The US shooting instruction industry has for some years been unclear about the details of this issue. A treaty (ITAR) exists that says, in essence, that folks are not allowed to provide non-US citizens with military equipment or training. As with most national government laws, this one is unclear and confusing. I have emailed the Dept of State requesting a summary brief to help guide laypersons, but have not had a response. This has added to my frustrations, which the careful reader might detect from my “tone.” Below is my understanding, and if you KNOW differently, please let me know! I want to be in compliance with the US Government’s rules. (If you “have heard” but don’t KNOW please don’t bother posting, I am searching for FACTS with sources.) If you are a legal expert, please write a simple one-page brief for our industry to help guide us, it is much needed.
UPDATE: I received this response on 5-14-15 from the DDTC Response team at the Dept of State. I removed the sender’s name because he gave me direct & useful information without passing me off to anyone else, which is against policy for federal government employees to do. (I think)
What is ITAR?
ITAR is an acronym that stands for International Traffic in Arms Regulations (22 CFR §§120-130) that are administered by the U.S. Department of State through the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) under authority of the Arms Export Control Act (22 USC §2778). ITAR places strict controls on the export of “defense articles” and “defense services.” Defense articles include any item, software, or technical data on the United States Munitions List (USML). Defense services include the furnishing of assistance (including training) to foreign persons, whether or not in the United States, with respect to defense articles, and the furnishing of any technical data associated with a defense article. Any defense article, service, or related technical data found to be on the USML requires an export license to be exported; i.e., given to a foreign person, whether or not in the United States.
The furnishing of assistance (including training) to foreign persons, whether in the United States or abroad in the design, development, engineering, manufacture, production, assembly, testing, repair, maintenance, modification, operation, demilitarization, destruction, processing or use of defense articles; The furnishing to foreign persons of any technical data controlled on the USML (see 22 CFR §120.10), whether in the United States or abroad; or Military training of foreign units and forces, regular and irregular, including formal or informal instruction of foreign persons in the United States or abroad or by correspondence courses, technical, educational, or information publications and media of all kinds, training aid, orientation, training exercise, and military advice. (See also 22 CFR §124.1.) *
The NRA Training Department advises against allowing non-citizens to attend even NRA Basic Pistol classes. The tourism shooting industry allows non-citizens to participate in their activities. Where is the line drawn? Some examples are easy, but most are not. I will examine some examples that US instructors might face, and offer what my response would be. Please know that I am not discussing what I believe to be morally right or wrong, far from it. Rather, I am focusing on protecting myself from attack by the government. I do not want to be fined, jailed or have permits yanked. What is ethical is a different question entirely, and to the many good people that I would like to train but must decline, I apologize.
This article is also not meant as legal advice!
OK, let’s look at some examples:
- A 15 year old Swiss girl who is a biathlon competitor asks an instructor to coach her.
- A van-load of middle-eastern men that don’t speak English request training on how to shoot around the vests that US Marines are issued.
- An affluent family from Buenos Aires has always had a curiosity about firearms from the movies they have watched and want to try a luxury entertainment shooting experience.
- A former British soldier has told his grandson for years about his experience shooting in the military, and now wants an instructor to allow the young man to try shooting some guns.
Who gets to shoot and who doesn’t? Based on my understanding, my personal perceptions follow: In the case of #1, I would happily instruct her. I would not teach her how to do proactive reloads of an AK while somersaulting to cover, however I would feel comfortable teaching her target shooting skills.
In the case of #2, the people I suspect intend to fight for their God & their country? Nope, I would definitely not instruct them because hey; wrong God and wrong country! This example is why the ITAR rule was made, and it is likely that other governments have similar rules.
In the case of #3, I would consider the likelihood that the family members would use the training I provide against “US interests.” Because they are seeking entertainment shooting and not serious instruction, I would happily provide them with a shooting experience. If they wanted further instruction beyond entertainment shooting, I would decline.
In the case of #4, I would again consider the likelihood that the young man would use what I teach him against “US interests.” This case is made even easier because the UK enjoys collaborating with the US in martial activities and has for many years been considered a “good” foreign country. With the same circumstance, except the men are from Chad? I might have to decline.
While it is easiest to set a policy of ONLY instructing US citizens with their government-citizenship papers in order, the “human” and “common sense” part of me loves teaching good people to protect themselves and when I am not allowed to do that, I would still love to help them satisfy their curiosity and have fun with guns.
I use the simple test of, “Do I think there is a chance this student might someday use violence against the US government?” If my answer to that question is “no” I am then comfortable providing entertainment shooting fun for them. I am not however willing to teach a woman that lives in a dangerous city outside of the US how to use firearms to protect her family from armed men that might break into their home, especially if she lives in the middle East. How about an Australian grandma that wants to try shooting clays? Yep. The circumstances should be examined without excluding contemporary issues, even if they illogical, racist or otherwise discriminatory. Will you treat a 21 year old Jewish medical student that is wearing a “I Love NY” T-Shirt the same as his neighbor that lives 3 miles away, worships a different god, is does not have advanced formal scholastic education? I suspect that the laws/treaties are written in such a way as to pretend not to be discriminatory, and further suspect that enforcement focus is directed at those that are materially harming US interests.
While I believe that this is the case, sometimes TSA searches old white wheelchair-bound women from Iowa at an airport to demonstrate “fairness” to gullible observers. The same can be true of a surprise Dept of State inspection of a shooting instructor that is helping the old Australian woman with her bucket list goal of breaking a clay with a shotgun. If it is determined that we can not teach any foreigner without a $250 DSP-83, I strongly recommend disregarding all moral, ethical and common sense perceptions. Rather, follow the law absolutely!!! I think most savvy folks understand that there enough hundreds of thousands of rules that all people are at any given time in violation of one or more. This is handy for governments, and it would seem that some folks can break laws and get away with it while others that break them are targeted. “If they want ya; they will get ya.”
I think it is our duty as professionals within the industry to do what we individually feel is right, and gather as much information as possible about also staying within the bounds of the rules set within our political jurisdictions.
I welcome factual feedback and will update & improve this article as I get it! (Links to a 70-page legalese dept of state document don’t help unless you have a relevant paragraph or several to direct us to.)
If you are a government person, whether a DOS agent or a US Attorney or otherwise knowledgeable, please respond with any feedback you have!!!! I, and most in our industry want to obey all laws and treaties!!!
More info here:
A thread on a blog – http://www.m4carbine.net/showthread.php?76851-Non-US-citizen-Training-in-the-US BATF regarding Non-immigrant aliens – http://www.atf.gov/files/firearms/faq/non-immigrant-aliens.pdf (Thanks for the heads up Bill at http://www.train2besafe.com) This article brings up a good question, what is the definition of “possession?” Is it different than control. If I give a gun to one of “those people” and ask them to enjoy it for a week, then return it – nope, not legal & is definitely “possession.” On the other hand, if I say to a visiting friend from over the pond, “Feel how smooth the stock is on this rifle” and he feels it for .5 of a second while I hold the gun, I hardly think THAT is possession. What do you think? Where is the line?
From a reader named Peter: