September 03, 2021
By Mark Chesnut
Following Joe Biden’s ban on importation of Russian-made ammunition—a huge segment of the ammo used by American shooters each year—a Virginia group is looking into the legality of the move.
Empower Oversight, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to enhancing independent oversight of government and corporate wrongdoing, has filed a freedom of information request the State Department to try to determine if the president has again overstepped his bounds on firearms issues.
“The Department is purportedly imposing this ban as part of sanctions against Russia for the poisoning of Russian opposition figure Aleksey Navalny in August of 2020,” the group wrote in its FOIA request. “However, as explained below, there is ample reason to suspect this is merely a pretext, and the true purpose is to restrict U.S. citizens’ access to ammunition. We seek documents so the public can determine the facts about State Department’s ban, which is unlikely to meaningfully affect the Russian government but will clearly affect the American public’s Second Amendment rights.”
As most Firearms News readers are aware, the State Department recently announced a ban on importation of Russian ammo to take effect on Sept. 7. Loss of that ammo supply will further hurt American gun owners in an ammo market already stretched past the limit and will likely lead to further price increases.
“The ammunition import restriction seems more aimed at punishing American gun owners and businesses than as a foreign policy tool to influence the Russian Federation,” the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) pointed out in an Aug. 22 news item. “Ammunition exports to the United States are only a small percentage of the GDP of the Russian Federation, but Russian origin ammo makes up a large part of the American ammunition supply.”
In its FOIA request, Empower Oversight made the case that based on President Biden’s track record of trying to make life harder on American gun owners, the move to ban Russian ammo deserves scrutiny.
“Simply put, the State Department’s use of the CBW Act—a law designed to punish
foreign nations for using chemical and biological weapons—to potentially cut off 40 percent of the ammunition in America is a drastic step that deserves intense public and Congressional scrutiny,” the request stated. “In light of President Biden’s past statements on gun control, and the disconnect between the State Department’s stated purpose in imposing the ammunition ban and the ban’s likely effects, it is reasonable to question whether the Department’s justification is pretextual.
“The president said he wanted to restrict the availability of ammunition; that he would use the entire administration to pursue his gun control agenda; and now the State Department has taken action restricting availability of ammunition—but claims it is for an entirely different reason.”
The organization concluded with a request that due to the timing of the sanctions, the information sought be made available as quickly as possible.
“The State Department has said that these sanctions will take effect upon the publication of a Federal Register notice expected on September 7, 2021, and they will remain in place for a minimum of 12 months,” the request stated. “Given this impending disruption to the American ammunition market—and resulting implications for Americans’ Second Amendment rights—disclosing the requested documents as soon as possible is important for the public to assess the integrity of the Department’s looming use of sanctions in this manner.”
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.