As longtime readers–and especially gun collectors–know, the State Department has often stood in the way of importing historic military firearms from overseas. The issue was highlighted early in the Obama administration, when the department first approved, and then denied, the importation and sale of collectible, American-made M1 Garand rifles and M1 carbines originally furnished to South Korea by the United States government.
While the current State Department has cited concerns that the M1s will end up being used to commit crimes, these rifles are legal to make and purchase in the United States. Millions were made, and they are highly regarded for their historical significance. The federal government even authorizes the sale of M1 Garand rifles and M1 carbines to collectors and marksmanship competitors through the Civilian Marksmanship Program.
The import restriction is the result of a complex set of federal laws. In 1984, Congress enacted legislation that allows the importation of military surplus “curio or relic” firearms. The provision was later found to only cover firearms of foreign origin because another law, the Arms Export Control Act, prohibits the importation of arms that were originally manufactured in the United States and furnished to a foreign government. In 1988, Congress amended the Arms Export Control Act to specifically allow for the importation of U.S.-origin “curio or relic firearms,” but various administrations have used certain requirements under that law to continue to block those imports.
This week, U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) introduced H.R. 2247–the “Collectible Firearms Protection Act.” H.R. 2247 would allow the importation of U.S.-origin “curio or relic” firearms into the United States without State Department permission. As with any other firearm, importers would still have to obtain an import license from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The transactions would also be subject to dealer recordkeeping and background check requirements before retail sale.
In a press release announcing her bill, Rep. Lummis said, “It’s disappointing that legislation is even necessary to allow U.S. citizens to access perfectly legal and regulated firearms, in this case storied, U.S.-made rifles that are pieces of U.S. military history. This is a political stunt on the part of the State Department, pure and simple, while denying the exercise of Second Amendment rights by law-abiding citizens, firearm collectors, and competitive marksman. The State Department has no business blocking domestic firearm ownership; they are way out of bounds and my legislation will put them back in their place.”