FOIA Update
August 26, 2021

Transmitted: August 26, 2021

To: Department of State


State Department Ammo Ban Information Request PDF

Re: Restrictions on Americans’ Access to Ammunition


Empower Oversight submitted a FOIA request to the Department of State seeking information to reveal whether its recent announcement of a ban on importing Russian ammunition is a deceptive abuse of the sanctions process in order to pursue President Biden’s domestic gun control agenda and restrict Americans’ access to ammunition by administrative fiat.

In 2020, then-candidate Biden explicitly sought to restrict citizens’ access to ammunition through legislation to outlaw online ammunition sales.  In April of 2021, after no such law had passed, he publicly stated: “[w]hether Congress acts or not, I’m going to use all the resources at my disposal as President” to pursue his gun control agenda.  In late June of 2021, his administration announced it would pursue a “whole-of-government approach” across government agencies to pursue gun control, with President Biden publicly stating that the “entire administration … will continue taking action where we can.”   

Eight weeks later, the State Department announced its ban on importing Russian ammunition, which makes up a large part of the American ammunition supply.  The State Department claimed it is enacting this substantial restriction on law-abiding American gun owners’ access to ammunition for an entirely different reason.  

The Department claimed the ban was enacted as part of a second batch of sanctions to punish the Russian government for its use of a nerve agent in the August 2020 poisoning of Aleksey Navalany.  However, the State Department failed to assert any relationship between sanctioned ammunition manufacturers in Russia and Mr. Navalny’s poisoning.  The ammunition ban is unlikely to meaningfully affect the Russian government but will substantially affect the American public’s Second Amendment rights.

The Supreme Court has held that courts can set aside agency actions as unlawful under the Administrative Procedure Act when the agency’s stated rationale for the action is pretextual or contrived.  The Department should promptly respond to Empower Oversight’s FOIA request and provide the documents needed to establish whether the stated purpose for its action restricting the exercise of Americans’ Second Amendment rights was legitimate or merely a pretext to cover a gun control agenda.  If it refuses, litigation may be necessary.  

If you have first-hand information you’d like to disclose to assist Empower Oversight with these inquiries, please contact us confidentially here.