For the third year in a row, Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) has introduced the Collectible Firearms Protection Act challenging a 57-year old ban on the re-importation of U.S.-made military rifles sold, transferred or given to foreign countries. In question are 86,000 American-made M1 Garand and 600,000 M1 Carbine rifles we sold to South Korea after World War II. With some exceptions, these rifles are essentially illegal due to a 1958 law called the Mutual Security Act. But most importantly, President Obama’s executive action in 2013 banning the re-importation oversteps his bounds of power.
In some ways, we can blame ourselves. In the mid to late 1950s, Americans were buying cheap imported military rifles and modifying them to make good hunting guns. To protect companies such as Colt, Remington, Ruger and the other American firearms manufacturers, Congress passed H.R. 12181, the Mutual Security Act to protect “domestic small arms manufacturers in the domestic market”—which seems fair enough. However, this Act banned the re-importation of American-made rifles unless the gun was so extremely modified it was unrecognizable to its original state or it was sold to military personnel. The law went unchanged and unchallenged until 1976 when the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) was passed. The AECA allowed the President to decide when importation of these rifles was appropriate—giving the military rifles of our past, a “pardon” if you will. The AECA gave exception to rifles qualifying as a “curios or relic” as defined by the ATF and if the original country still owned the rifles.
Previous administrations have used the AECA, albeit quietly, to further their pro-gun or anti-gun agendas. For example, in 1987, President Reagan approved the sale of 200,000 M1s from South Korea, but President Clinton refused the re-importation of M1s from the Philippines, Turkey and Pakistan. And now, although the M1 Garand and M1 Carbine are very legal to own in the United States, President Obama is exerting his power through executive action, but not after flip-flopping over the deal.
The struggle to get our guns back started six years ago when South Korea purposed the sale back of the nearly 700,000 rifles in order to raise money for its military. Obama approved the re-importation in 2009. In 2010, he went back on his decision. Then in 2012, he again switched his stance, saying the Garands could be re-imported, but not the M1 Carbines, because the M1 Carbines “come with a magazine that can carry multiple rounds.” His executive order in 2013 made the decision final. He banned the re-importation of both rifles because they could “potentially be exploited by individuals seeking firearms for illicit purposes…” Yeah, because so many criminals pull out a 37-inch, 6-pound beast when robbing someone. Still, the Obama Administration believes that “this new policy will help keep military-grade firearms off our streets.” His intent, as he said is to “…ban almost all re-imports of military surplus firearms to private entities.”
Never mind the exceptions that the M1 Garand and M1 Carbine meet the ATF’s description of a “curios or relics” and that the intended purpose to import the rifles is to sale to Korean War vets, their families and to the Civilian Marksmanship Program—all exceptions under the 1976 AECA law.
Rep. Lummis’ Collectible Firearms Protection Act aims to change the AECA. Introduced on June 2, 2015, Rep. Lummis’ latest version of the bill, H.R. 2611, states:
To amend the Arms Export Control Act to provide that certain firearms listed as curios or relics may be imported into the United States by a licensed importer without obtaining authorization from the Department of State or the Department of Defense, and for other purposes.
Rep. Lummis said, “Legislation shouldn’t even be needed for U.S. citizens to purchase perfectly legal and regulated firearms especially in this case with storied, American-made rifles that are pieces of U.S. military history.” Read the full Collectible Firearms Protection Act here.
Though hundreds of thousands sounds like a lot, eventually these military surplus and highly collectible rifles will become piles of scratched up wood and metal if laws like Lummis’ do not get passed. (Previous historical firearms barred from reentering the U.S. have been melted down.) The NRA encourages all firearm owners and 2A supporters to write their representatives in support of the 2015 Collectible Firearms Protection Act. Click here to find out what you can do.
C’mon guys! This time, this year—let’s get this thing passed!
Melissa Burgess wrote a detailed study of the current ban in “Illegal Upon Exit: Examining AECA’s Ban on the Reimportation of American Military Firearms” published in the National Security Law Journal. Much of this article’s historical information was pulled from this paper and I highly recommend giving it a read to fully understand the scope of President Obama’s ban and the importance of Rep. Lummis’ bill.