The White House announced on Thursday that it intends to “ban almost all re-imports of military surplus firearms to private entities” through executive order, which would effectively shut down the 110-year-old Civilian Marksmanship Program.
In a Fact Sheet published on Whitehouse.gov today referencing the upcoming executive order the ban on importing military weapons is designed to “keep military-grade firearms off our streets.” Exceptions for import may be allowed for museums.
The CMP tightly controls the distribution of obsolete military weapons. The program was created by the U.S. Congress as part of the 1903 War Department Appropriations Act with the purpose of allowing civilians to hone their marksmanship skills, should they later be called into military service.
Participants receiving firearms through the CMP must comply with all state and federal firearm laws and undergo a background check conducted by a dealer holding a Federal Firearms License in order to receive the gun.
Additionally, they must also be a member of a CMP affiliated shooting club, making participating in the program more difficult than anyone trying to purchase a firearm through usual retail channels.
The Civilian Marksmanship Program was administered by the United States Army from 1916 through 1996 when it was changed to the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice & Firearms Safety, a 501(c) (3) organization federally chartered by the U.S. Congress.
There are no data indicating any of the weapons involved in homicide were imported surplus military rifles. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s homicide crime statistics, rifles accounted for only 323 deaths out of 12,664 homicides in 2011, the most recent data set provided by the FBI.
“Apart from a donation of surplus .22 and .30 caliber rifles in the Army’s inventory to the CMP, the CMP receives no federal funding,” the CMP website states, adding that they have been overwhelmed by requests and orders are taking 30-60 days to ship product.
The rifles that the Executive Order would affect are typically from U.S. allies and are pre-Vietnam era. Without the importation of these rifles, the CMP is likely to become defunct and thus destroying a 110 year tradition of saving military arms and their civilian ownership.