The U.S. Department of Commerce announced on Friday that for a period of 90 days, it would suspend the issuance of export licenses for the majority of civilian firearms and ammunition to all non-government entities, invoking concerns related to national security and foreign policy.
The agency refrained from offering additional specifics about the halt, which also encompasses shotguns and optical sights. However, it mentioned that a pressing evaluation is underway to examine the potential for firearms to be redirected to groups or undertakings that promote "regional instability, violate human rights, or fuel criminal activities," the Guardian reports.
The department refrained from providing comments beyond what was shared on its online platform.
Johanna Reeves, an attorney at Reeves & Dola in Washington DC with expertise in export controls and firearms, noted that the suspension applies to a broad range of firearms and ammunition typically available for purchase in U.S. gun stores.
Reeves mentioned that this was an unprecedented move by the Commerce Department, as she had not observed such action being taken previously. “For sure they have individual country policies – but nothing like this,” she said.
The temporary freeze on exports will not apply to export licenses for Ukraine, Israel, and certain other close allies. The prohibition on exports may impact American firms that deal in firearms, such as Sturm Ruger & Co, Smith & Wesson Brands, and Vista Outdoor.
Foreign buyers of these exports typically consist of distributors and retailers involved in the sale of firearms.
During the hiatus, exporters are still permitted to submit applications for licenses, but these applications will be put on hold and no action will be taken on them until the suspension is lifted.
The Department of Commerce clarified that the suspension does not apply to export licenses that have already been granted.
For shipments intended for governmental clients, exporters are required to specify the exact end users. Conversely, any applications that do not clearly identify government, military, or police end users will be rejected and returned without any action taken.