 0A501 is comprised of paragraphs .a – .w, which identify the items classified under the particular paragraph. The ECCN also includes .x and .y paragraphs for parts and components. The .x paragraph operates like a catch-all, as it lists specially designed parts and components that are not controlled elsewhere. Conversely, the .y paragraph lists only those parts, components, accessories, and attachments that are controlled only for UN and AT reasons. Such items may be exported to nearly all destinations without a license. The parts and components captured by the .x paragraph, on the other hand, are subject to NS, RS, FC, UN, and AT and will likely require a license for most destinations.

It will be incumbent on the exporter (or temporary importer) to review every firearm and firearm part, component, accessory, and attachment in which it deals so as to determine the new classification once the rules become final. The specific license requirements, and the applicability of license exceptions, as well as any end-use or end-user restrictions, will depend on the specific subparagraph classification of the governing ECCN.

Specially Designed

A critical concept in the proposed revisions to the control lists is the term “Specially Designed.” This term has been reviewed, criticized, discussed, and analyzed in depth since it was first incorporated into the ITAR and the EAR in the initial implementation rules for Export Control Reform, which DDTC and BIS published in the Federal Register on April 16, 2013.

This term is NOT up for public comment at the present time, but to understand the proposed revisions to the USML and CCL control lists for firearms and ammunition, it is imperative to comprehend the term. Both the ITAR and EAR use the term, “Specially Designed” to remove the catch-all controls currently present in the USML Cats. I-III and to designate what parts, components, accessories and attachments are subject to either the ITAR or the EAR. We have highlighted the proposed use of “specially designed” in USML Cat. I in the list above.

It is important to note that the “specially designed” analysis is not applicable to the entire USML Category, as it can be used only if it is specified within a particular paragraph. As the revisions to Cat. I are intended to make the list a positive list and include only those articles that warrant control under the ITAR for the reasons stated previously, there should be a bright line between those articles subject to the ITAR and those subject to the EAR. Industry therefore must carefully review the full definition of “Specially Designed” and the application to the proposed revisions of Cat. I and provide comments that would assist the government in reducing jurisdictional ambiguities and clarifying the articles subject to the ITAR.

Industry should also review the ITAR order of review outlined in 22 C.F.R. § 121.1(b)), and the Order of Review Decision Tool available on DDTC’s website. BIS also provides an Order of Review Decision Tool on its website.

Industry should be forewarned not to underestimate the time intensive process of classifying the parts, components, attachments and accessories for firearms under the proposed rules. A critical component is the specially designed analysis, which itself is complex and difficult to understand immediately. It would be foolish to skip over classification, as license requirements, applicability of license exceptions, and restrictions are dependent on the classification, down to the specific ECCN paragraph. Further, export license applications will require identification of the specific subparagraph of control as well.  The days of simply identifying “paragraph (h)” for any and all parts and components are quickly coming to an end.

Brokering

In addition to the proposed revisions to the USML Cats. I-III, DDTC’s proposed rule identifies several “conforming changes” in other parts of the ITAR to remove references to firearms that will be controlled on the CCL. One such revision is to section 129.1 to clarify that regulations on brokering activities apply to defense articles and defense services designated on the USML as well as items described on the U.S. Munitions Import List (USMIL) for permanent import controls. The USMIL is promulgated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) pursuant to the permanent import provisions of the Arms Export Control Act. ATF’s regulations are in 27 C.F.R. Pt. 447, and the USMIL is in 27 C.F.R. § 447.21.

According to DDTC, “the items that will move to the CCL for export control purposes, yet are on the USMIL for permanent import purposes, remain subject to the brokering requirements of [ITAR] part 129 with respect to all brokering activities, including facilitation in their manufacture, export, permanent import, transfer, reexport, or retransfer.” 83 Fed. Reg. at 24199 (May 24, 2018). Approaching this from the catch and release analysis that has permeated export control reform, this is the “catch.” The proposed revision in section 129.2, however, adds the following release in a new paragraph (vii) for activities that are NOT considered brokering activities:

“Activities by persons to facilitate the export, reexport, or transfer of an item subject to the EAR that has been approved pursuant to a license or license exception under the EAR or a license or other approval under this subchapter.”

As written, this language is very broad because the clause “that has been approved” does not limit past approvals to the person engaging in the subject activities. Further, the past approvals may be from either an EAR or an ITAR authorization.

Electronic Export Information Filings to Automated Export System

A critical change in the proposed rules lies within the Department of Commerce proposed rule relating to the Electronic Export Information (EEI) filings to Automated Export System (AES). According to the proposed rule, AES filings would be required for exports of all firearms transitioned to the CCL from the USML, regardless of value or destination. This requirement would also extend to temporary exports under license exceptions TMP or BAG.

In addition, the rule proposes to expand the required data elements of AES filings to include serial numbers, make, model, and caliber for such firearms. Industry should carefully evaluate the impact this requirement will have on operations and include in comments to the proposed rules.

Temporary Imports

The proposed Commerce rules set out a new process in 15 C.F.R. 758.10 for temporary imports of items subject to both the EAR and the USMIL. The process would impose entry clearance requirements for firearms temporarily imported into the United States for a period not to exceed 1 year, and then would require the use of the TMP license exception for the return export.

For the inbound transaction, U.S. Customs and Border Protection would be charged with collecting identifying information necessary to track the items temporarily imported, such as the list of firearms with serial numbers, model, make, quantity, and value, as well as other import and supporting documents. For the export, a license would not be required, but CBP would match the export to the information received upon entry. Firearms may not be imported from or ultimately destined to certain proscribed or restricted countries, and the proposed rule includes language that would instruct importers to contact CBP at the port of import or export for the proper procedures to provide any data or documentation required by BIS. Commerce is seeking comment from industry on this proposed new process.

This brings to a close this second installment of our four-part series on the proposed rules transitioning firearms and ammunition from the USML to the CCL. In our next two alerts we will examine the proposed revisions to USML Cats. II and III and the new EAR controls.