You would be required to get the US State Department’s permission to post technical information about guns online under a new Obama administration proposed policy, the National Rifle Association is charging.
Much of the information about firearms currently allowed online would be banned under the revision of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. The ITAR is designed to keep US military technology out of the hands of potential enemies.
Any “technical data” related to firearms such as a YouTube video or a blog post would need State Department approval under the proposed change, a press release from the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) says.
The proposed revision was published in the June 3 issue of The Federal Register.
“The Obama State Department has been quietly moving ahead with a proposal that could censor online speech related to firearms,” The NRA-ILA charged.
Those who refuse to go along could face up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $1 million for violating the Arms Export Control Act, the NRA said.
Under its current format, the ITAR allows technical information about guns to be posted online.
“The ITAR do not (as a rule) regulate technical data that are in what the regulations call the ‘public domain,’” the NRA said, describing the current rule. “Essentially, this means data ‘which is published and which is generally accessible or available to the public’ through a variety of specified means. These include ‘at libraries open to the public or from which the public can obtain documents.’”
Because libraries offer Internet access on public computers, many experts have read ITAR to allow anything publicly available online. But that could be changing, because some “State Department officials now insist that anything published online in a generally-accessible location has essentially been ‘exported,’ as it would be accessible to foreign nationals both in the U.S. and overseas.”
Thus, under the State Department’s new reading of the ITAR, technical data about guns posted online would be prohibited.
“The proposal would institute a massive new prior restraint on free speech,” the NRA charged in its press release. “This is because all such releases would require the ‘authorization’ of the government before they occurred. The cumbersome and time-consuming process of obtaining such authorizations, moreover, would make online communication about certain technical aspects of firearms and ammunition essentially impossible.”
To post any such data online, you would need to get permission from the State Department.
“Gunsmiths, manufacturers, reloaders, and do-it-yourselfers could all find themselves muzzled under the rule and unable to distribute or obtain the information they rely on to conduct these activities,” the NRA said. “Prior restraints of the sort contemplated by this regulation are among the most disfavored regulations of speech under First Amendment case law.”
The NRA concluded, “When did the U.S. Constitution ever deter Barack Obama from using whatever means are at his disposal to exert his will over the American people and suppress firearm ownership throughout the nation?
The State Department is taking public comment on the rule until August 3. Comments can be submitted at regulations.gov or to this email address: [email protected]. It must contain this subject line: ‘‘ITAR Amendment—Revisions to Definitions; Data Transmission and Storage.”
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