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Industry News: January 2006
By Robert Hausman

Russia wants to use the U.N. small arms process to protect their intellectual property rights in the Kalashnikov.

Russia plans to call for support in the United Nations in its quest to regain leadership in the small arms market, a Foreign Ministry official has disclosed. In a move to tackle unlicensed manufacturing of arms including its best selling Kalashnikov rifle, Russia wants to have its intellectual property rights in small arms recognized under a UN initiative against illicit trade in small arms.

“We are against countries making small arms without our permission that were designed in Russia,” said Pyotr Litavrin, deputy head of security and disarmament at the Foreign Ministry. Russia, which in Soviet times supplied its arms technology free-of-charge to countries in Eastern Europe and Asia, has lost its leadership in the small arms market over the past decade, estimated to be worth around $4 billion annually.

Russia sells up to $60 million in small arms per year, said Marat Kenzhetayev, an expert with the Center for Arms Control think tank. In one of its more recent major deals, earlier this year Russia agreed to sell 100,000 Kalashnikovs to Venezuela for $50 million. It is estimated Russia loses from unlicensed trade in these arms as much as it gets from official exports, or around $100 million.

In its fight for U.N. support, Russia plans to push the issue of intellectual property rights at a U.N. conference in 2006 on illicit small arms trading, Litavrin said.

National Museum of Arms and Armour

One of the world’s finest collections of working military firearms has been re-housed at the National Museum of Arms and Armour in the U.K.

The collection of historic British firearms was originally kept in the Tower of London before being dispersed. It has now been reunited in a new purpose-built display area at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. The weapons form part of the Ministry of Defence’s Pattern Room collection.

The collection comprises some 14,000 historic and current British and foreign military firearms. They range from concealed weapons to prototypes and the most comprehensive collection of Kalashnikov guns outside Russia. The collection was set up to manage quality control in the manufacture of small arms, but it now plays a key role in forensic investigations by civilian police as well as being used as a reference body for weapons research. It will now form the core component of an international centre of excellence, known as the National Firearms Centre.

The Ministry of Defence’s project leader, Roger Colebrook, said: “This collection is rightly regarded as the best of its type in the world; it is an important national resource as well as being a remarkable historical artifact.” Unfortunately, the collection is not open to members of the general public.

Swiss Export Policy in Disarray

There may be less Swiss-origin military surplus materiel available on the market in coming months as Swiss arms-export policy has been thrown into disarray following revelations that tanks destined for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ended up in Morocco.

The Swiss government has now set up a working group to re-examine existing procedures and to find out whether tighter controls on weapons sales are needed. The decision to set up the working group, comprising representatives from the economics, defense, foreign, and police and justice ministries, has been welcomed by all political parties.

But both the Greens and the centre-left Social Democrats are demanding further action, saying the government has lost control of the end-use of arms sales it makes and has called for stringent new controls on arms exports.

Economics Minister Joseph Deiss recently announced that 40 tanks sold to the UAE in 2004 had been sent to Morocco in a clear breach of the end-user certificate. The Middle East nation said it had obtained permission from the United States, which built the tanks, but not the Swiss authorities.

Deiss said Switzerland would probably not have approved their export to Morocco, due to the country’s long-running conflict with the Polisario independence movement in the Western Sahara, a disputed desert territory it seized in 1975. “The UAE is... trying to find a solution. It is unclear whether these tanks still belong to the UAE,” said Rita Baldegger, spokeswoman for the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.

Swiss officials have said they learned from foreign media that the tanks, sold for SFr4 million ($3.2 million), were being used in Morocco, possibly for training. But it has emerged that the Swiss authorities were well aware of the UAE’s desire to send the tanks to Morocco. According to a defense-ministry statement, the UAE had sought permission from Bern two years ago to transfer the tanks after the sale. The request was refused.

Green Party parliamentarian Josef Lang believes it would be safer all round if the government dropped arms sales altogether. “Personally, I think that all the weapons that the Swiss army does not need should be destroyed, because the political cost of exporting arms is too high. It damages the country’s neutrality and it’s wrong from a foreign-policy point-of-view.”

Australian Customs Wins Pistol Case Appeal

The Australian High Court has declared as “lawful” the Customs seizure five years ago of 2,000 Chinese-made semi-automatic pistols imported by Queensland gun lobbyist and dealer, Ron Owen.

The Australian Customs Service had appealed a ruling in the Federal Court last year that the seizure was unlawful. Early last month the High Court unanimously set aside the Federal Court decision and ruled that the handguns imported to Australia under cover of entry for home consumption are “special forfeited goods”.

The case was a test of the commonwealth’s blanket bans on some guns and tightening of importation laws following the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre in Tasmania in which 35 people were killed. While the commonwealth laws were tightened, state laws largely remained static.

Owen, a gun rights campaigner, had sued Customs for what he claimed was the unlawful seizure of the guns.

In January 2000, the Queensland Police Weapons Licensing Branch issued a permit to Owen to import the 3,000 weapons but it was rescinded the following month over concerns the Norinco 9mm pistols could end up on the black market.

Owen’s company, Omeo Way Pty. Ltd. then paid Victorian firm Granite Arms Pty. Ltd. to import and store the pistols.

The first batch of 1,000 firearms arrived in Melbourne in March 2000 and was imported to Omeo Way. The next batch of 2,000 handguns arrived on May 3 and a customs broker arranged for their storage in Melbourne to enable the safety testing of the pistols and repairs to some of the guns.

Customs subsequently seized the second batch for failing to comply with Prohibited Imports regulations. Owen claimed Granite Arms was technically the importer of the guns. Customs argued that Owen had been trying to circumvent tough gun control measures when he paid Granite Arms to import the firearms after his own import license was revoked. The court ruled that imports in this case require the importer to hold a license or authorization under the law of the relevant state or territory to possess the article.

New Canadian Regs Deferred

The Canada Firearms Centre has once again quietly put off several gun regulations that were supposed to take effect last September.

Among the measures delayed until 2006 is a provision to have police forces across Canada register all their weapons, including seized guns, with the federal agency. New rules governing gun shows have been deferred until November 2006, while regulations that would force gun-makers to identify all firearms with internationally recognized markings won’t come into force until the end of 2007. The provisions were initially supposed to take effect in January 2005, but were put off to Sept. 1. Now they’ve been deferred again.

A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan said the deferral is both to “ensure compliance and be responsive to the feedback” on the regulations from the public. “We’ve done similar things like this before and ultimately we’ve phased things in and done so in a way that makes it user-friendly for people.”

Over a year ago on the eve of a federal election, the Liberal government overhauled the much-maligned gun registry in an effort to control costs and streamline its administration. The latest delays indicate there are still many kinks in the system, said Conservative MP Peter MacKay.

“It’s another example of the ineffective, overly bureaucratic nightmare that is the gun registry,” MacKay said. “The government continues with this simultaneous face-saving, rear-end-covering exercise of trying to justify a very cumbersome, useless system.” MacKay insisted the government backed off because police forces would have ignored the registration demand.

Israeli Gun Ownership Declining

A survey conducted by Israeli Interior Ministry shows a reduction in private gun ownership, by about a quarter million persons, from past surveys. The survey found that as of June 2005, 236,879 Israeli citizens had guns. At the same time, the survey pointed to a downward trend in personal weapon possession.

The study also found that a number of guns held without valid licenses, 34,000, were mainly due to a failure by owners to renew their licenses. A spokesman for the firearms branch of the Interior Ministry, Yaakov Amit, said that the government had begun to target those who did not renew licenses.

“A person who shows up on the computers as not having renewed a license for their firearm is informed to apply for a new license. It’s very effective, far more then when we relied on the police, who were not able to enforce this law fully,” Amit said.

In order to qualify for a license, an applicant must pass a number of conditions, including an assessment of their medical and mental health, and whether they live or work in dangerous areas. A decade ago, there were almost no limitations on the ownership of guns.

ATF Now Allows Use of FAXed FFL Copies

Coming closer to home, while heretofore American federal regulations required Federal Firearms License holders to provide signed-in-ink copies of their FFLs before firearms were transferred, sending a copy of a signed FFL license by facsimile transmission (FAX) is now permitted.

For background, Section 27 CFR 478.94 requires the following for sales or deliveries of firearms between licensees:

“A licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer selling or otherwise disposing of firearms, and a licensed collector selling or otherwise disposing of curios or relics, to another licensee shall verify the identity and licensed status of the transferee prior to making the transaction. Verification shall be established by the transferee furnishing to the transferor a certified copy of the transferee’s license and by such other means as the transferor deems necessary...”

This section of the regulations requires a licensee to verify another licensee’s status prior to making sales or deliveries to such licensee. Licensees are advised that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives will now recognize a faxed copy of a federal firearms license as an acceptable alternative form of verification.

ATF still strongly suggests that FFL-holders utilize the FFLeZ Check system and verify the authenticity of the transferee’s license prior to shipping or disposing of a firearm(s) to another licensee.

In addition, verification and certification of a license is not considered valid unless a legible copy of the transferee’s license clearly identifies the name, address, license number and expiration date of the license. Acceptance of blurred or illegible copies of a transferee’s license may constitute noncompliance with regulations.

ATF Imports Branch Relocating

The ATF Firearms & Explosives Import Branch is in the process of relocating to Martinsburg, West Virginia.

As of July 18, 2005, the functions to process applications have transferred to Martinsburg. Examiner Wonjiri Ridley is currently the contact person for these application requests. The following is the new address and new Fax and phone lines that are to be utilized for all applications.

Bureau of ATF, Firearms & Explosives Import Branch,

244 Needy Road
Martinsburg, West Virginia 25401
Attn: Wonjiri Ridley
Phone: (304) 260-1102
Fax: (304) 260-1103

During this transition phase, the processing time will be approximately 10 weeks due to the fact that some applications are being forwarded to Washington, DC instead of Martinsburg, WV.

For questions or concerns, Ridley can also be contacted by e-mail: Wonjiri.Ridley@ATF.GOV

The author publishes two of the small arms industry’s most widely read trade newsletters, The International Firearms Trade which covers the world firearms scene, and The New Firearms Business which covers the domestic market. He also offers FFL-mailing lists to firms interested in direct marketing efforts to the industry. He may be reached at: FirearmsB@aol.com.


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