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Who Needs to Know About the ITAR In Your Firearm Company?

Written by Orchid


July 25, 2016



Compliance with the ITAR is a challenge for companies in the firearms and ammunition business because its rules are not intuitive. The best way to know how to comply with the ITAR is to be trained in its requirements. Even if you don’t export and import firearms or components themselves, you or your employees may still need to know the ITAR’s regulations on technical data and defense services, especially if you interact, even occasionally, with citizens of other countries. Here’s our take on who should be most educated about the ITAR in your company.

1. Senior Management
The ITAR can’t be the sole responsibility of the company’s compliance officers and other employees. C-suite management and even the Board of Directors need to understand the scope of the company’s ITAR compliance obligations so they can ensure that the company has a compliance program in place that meets those obligations. Understanding the impact of the ITAR is critical when analyzing international business opportunities or establishing cross-border collaborations. Also, if a violation occurs, no one in a position of responsibility wants to be playing catch up to understand what went wrong and why.

2. Compliance Officers
That said, it is important to keep compliance officers the most up-to-date on ITAR compliance and licensing requirements. Even if your company doesn’t export firearms or parts, the compliance officer should be designing, implementing and enforcing procedures to prevent violations of the ITAR’s restrictions against sharing technical data and defense services with “foreign persons,” which can occur in many unintentional ways. From manufacturing vendors to cleaning staff, no person who is not a citizen of the United States can see any of your technical data without a license from the State Department. Blueprints, work instructions, process sheets, quality reports—all of these are subject to the ITAR. If you expose this data to a foreign person in the US, that’s still considered an export. To lead the company down the right path, the compliance officer should be thoroughly versed in the ITAR, including current developments and changes.

3. Sales and Shipping
Your sales and shipping teams also need to be educated about the ITAR. When your sales staff are making pitches, especially to foreign customers, it is necessary that they understand what information can be shared to entice a buyer and what can’t. Providing too much information about how a firearm is made, operated, upgraded or repaired can constitute a disclosure of technical data. If the person on the receiving end of the information isn’t a U.S. citizen or “green card” holder, that’s an ITAR violation. On the shipping side, if the shipping manager knows a license is necessary to ship firearms or parts outside the US, that’s a critical line of defense against a shipment being made to a foreign destination without one.

4. Engineers and Other Staff
Uninformed engineers are at risk of exporting technical data by accident by sharing it with “foreign persons,” so engineers need to know what activities the ITAR restricts and the company’s procedures for letting them do their business in a compliant manner. Human Relations needs to know that it is not enough for a new hire or contract employee to be authorized to work in the U.S.—if the individual will be exposed to technical data or defense services, a license is also required. IT managers must be informed that electronic technical data must not be accessible by foreign persons, including personnel employed by contractors retained by the company. Even employees on the factory floor, who have access to manufacturing know-how and other technical data, have to know the rules. They should understand that sharing the details of what they do with people outside the company can violate not only the company’s confidentiality rules but also the ITAR.

So, the short answer seems to be that everyone in your company needs to know about the ITAR—but how much they need to know truly depends on their job function. Shipping and manufacturing departments can be brought up to speed quickly, while the C-suite might need more education to ensure they’re aware of what compliance looks like.

Compliance and licensing officers, as well as general counsel, should attend national education programs like the annual NSSF-FAIR Trade Import/Export Conference in August or Orchid Advisor’s and NSSF’s annual Firearms Industry Compliance Conference in May.

Take your understanding one step further.

Online Course: Exporting Firearms and ITAR Deep Dive

This online course is broken down into the following modules:

  • Federal Agencies Governing International Trade
  • Export Regulations and ITAR – Part I
  • Export Regulations and ITAR – Part II
  • Export Regulations and ITAR – Part III
  • Managing the Export Process Part I
  • Managing the Export Process Part II

Estimated time of Completion: 90 minutes

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jeff-grody-orchid-advisorsBy Jeff Grody
Principal and Export / ITAR Practice Lead

Orchid Advisors assists firearms manufacturers, distributors and retailers in achieving compliance and operational excellence through education, technology, software and consulting solutions that reduce risk, cut costs, and provide expert guidance to make our client’s business more successful and efficient.