Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Free the M1!
The date in important because it is the day in 1950 forces of the North Korea's Korean People's Army invaded the South, starting the Korean War. By August and September, combined troops of the U.S. Eighth Army and the South's Republic of Korea Army were pinned down on less the 10 percent of the peninsula making its stand at the Battle of Pusan.
The M-1 Garand rifle and the carbine were the standard issue weapon for the infantry Joe's, who drove back both the KPA and later the Red China's People Liberation Army. Officially designated United States Rifle, Caliber .30, Patton called it the greatest battle implement ever invented.
As it stands right now, the South Korean defense ministry is warehousing tens of thousands of surplus M-1's from the 1950s. There were plans to sell the weapons to buyers in the United States. The primary purchasers would be collectors, veterans of World War II and the Korean War, who once slung and fired the M-1 and shooting clubs and programs, such as the Civilian Marksmanship Program.
For the South Koreans, the windfall from selling the iconic firearms at $200 to $500 a pop, meant they could finance the purchase of up-to-date rifles for their own infantry.
If you did not know the story, you could guess it. After approving the importation in 2009, the Obama administration blocked the import of the M-1 in 2010 because among other things, it was afraid the rifles would find their way to criminal organizations. Just the image of the Latin Kings or some other gang bangers running through city streets brandishing bulky M-1's... um... beggars credulity.
Remember, the M-1 is a legal weapon in the United States.
Absent a change of heart from the State Department's import license office, there is a bill pending in both chambers of Congress that could solve the problem for all time. Rep. Cynthia Lummins (R.-Wyo.) and a mirror bill sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D.-Mont.) would amend the Arms Export Control Act to fix the problem through legislation.
The bill, H.R. 615, would declare weapons older than 50 years-old as "curio and relic" pieces. The effect would be to remove both the State and Defense department from any role in regulating guns already regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The bill is not likely to reach the president's desk, but that is not the point. The threat of the bill reaching the Senate floor for a vote – with more than 20 Democrats up for re-election, is a powerful one. The pressure on the administration to approve the liberation of these hostage M-1's continue to build, not just from Congress and potential American purchasers. The South Koreans need to upgrade their weapons inventory as their neighbor to the North gets jumpy and bumpy.
June 25 is a day like our Pearl Harbor in South Korea, and the symbolism of making this wrong right beforehand is very, very strong. We shall see.
Neil W. McCabe