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Firearms Company Blames Obama Gun Policy For Layoffs

David Uy
Creative Commons Photo
Century Arms attributed its layoffs to a White House policy that blocked importation of American-made weapons such as this M1 Garand rifle.

Century International Arms, a Florida-based firearms company, announced that it is cutting 41 jobs at its Fairfax facility and blamed the White House for the cuts.

According to a release, the company “had been planning a large importation of vintage WWII, M1 Garand Rifles from the South Korean government.” The deal, which the company claims was in the neighborhood of $30 million, “would have provided a reliable revenue stream to Century even during the general downturn in firearms demand in 2014.”

The company said it had all the proper legal clearances for the import deal, but “The White House intervened at the last minute and blocked this importation.” Century claims it pointed out that “the denial would harm the company and … there is no rational, gun-control reason to block the importation of these historic, 70-year-old firearms.”

According to a report by PBS Frontline, Century is a frequent importer of historic surplus arms, which the company then modifies with domestic parts.

They start with slimmed-down "sporting" versions of their foreign rifles that can pass the import test. Then, once the weapons are legally in the United States, a few foreign parts are replaced with American ones. The alchemy yields a gun that -- at least according to regulations enforced by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives [ATF or BATF] -- is American-made. It can then be loaded up with more features such as a high-capacity magazine and bayonet because under the law it is no longer an import.

The deal for the American-made M1 Garand deviates from that practice because the rifles it sought to import are not foreign-made. That was part of the problem, according to a written statement from Brady Toensing, who serves as special counsel to the company.

This was a routine transaction and all the preliminary approvals were in place in February 2013. We should have been good to go. But we were instead put into limbo. We then discovered that the White House had intervened and blocked the transaction. But there is no rational reason to block these firearms from coming back to the United States. It is a heavy and cumbersome rifle, but it is highly sought-after by collectors and priced as a collection piece. And the proceeds from the sale were going to be used to improve the South Korean defense forces. This transaction was a no-brainer, but the White House was immovable. Then on August 29, 2013, the White House issued this Executive Action with new gun control measures, which officially prohibited this 70-year-old rifle from being re-imported.

That executive action establishes a policy of "of denying requests to bring military-grade firearms back into the United States to private entities, with only a few exceptions such as for museums." That policy does not apply to weapons originally from outside the U.S., which may explain why Century has been able to do business for other surplus weapons without the White House blocking them.

Century doesn’t seem to be alone in being frustrated with the executive branch. Gov. Peter Shumlin and Sen. Patrick Leahy jointly signed a letter to President Barack Obama requesting for his assistance “to return the re-transfer request to the Department of State without objection so that it may move forward through the importation process.”

The letter says that the transaction “is important to Vermont’s economy and crucial to more than 200 Vermonters who are employed by Century Arms.”

It is unclear why Century waited until now to make the cuts.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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