I’m seeing some confusion circulating among people in the blogosphere and on social media as to the effects of Obama’s executive order on reimportation. It should be noted that this would only apply to a small subset of firearms that were sold to foreign countries. Ordinarily, military arms are illegal to import into the United States unless they are determined by the attorney general to be “particularly suitable for sporting purposes,” which the Attorney General has since 1989 (via another executive order) interpreted to mean only suitable for hunting. However, there’s a provision of the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 that made it legal to import any firearm that is a Curio and Relic, regardless of its sporting purpose suitability. This means anything that’s on the C&R list, or anything more than 50 years old is importable by law. This EO won’t do anything to affect the import of surplus military arms that originated overseas, like the Mosin-Nagant, Enfields, or Mauser. Even the M1 Garand and M1 Carbine are C&R, and are therefore blanket importable, regardless of what the Attorney General may want to determine about its sporting purpose.
But by law the State Department gets to have a say when it comes to weapons that have been exported by our government to foreign governments. If those governments wish to dispose of those firearms by selling them to private importers in the United States, they have to have sign-off from the State Department. That’s where this EO comes in. Basically, the Korean government still has a lot of M1 Carbines and M1 Garands sitting in warehouses that they’d like to sell to US collectors or to the Civilian Marksmanship Program. The Obama Administration has been unwilling to sign off of any of these re-importations to date. All this executive order does is make that official policy. In short, it doesn’t actually change much from the status quo. Without the requirement for State Department signoff, those M1s would be legal to import without any permission from the US government.
It’s still a dick move by the Obama Administration, but don’t feel like you need to go scrambling through your sofa cushions for loose change to go panic buy all the Mosin-Nagants you can get your hands on. Those are safe.