In June, U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) introduced the Collectible Firearms Protection Act (H.R. 2247), which would permit the importation of U.S.-origin "curio or relic" firearms into the United States without State Department permission.
In 2009, the South Korean Defense Ministry announced its intent to sell 87,000 M1 Garands and M1 Carbines to American collectors to raise funds for its military. Originally furnished by the U.S. to South Korea more than 50 years ago, the proposed sale was widely anticipated by American military rifle shooters and collectors.
Then, in March 2010, the State Department blocked the importation, expressing concern that the firearms, while perfectly legal to own, "could potentially be exploited by individuals seeking firearms for illicit purposes."
Under H.R. 2247, importers would be required to obtain an import license from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). The transactions would also be subject to dealer record-keeping and mandatory background check requirements prior to retail sale, just as with any other firearm.
"It's disappointing that legislation is even necessary to allow U.S. citizens to access perfectly legal and regulated firearms, in this case storied, U.S.-made rifles that are pieces of U.S. military history," Rep. Lummis said. "This is a political stunt on the part of the State Department, pure and simple, while denying the exercise of Second Amendment rights by law-abiding citizens, firearm collectors, and competitive marksman. The State Department has no business blocking domestic firearm ownership; they are way out of bounds and my legislation will put them back in their place."
According to the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), the current import restrictions result from a complex set of federal laws, something H.R. 2247 would help simplify—finally.
"In 1984, Congress enacted legislation that allows the importation of military surplus 'curio or relic' firearms," NRA-ILA explains. "The provision was later found to only cover firearms of foreign origin because another law, the Arms Export Control Act, prohibits the importation of arms that were originally manufactured in the United States and furnished to a foreign government.
"In 1988, Congress amended the Arms Export Control Act to specifically allow for the importation of U.S.-origin 'curio or relic firearms,' but various administrations have used certain requirements under that law to continue to block those imports."
Presently, it is estimated the South Korean government has some 800,000 U.S.-made M1s, mostly M1 Garands.