The Obama administration has signaled that it will effectively shut down the Civilian Marksmanship Program, which has a history of 110 years of training citizens in the safe use of firearms. In an announcement on August 29 about a forthcoming executive order, the Obama administration would “ban almost all re-imports of military surplus firearms to private entities,” according to a White House fact sheet. According to the missive, the ban on the importation of military weapons – including those that were once sold or shared to U.S. allies – is intended to “keep military-grade firearms off our streets.” However, exceptions for import may be allowed for museums.

Currently, the Civilian Marksmanship Program strictly controls the distribution of obsolete military weapons, such as M-1 Garand rifles. The CMP was created by Congress as part of the 1903 War Department Appropriations Act in order to allow civilians to hone their marksmanship skills, should they  be called into military service. Citizens who participate in the CMP and receive firearms must comply with applicable state and federal law, and also submit to a background check by a deal holding a Federal Firearms License. Also, they must be a member of a CMP affiliated shooting club, thus making participation in the program more difficult for anyone trying to purchase a firearm through the usual retail channels.

The CMP was administered by the US Army until 1996 when it was shunted to the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice & Firearms Safety, a 501(c) (3) organization federally chartered by the U.S. Congress. Currently, there is no data to indicate that CMP firearms have ever been involved in homicides. According to the FBI, rifles accounted for only 323 deaths out of 12,664 homicides in 2011, the most recent data set provided by the FBI. “Apart from a donation of surplus .22 and .30 caliber rifles in the Army’s inventory to the CMP, the CMP receives no federal funding,” says the CMP website. Currently, the CMP is overwhelmed with requests and orders are taking 30-60 days to ship product.

President Obama’s executive order would mostly affect firearms coming from US allies and are pre-Vietnam War vintage, being familiar to the so-called Greatest Generation that fought in the Second World War and the Korean War. 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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