Matthew Larosiere is the Director of Legal Policy at Firearms Policy Coalition. You can connect with him on Twitter @MattLaAtLaw.
Change in firearm export controls inches closer
For years, the Trump Administration has been considering handing oversight of commercial firearm exports from the State Department to the Department of Commerce, which is more invested in the interests of American companies. The State Department purports to be primarily concerned with threats to international stability. Therefore they make exporting firearms as difficult as possible under the guise of national security. This is despite the fact that there is no shortage of competition in the international small arms community.
The move is characterized as a “relaxing” of export controls. However, it doesn’t change the applicable statutory structure, it instead shifts responsibility for firearm exports from a department with a track record of hampering transactions, to one that might be more interested in facilitating transactions.
As someone who has personally navigated the Department of State Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, I can tell you it would be hard for things to get any more sluggishly bureaucratic than they are now. The United States has one of the most restrictive import-export regimes in the world when it comes to arms, and it’s certainly harmed the industry.
This week saw the close of the interagency comment period on rule changes in U.S. agencies, a significant milestone in changing hands on the issue. The Trump Administration can now put lawmakers on notice of its intent to transfer formal oversight of arms exports to the Department of Commerce Top brass at State and Commerce still need to sign off, but this will likely change things for the better.
What this doesn’t do, however, is loosen the arbitrary and irrational restrictions on firearm imports that drive up costs for American gun owners, as was pointed out by Ronald B. Turk, associate deputy director and chief operating officer of the ATF in 2017. Still, in the weapons regulatory context, less is more—and this is likely less.
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New Hampshire Firearms Coalition attacked over political sign
On Thursday, the New Hampshire Democratic Party (NHDP) filed an election law complaint against the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition (NHFC). The core of the dispute is a political sign the NHFC displayed at a New Hampshire House Committee meeting. The sign featured the text “There’s no law quite like a red flag law” against a backdrop of flags from the Third Reich, Vietnam, China, and Russia adorned with the faces of the sponsors of New Hampshire HB687, a red flag provision.
Members of the NHDP were outraged at having their policies compared to those of the Nazis (perhaps leaving the comparison to Stalinist Russia and Maoist China would have been less objectionable?). The devil in the details here is that New Hampshire code says “political advertising to promote the success or defeat of a measure by a business organization, labor union, or other enterprise or organization shall be signed.” The NHDP alleges that NHFC failed to sign its banner.
While comparisons to Nazism are more than a little cliché (aptness aside), the NHDP’s response is akin to tattling to the teacher. Everyone knows who was behind the sign, the NHFC themselves took credit for it. Wielding arbitrary speech codes against your opponents does nothing to absolve red flag laws of their status as bad policy.
P.S. If anyone at the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition is reading this, we would love for our legal team and First Amendment scholars and litigators to discuss this with you. We *love* to challenge speech restrictions that impact pro-2A / pro-liberty speech. Please e-mail the team at hotline \at/ fpchq.org.
Lincoln, Nebraska goes after unsecured firearms
The city of Lincoln, Nebraska previously banned individuals from leaving a firearm in a vehicle for more than a day. Mayor Leirion Baird said the old legislation was unenforceable, as “law enforcement had to rely on people who had guns stolen from their car to acknowledge they left the gun in the car for more than 24 hours." The new law, passed this week, imposes a $100 fine if a firearm is left unattended in an unlocked car, and is not hidden from view.
Lake County: Florida’s first gun "sanctuary" county
For a state shaped like a gun, my native Florida has been slipping on human rights for the last few years. From red flags, to a senselessly vague bump stock ban, to denying the rights of young adults aged 18-21, it hasn’t been doing great. So it’s exciting to see that Lake County, a significant slice of the central Florida patchwork, voted on Tuesday to declare itself a Second Amendment Sanctuary by a 4-0 vote. The resolution lists a dozen reasons for the move, including direct citation of the Second Amendment, multiple court cases, and Article I, Section 8 of Florida’s constitution.
The measure posits that the Federal government “cannot compel law enforcement officers of the States to enforce federal laws as it would increase the power of the Federal government far beyond that which the Constitution intended.” This is absolutely true. However, these resolutions are meaningless for gun owners if they don’t provide mandates protecting gun owners from local authorities who choose to go against the initiative and give force to unconstitutional laws. Lake County’s, like many such resolutions, lacks such teeth. While I’m happy to see a Florida county taking some steps, Lake County residents must understand this is only a symbolic step.
Cities in Florida pitch in for "assault weapon" ban brief
Several Florida cities are joining forces to fund a $25,000 amicus brief supporting the inclusion of an assault weapon ban on the 2020 state ballot. Deerfield Beach, for one, set the matter for November 12 this year. Municipal involvement at this stage is unsettling. For one, what unique perspectives do the municipalities have on the requirements of Florida’s election laws? Aside, of course, from the fact that they may really, really want guns to be banned, really super bad.
All governments are instituted among people to represent the interests of the people. It’s hard to see that being accomplished by a group of cities with diverse representation injecting themselves into a massively divisive political issue. Especially when it’s the politics of denying human rights.
P.S. Our FPC Policy and Research team filed 4(!) briefs at the U.S. Supreme Court last month alone in cases challenging "good and substantial reason" carry bans, assault weapon bans, magazine bans, the Trump bump-stock ban, and the federal government's unconstitutional lifetime gun ban for all felons. Check them out over here. And if you support this kind of work, please consider joining FPC for just $20.19/year here.