Having ignored the export control reforms initiated by the executive branch over the last seven or so years, the geniuses on the Hill have now decided to wade into the field with, as you might imagine, not entirely salubrious results. At the end of September, a bill was introduced in the House (with a companion bill in the Senate) to move most of Category I on the United States Munitions List (“USML”) over to the Commerce Control List (“CCL”). Specifically, it would move every firearm other than combat shotguns and firearms with special military application to the CCL.
There appear to be two motivations for this. First, this is an effort to exempt all gun manufacturers from the registration requirement (and associated fees) set forth in Part 122 of the United States Munitions List. Second, this is an apparent response to recent guidance by DDTC that tried to draw a distinction between manufacturing, which requires registration, and gunsmithing, which does not. Some critics claimed that some activities defined as manufacturing should be treated as gunsmithing instead.
The proposed legislation simply moves the items to the CCL but allows BIS the discretion to determine where on the CCL these items would go. BIS would be free to designate, and likely would designate, these moved items as 600 series items, which would result in a license requirement for all destinations. BIS would also be free to determine which, if any, license exceptions would be available. This means that it is unlikely, or at least possible, that the proposed legislation would not necessarily make it any easier to export arms; rather, it would only reliably eliminate the registration and fee requirement. Calling this the Export Control Reform Act, as the legislation styles itself, seems inapposite; a better name would be the Gun Manufacturer Financial Relief Act.