Legally Armed: V23N3

By Johanna Reeves, Esq.

How Can a U.S. Company Import U.S.-Origin Military Surplus Firearms?

In continuation of my previous “Legally Armed” column, “How U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security Concerns Impact International Trade,” Small Arms Review, Vol. 23 No. 1 (January 2019), I thought I would delve into the complex issue of the barriers that prevent private companies from importing U.S.-origin firearms back into the United States for commercial sale. This is a surprisingly complex area where law and politics intersect with international trade and the commercial market of military surplus firearms.

There is a tremendous amount of interest among history buffs and firearms enthusiasts in the weapons of World War II and other international conflicts in which the United States was involved. Some examples include the M1 Garand, the M1 Carbine and the 1911 pistol. At the end of these conflicts, much of the most desirable materiel may have been left overseas or given to foreign governments. However, since 2013 private entities have been prohibited from importing these pieces of history back into the United States for sale to the public. This Obama-era block to private industry remains in place because of lack of action on the part of both the Republican-controlled Congress and President Trump.

How can such a prohibition exist? We are talking about U.S.-made products, so why can’t a private importer bring these back into the United States for the domestic collectors’ market if the foreign government doesn’t want them anymore?

As many readers may be painfully aware, there is an intricate process that must be followed to import any article of U.S. origin. Further, surplus military articles are subject to very high government scrutiny for foreign policy implications and the potential impact on public safety. Inevitably, political motivations also find a way into the discussion.

A. Overview of Applicable U.S. Export Laws

First, we must briefly review the U.S. laws governing the original sale and export to the foreign party. In general terms, U.S. law is structured to prevent firearms and other defense articles from being exported unless the foreign recipient promises it will not...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V23N3 (March 2019)
and was posted online on February 1, 2019


Comments have not been generated for this article.