The Global Defense gun exporter booth at SHOT Show 2024
The Global Defense gun exporter booth at SHOT Show 2024 / Stephen Gutowski

Conservative Group Organizes Pushback on Biden Gun Export Restrictions

One of the biggest think tanks in Washington, DC is gearing up to oppose the Biden Administration’s plan to restrict firearm exports.

Heritage Action, the 501(c)(4) arm of the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, announced a plan on Wednesday to motivate activists to comment in opposition to the Commerce Department’s rule pairing back the ability for American companies to export guns. The group said it is hoping to “activate millions of grassroots conservatives” in an effort to have the rule withdrawn. It told The Reload it plans to start by reaching out to activists with digital communications and in person at the NRA’s Annual Meeting in Dallas, Texas this weekend.

“The Department of Commerce’s rule undermines Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms by villainizing a crucial sector of the American economy,” Ryan Walker, Heritage Action Executive Vice President, told The Reload. “Banning the sale of American-made firearms to dozens of countries is a cunning way to target lawful gun manufacturers and owners at home by claiming free citizens around the world can’t be trusted with firearms.”

The effort is the latest to try and undo one of President Joe Biden’s executive actions on gun policy before it becomes active. If the rule receives enough negative comments, the Commerce Department could modify or rescind it. That’s happened before, with a proposal to ban certain kinds of ammunition under President Barack Obama being pulled after backlash and one to restrict pistol braces seeing the same fate under President Donald Trump.

However, President Biden’s administration has been much less receptive to public opposition to gun restrictions imposed through federal rulemaking. The ATF has pushed through a number of new rules, including the previously abandoned pistol brace restriction, despite an overwhelmingly negative response during the public comment period.

Gun-control advocates have also become more adept at driving their supporters to speak up during the public comment period on federal rules that restrict firearm sales or ownership. Everytown for Gun Safety did not respond to a request for comment on how they plan to approach the comment period. However, the group has claimed it helped drive 230,000 comments in favor of an ATF rule redefining who needs to obtain a license before selling used guns.

The Reload first reported on the Commerce Department’s plan to restrict firearms exports, publishing a leaked draft of the rule in December. Commerce made several changes to the draft, including adding a list of dozens of countries that would see export licenses denied by default, before officially releasing it earlier this month. The final rule shortens the length of export licenses, restricts what kind of guns can be sent to what countries, and even requires American exporters to collect passport or ID information for some overseas buyers.

The gun industry and gun-rights activists have decried the rule as an attack on lawful businesses. Amy Swearer, a Heritage Foundation analyst, said it “underscores the Biden administration’s disdain for lawful civilian gun owners.”

“Biden’s firearm export rule is designed to impose more arbitrary burdens and administrative red tape on the lawful gun industry—all while greatly expanding the government’s ability to police many thousands of individual foreign citizens who legally purchase American gun exports,” she said in a statement. “Worse, the administration defends some of its changes by claiming—erroneously—that firearms lawfully exported to civilians are more likely to be diverted into black markets than firearms lawfully sold to foreign militaries and police agencies. While that is simply false, the rule does bite hook, line, and sinker into the international gun control narrative that even corrupt and inept governments are more trustworthy with guns than are ordinary civilians.”

Gun-control advocates have painted the rule as important for national security.

“The firearm industry has been raking in massive profits off gun exports, while doing virtually nothing to keep their weapons away from terrorists and traffickers,”  John Feinblatt, Everytown’s president, said in a statement after the rule was announced. “With this rule, the Biden-Harris Administration is notching a national security win that will help prevent regional violence and human rights abuses with American guns.”

Walker argued the rule is an end-run around Congress, and said his group would be able to rally sizable resistance to it.

“This is another power grab to force policy changes that could never get through Congress from an administration with no respect for our Constitution or separation of powers,” he said. “Heritage Action looks forward to mobilizing an army of concerned Americans to voice loud opposition to Biden’s firearm export ban.”

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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