Like to Talk Guns? You Might Go To Jail.

At the federal level, there are already roughly 4,500 statutes that carry criminal penalties.

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The internet is an amazing place if you’re a gun buff.  Anything you want to know is at your fingertips.  From ballistic tables and tolerances to opinion on the grip shape.  Unfortunately, a new proposal may criminalize a favorite past time for millions of Americans.

From Right on Crime:

In a column for the Washington Times, Joel Stonedale, an attorney in the Center for the American Future at Texas Public Policy Foundation, highlighted a proposed expansion to the International Trafficking in Arms Regulation (ITAR), which would define the posting of certain technical data about arms on the internet as “exporting military technology—even if the technology is not military.” According to Stonedale, such information “need only be required for the ‘development’ or ‘operation’ of anything on the ‘Munitions List,’” an expansive array of technologies from small arms and electronic gear, to tanks and naval crafts:

“Perhaps most concerning, the Munitions List contains a catchall provision allowing the State Department to impose ITAR control over “any article not enumerated on the U.S. Munitions List.” Read literally, the Munitions List contains every technology on it, and any technology not on it that the State Department feels like regulating. In simpler terms, this could be expressed as “anything the State Department wants to regulate.””

Anyone wishing not to run afoul of this new expansive regulation must apply for a license, if “doubt exists as to whether the information [they seek to disseminate] is covered by ITAR.” Given the expanse of information covered by ITAR, however, this pretty much applies to everyone. Failure to do so risks criminal penalties of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Let’s consider that penalty again: 20 years. One million dollars. All to regulate speech that ten minutes ago was perfectly legal.

Just at the federal level, there are already roughly 4,500 statutes that carry criminal penalties. But, there are some 300,000 federal regulations that criminalize various and sundry activities as well, and these are just the ones we know about (at some point, those tasked with tracking these things down just stop counting.)

One question worth asking is whether such a regulation would withstand a court challenge.  The specifics seem overly broad and can incorporate almost any discussion of information on firearms.  However, would the courts interpret it in such a way?

Perhaps a bigger problem is how such a proposal could easily slip past millions of Americans without anyone knowing any differently.

With all the statutes and regulations, it becomes virtually impossible for a person to know whether or not they’re committing a crime.  Since ignorance of the law isn’t considered a valid defense, how are people to walk a straight and narrow line when it’s impossible to know where it’s drawn?

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  1. J. C. Salomon Reply

    I say, let this proposal go ahead, then hammer it in the courts. ITAR overreach has been a problem in rocket engine development (for example), but the small players don’t have the budget to withstand a legal challenge and the big players are quite happy to not collaborate with anyone else (in or out of the U.S.A.) anyhow.

  2. john Reply

    Great. Don’t post technical data on weapons on the internet. Phone a friend.

    Not sure how this topic puts anyone on the same page. It seems to suggest that we should simply deregulate all weapons and allow people to walk around with information on how to build a Nuclear bomb. Perhaps instead of just complaining, the authore could offer a better solution which safeguards the non weapon buying public.

    Given that gun deaths in the US are about to surpass automobile deaths as a leading cause of death, I’m wondering how gun advocates have any leg to stand on. While they’ve been making the “sport” less safe across the board, regulation and automobile makers have been make the auto much more safe nearly every year in a row for 70 years running.

    Maybe if the gun huggers would simply start tracking the safety of their hobby and demonstrating how they are reducing deaths in the USA on a year on year basis…we might all be able to get on the samepage. I doubt it will happen before that.

    That said, I am pleased to see that the author is reading the comments on other stories.