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NRA: Obama State Dept. seeks to censor online speech related to firearms
June 7, 2015
6:29 PM MST
State Dept. regs would squash First and Second Amendment rights.
State Dept. regs would squash First and Second Amendment rights.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

On Friday, the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action said the Obama State Department has been quietly pushing a proposal that could censor online speech related to firearms. The NRA said the proposed regulation was published in the June 3 issue of the Federal Register and constitutes what it called an affront to the First and the Second Amendments to the Constitution.

According to the NRA, "online blogs, videos, and web forums devoted to the technical aspects of firearms and ammunition" could "become subject to prior review by State Department bureaucrats before they can be published." The State Department says it is simply clarifying existing rules regarding international arms trafficking, specifically, the NRA said, rules concerning "technical data" posted online or otherwise "released" into the "public domain."

"To the contrary, however, the proposal would institute a massive new prior restraint on free speech," the NRA said. "This is because all such releases would require the 'authorization' of the government before they occurred. The cumbersome and time-consuming process of obtaining such authorizations, moreover, would make online communication about certain technical aspects of firearms and ammunition essentially impossible."

A post at Bearing Arms provided three examples of things that could get gun writers tossed in jail. "I'm not going to register for permission from the government to write here at Bearing Arms, and so you can expect me to wind up in a federal prison... or worse," Bob Owens said.

"You did a gun review about your new AR-15 and posted it to YouTube?" Owens asked. "That's up to 20 years in prison."

"You took a small unit tactics class, and wrote about what you learned on your Blogspot blog?" he added. "That's a fine of up to one million dollars."

"You're a manufacturer that posts product manuals (on) your web site?" he asked in a third example. "Obama will shut you down."

"Your favorite gun forums, blogs, web sites, gun video channels, and virtually all other firearm-related online speech would be banned, with your favorite personalities subject to fines and prison, in a direct assault by this corrupt government on both the First and Second Amendments," Owens explained. The NRA said that violators face up to 20 years in prison and $1 million in fines per violation. Civil penalties can also be assessed, the NRA added.

The State Department says it will accept comments on the proposed rule until August 3, 2015. According to the State Department, those who wish may send an email to DDTCPublicComments@state.gov with the subject line, "ITAR Amendment-Revisions to Definitions; Data Transmission and Storage."

Comments received after August 3 may be considered, but consideration cannot be assured, the State Department said. The agency also warned respondents against submitting any personal information they do want made public. Emails and comments will "be made available for public inspection and copying after the close of the comment period via the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls Web site at www.pmddtc.state.gov," the State Department says.