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Trump Administration Export Ban on Over 32 Round Magazines Raises Question of 'Why?'

Trump Administration Export Ban on Over 32 Round Magazines Raises Question of 'Why?'

“One click at a time the ratchet tightens... click click click click click,” a comment on the forum observes. “Until there's nothing left to tighten up on.”

The infringement concerning gun owners (this time)?

“DDTC (Directorate of Defense Trade Controls) will continue to restrict the export of high capacity magazines (defined as those over 32 rounds) – pinned or not – to government end use only,” forum business member and U.S./Canada importer/exporter IRUNGUNS revealed, citing a response from the U.S. State Department and its enforcement of the Arms Export Control Act.

“We understand that pinning magazines is an acceptable practice in most instances and wanted to give you additional guidance for submitting these cases going forward,” the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls. DDTC is not against the pinning of magazines that have a capacity of 32 rounds or below.

“Section 38 of the AECA allows DDTC to restrict the end use of USML defense articles in order to ‘control imports and exports of defense articles in furtherance of world peace and security and foreign policy of the U.S.,’” the explanation elaborated. “Section 38 is implemented on a case by case basis in response to concerns regarding the end use of defense articles and in reaction to U.S. foreign policy objectives.”

“The above release means there will be no more magazines with an original capacity of over 32 rounds exported from the United States,” IRUNGUNS concluded.


What may be new to those of us not subject to such requirements, it’s essentially a way of limiting magazine capacity via rivets to be compliant with laws requiring same. In Canada, we’re essentially talking limiting handgun magazines to 10 rounds and rifle magazines to five rounds, although the RCMP has defined conditions where variances are permitted, for instance whether the magazine is designed for a handgun or a rifle. For example:

“The maximum permitted capacity of a magazine is determined by the kind of firearm it is designed or manufactured for use in and not the kind of firearm it might actually be used in. As a consequence, the maximum permitted capacity remains the same regardless of which firearm it might be used in.”

Evidently, enough Canadian gun owners like the look of standard capacity magazines and there is enough of a market for them to make this both a legal issue and a business one. This may perplex those of us fortunate enough not to live under such restrictions, but it should also encourage us that committed gun owners constantly look for workarounds, to the point that journalists now complain “gun law loopholes tripled Canada’s rifle magazine limits.”

It also can lead to confusion, and to very real risks:

“In practical terms, that means that if the ten-round magazine for the LAR-15 pistol will fit in a semi-automatic rifle, it’s perfectly legal to use it that way. But using a functionally identical 10-round magazine not stamped for pistol use could lead to a criminal charge of possession of a prohibited device, and up to 10 years in prison.”


Still, that’s Canada, and while we wish them the very best in full recognition of their right to keep and bear arms (everyone has it, you know, even if government usurpers won’t recognize it), the concern here is what’s up with the State Department under supposedly “pro gun” Donald Trump? And how can anyone with a straight face seriously claim the “furtherance of world peace and security” is enhanced by restricting and criminalizing peaceable enthusiasts trying their damndest to abide by draconian laws?

“The limitation on magazine capacity is not new,” Johanna Reeves, a firearms and export regulatory compliance attorney at the Washington, DC law firm, Reeves & Dola, LLP, who also serves as Executive Director for the F.A.I.R. Trade Group, tells Firearms News. “I’ve seen this come up for clients since at least the fall of 2017.”

If people received restriction notices before then, Firearms News has not found them at this writing.

“In terms of ‘why,’ the State Department has authority under the statute (the Arms Export Control Act) to govern exports ‘in furtherance of world peace and the security and foreign policy of the U.S.,’” Reeves elaborated. “Under the law they do not have to get more specific, although sometimes they may give more information concerning a specific export. The courts have held there is no constitutional right to engage in exports or imports, and there is considerable deference granted to the State Department for making national security or foreign policy decisions.”

While license applications are considered on a case-by-case basis, the magazine capacity limitation appears to be across the board. Nevertheless, good luck finding definitive clarification in the regulations or in firearms and ammunition guidelines DDTC offers through its website. And that creates a situation where limits are imposed when they don’t need to be.

There are many countries which allow their citizens to own magazines with a capacity of more than 32 rounds. Two of those countries are the Czech Republic and Ukraine. Selection Armory in the Czech Republic currently offers 40-round Magpul magazines and Ibis stores, which are like the Bass Pro Shops of Ukraine, offer a variety of magazines over 32 rounds including the MagPul 60-round drum magazine

And of course it’s not just exports. Magazine ban limits have been and continue to be central to our domestic citizen disarmament schemes. The 1994 Clinton gun ban set 10 rounds as the limit, with more “earning” the “large capacity ammunition feeding device” designation. And while 42 states do not impose restrictions, eight along with a growing number of “local governments” do, and efforts to eliminate them continue at all levels of government whenever an opportunistic Democrat sees an occasion to do a little blood dancing for media exposure.

“Paranoid anti-government folks argue they need it to protect against tyranny,” a hit piece in The Los Angeles Times, long a “leader” in the citizen disarmament / government monopoly of violence PR machine declares. We really are just one “gun-free zone” massacre away from a critical mass of gutless Republicans caving to “Something must be done!” hysteria.

And that leads us back to why State is imposing a 32-round limit since at least 2017, when Secretary Mike Pompeo serves at the pleasure of President Donald Trump, who promised NRA members:

“[Y]ou have an administration fighting to protect your Second Amendment, and we will protect your Second Amendment. Your Second Amendment rights are under siege, but they will never, ever be under siege as long as I’m your president.”

More to the point, the NRA crowd went wild when the president revealed his administration was withdrawing from the UN’s Arms Trade Treaty at the annual meeting in May. 

“Under my administration, we will never surrender American sovereignty to anyone,” he revealed to thunderous approval. “We will never allow foreign bureaucrats to trample on your second amendment freedom. I’m officially announcing today that the United States will be revoking the effect of America’s signature from this badly misguided treaty.”

So why voluntarily give it up?

As long as exports aren’t being made to designated hostile countries, and as long as rules imposed by recipient nations aren’t being violated, how does it serve “in furtherance of world peace and the security and foreign policy of the U.S.” to continue imposing an arbitrary infringement when State enjoys such wide latitude and deference for its policies?

It would be an overdue gesture of support to see the president actually do something pro-active to advance the interests of the firearms community. It would be a welcome reversal of some baffling “concessions” the president has made on “bump stocks,” on “red flags,” and most recently, on suppressors.

As scary as the thought of Democrats taking over in 2020 is, talk is now coming from some with national voices about the possibility of a critical mass of thoroughly disillusioned gun owners sitting things out. And this isn’t a matter of “Would you rather have Biden?” or Harris or Buttigieg, as the “Hear No Evil/3D chess” Trump apologists angrily challenge back.

It’s a matter of preferring the pot not boil so slowly that the frogs never think to jump out until it’s too late. It’s a matter of not wanting “What do you need a magazine with that many rounds for?” to become more than a rhetorical internet question.


About David Codrea:

David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating / defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. In addition to being a regular featured contributor for Firearms Newsand AmmoLand Shooting Sports News, he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and posts onTwitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.

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