Like all businesses seeking to export items abroad, firearms and ammunition manufacturers must comply with stringent U.S. export control regulations. Even in the best of circumstances, that’s a significant challenge; after all, U.S. export controls are voluminous, complex and sometimes run contrary to common sense. Yet, they are the rules, and they must be followed.
When those rules change and evolve, though, the challenge becomes even more formidable, since it’s necessary to understand what controls changed and how that impacts your efforts to comply with them.
In 2013, major changes to export control rules commenced via the Export Control Reform Initiative (ECR), which was originally launched by the Obama administration three years earlier. From an exporter’s perspective, ECR improved the U.S. export control system by eliminating redundancies, harmonizing key definitions and updating control lists within the export compliance system. It took several years for the Departments of State and Commerce to publish all the regulations implementing the initiative, culminating in the long-awaited final rule focusing on firearms and ammunition in March 2020.
So, what’s the key change for firearms and ammunition businesses?
Prior to ECR, many common-use firearms and ammunition were controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)—i.e., a set of rules which regulates various items and activities related to weapons of war. Now, post-ECR, those types of firearms and ammunition are subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR)—i.e., regulations that control nearly everything else under the authority of the U.S. government which is not subject to the ITAR. In practical terms, this means most non-fully automatic firearms, corresponding ammunition and many related parts and components moved from the ITAR’s U.S. Munitions List (USML) to the newly-created Export Control Classification Numbers (ECCNs) on the EAR’s Commerce Control List. As a result, these items are now, generally speaking, subject to fewer restrictions under the EAR than they were under the ITAR.
On the flip side, many firearms companies may not have thought much about the EAR since they dealt primarily with ITAR compliance and consequently, they may not know much about how to analyze potential transactions under the EAR. Consequently, while this change does ease restrictions for many firearms and ammunition businesses, U.S. export controls still apply, the EAR still restricts exports on firearms, ammunition, and related items in certain situations and affected businesses must adapt. Moreover, the EAR is actually more complex than the ITAR, so while ECR clarified many grey areas within export compliance, understanding the EAR now becomes a key challenge for many firearms and ammunition businesses.
Thankfully, leading export compliance training partners like the Export Compliance Training Institute (ECTI) exist to help businesses understand export control rules and navigate pathways to compliance. Through our industry-leading e-seminars, live seminars, live webinars and 80-plus on-demand webinars, we can help you sell more items abroad—and still achieve total compliance in doing so.
One other important note: Some ammunition and firearms remain regulated under the ITAR even post-ECR—again, export controls are not a one-size-fits-all ecosystem, so you must understand how your items are regulated and pursue compliance under those regulations.
Related article: The Export Compliance Basics of ITAR and EAR – Understanding Key Terms, Issues, Similarities and Differences
Finally, it is vitally important that you utilize updated and accurate lists in your firearms business or ammunition business export compliance efforts. To aid you in this, ECTI has compiled free, downloadable and easily searchable ITAR and EAR export compliance lists. We encourage you to use these as you determine jurisdiction and compliance requirements for your items.
We hope this article helps you understand how export control reform impacts firearms and ammunition businesses moving forward. As we said earlier, export compliance is a complex and detailed undertaking. Your company’s investments rely on achieving 100% compliance with all applicable export regulations and controls. That said, it is absolutely achievable—you can do it, provided you take the necessary time up front to align with an established and widely acclaimed export compliance training partner who can guide you step by step toward compliance success.
Do you have questions about export compliance challenges for your firearms or ammunition business? Visit www.learnexportcompliance.com to learn about our company, our faculty, our staff and our esteemed Export Compliance Professional (ECoP®) certification program. To find upcoming e-seminars, live seminars and live webinars and browse our catalog of 80-plus on-demand webinars, visit our ECTI Academy. You can also call the Export Compliance Training Institute at 540-433-3977 for more information.
Scott Gearity is President of ECTI, Inc.