- - Monday, June 8, 2015

Gun control and control of free speech would be combined in a new Obama administration plan that could send Second Amendment advocates to prison.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is furious about new regulations announced last week. The plan uses national security as an excuse to threaten gun advocates with prison time for sharing information about “military-style weapons. The problem is that almost every firearm is considered “military-style” by President Obama and the gun-control crowd.

The regulations do not involve the same “military-style” items that Mr. Obama wants to restrict from police forces, although Mr. Obama’s propaganda uses that same term in both situations. These new restrictions involve commonly  and legally available personal firearms.

Under the new proposal from the State Department, merely posting information on the Internet about common firearms could be interpreted as illegally sharing sensitive information with foreign nationals. So Mr. Obama’s plan is two-for-one in restricting constitutional rights: He would combine gun control with control over free speech.

That would set the stage to follow the notorious pattern of selectively enforcing laws to go after the president’s political targets. (Just ask the Tea Party about the IRS. Or ask whistle-blowers about the criminal charges filed against them.)
The new proposal, announced in last week’s Federal Register, re-interprets regulations on exporting weapons and related technology. Providing “technical data” about firearms or ammunition through the Internet, as re-defined, becomes a restricted export that requires pre-approval by the federal government.

The penalty? 20 years in prison plus a $1 million fine for each violation. Each time that any foreign national accesses the data is considered a separate violation. This evidently could include access by illegal aliens within the U.S.
Accused persons would have to defend by proving the data was already in the public domain, which gets tricky because the regulation blocks information from becoming public.

The State Department regulations are amendments to the long-standing International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), spawned by the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 that was signed by President Gerald Ford.

The law’s intent was to restrict international sales of major weapons — tanks, missiles, aircraft and militarily-sensitive technology. Mr. Obama’s revisions exploit the fact that existing regulations define “defense articles” to include “revolvers, pistols, rifles, carbines, fully automatic rifles, submachine guns, machine pistols and machine guns” plus their ammunition and some accessories. But that was intended to cover large-scale sales of lesser arms, whereas the new proposal is not limited to large-scale.

The NRA fears that Obama’s creative lawyering is a back-door maneuver to restrict the First Amendment right of free speech as well as the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

An NRA blog post states, “the proposal would institute a massive new prior restraint on free speech. … releases would require the “authorization” of the government before they occurred. The cumbersome and time-consuming process …  would make online communication about certain technical aspects of firearms and ammunition essentially impossible. … Gunsmiths, manufacturers, reloaders, and do-it-yourselfers could all find themselves muzzled under the rule.”

Or find themselves facing time in prison.

The new regulations are not final; public comments are possible until Aug. 30. The NRA is activating its base to sound off. The easiest way is on the regulations.gov website post comments.

The new restrictions on gun talk fit the patterns of the Obama Administration, which also tried to restrict common ammunition by labeling it “armor piercing” and which wants to expand mental health restrictions on who can possess a firearm.

But Second Amendment advocates are riding a wave of support. Recent gun-control efforts backfired. School shootings and strident press coverage solidified public opinion as people became more aware of the need for self-defense. According to Pew Research, the public now agrees by 52 percent to 46 percent that gun rights are more important than gun control.

Unfortunately, Mr. Obama never stops. But he is consistent; he ceaselessly pushes to give more control to government and less control to the people.

Former Congressman Ernest Istook is president of Americans for Less Regulation. To subscribe to his free email newsletter, go to eepurl.com/JPojD .

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