A 90-day halt on US export licences for civilian firearms and ammunition does not currently apply to Australia and is not a cause for panic — yet.
The US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) on 27 October imposed a 90-day pause on the issuing of export licences for firearms, ammunition and accessories to non-government agencies.
The official announcement said: “During this ‘pause’ period, the Department will further assess current firearm export control review policies to determine whether any changes are warranted to advance US national security and foreign policy interests.
“The review will be conducted with urgency and will enable the Department to more effectively assess and mitigate risk of firearms being diverted to entities or activities that promote regional instability, violate human rights, or fuel criminal activities.”
The announcement has been widely reported as applying to all firearms exports and has caused widespread alarm among Australian shooters who are already reeling from chronic supply shortages.
However, the good news is that Australia is exempt from the halt, at least for the time being.
The BIS has explicitly stated that members of the Wassenaar Arrangement (a firearm and military technology export control program) are exempt from the export licence pause; Australia is a Wassenaar Arrangement member country and will not be subject to the restrictions at present.
This means Australian importers can still legally obtain civilian firearms, ammunition and related accessories from US suppliers.
However, there is no guarantee that will remain the case and Australian firearms industry members who have spoken with their US contacts have said there is concern this is only the tip of the iceberg.
We have been told that people within the US shooting industry are concerned US President Joe Biden will continue to expand export restrictions on firearms and ammunition, even for sporting and hunting purposes.
While the US export licence pause does not immediately affect Australia, it’s yet another issue affecting the shooting community globally — especially when combined with continued uncertainty due to escalating conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East, as well as ongoing supply issues from the US due to high (and growing) demand in America for firearms, ammunition and components.
Even before this US export pause, one Australian importer told us he did not expect the shortage of primers to ease before the end of this decade.
Don’t expect ammo, reloading components or firearm accessories to get any cheaper or more readily available any time in the foreseeable future.