Association News: February 1998

By Charlie Steen

The following is a letter to congress composed by Charlie Steen of F.A.I.R., in response to President Clinton’s executive order banning the importation of specific firearms.


Dear Member of Congress:

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am President of the F.A.I.R. (Firearms Importers Roundtable) Trade Group. This group was formed in 1994 as a result of President Clinton’s ban on the importation of all sporting arms, parts and ammunition from China without regard to the many American importers who were immediately financially devastated by this action. President Clinton showed absolutely no regard for American firearms businesses when he denied relief to importers who made financial commitments on approved import permits and in many cases, had already begun to transport their merchandise to the United States. In one case an importer had 3000 .22 caliber rifles frozen in bond and was not even allowed by the Clinton Administration to re-export them. Thanks to the consummate fairness and understanding of the Congress, part of the travesty and unfairness of the ban was ameliorated by an emergency provision which was enacted into law which stated that relief would be granted to shipments that were in a bonded warehouse or foreign trade zone, in port, or in transit to the U.S. Now, once again President Clinton has taken action to discriminate against firearms importers by abusing trade and import policies.

The FAIR Trade Group calls on your sense of fairness to once again save or businesses from grave injustice and the arbitrary and capricious use of the President’s discretionary trade authority to destroy the business of American firearms importers. The President is deliberately taking such action to thwart domestic firearms laws, as established by Congress, and to slowly eradicate the firearms industry. Since October 23, 1997, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, has been under orders from the Department of the Treasury to stop processing and approving all import permits for semi-automatic firearms that are perfectly legal to import and that meet the Administration’s own criteria under the 1994 “assault weapons” ban. This brash, unofficial action by a department of the Executive Branch of stopping commerce in firearms that they simply don’t like is totally unlawful and must be stopped.

We understand that the President’s announcement is imminent on a ban on the importation of certain classes of semi-automatic firearms, in the words of White house Advisor Jose Cerda, by “taking the law and bending it as far as we can to capture a whole new class of guns” (L.A. Times 10/22/97). The president plans to do this by convening a study group to reevaluate and manipulate the “sporting purposes” that is the standard that was created, but not defined, in the 1968 Gun Control Act for the importation of firearms. The Treasury Department, in their infinite wisdom, has already decided which criteria apply to the lethality or sporting purpose of a firearm. Perhaps, I am naïve, but for 50 years I have believed that this sort of travesty is not supposed to happen in our government. Back in grade school I learned that our 3 branches of government were designed to create checks and balances to prevent such abuses.

I appeal to you as our voice in congress to keep legislative intent where it belongs, in the legislature and not let the arbitrary and capricious acts of the Clinton Administration change domestic law by ignoring the will of Congress. Again, I repeat Mr. Cerda’s statement of the Clinton Administration intended goal of ‘taking the law and bending it as far as we can to ban a whole new class of guns”.

Should you have any questions or discussion, please feel free to call or fax me.


Charles E. Steen, III
President (FAIR)
Firearms Importers Roundtable
C/O Sarco, Inc.
PO Box 98
323 Union Street
Stirling, NJ 07980
Phone (908)647-0776
Fax (908)647-3846

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V1N5 (February 1998)
and was posted online on September 8, 2017


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