As a current IAA Director and past CICS (Chicagoland International Cartridge Show) and SLICS (St. Louis International Cartridge Show) manager for 10 years, I feel the need to set something right.
In some recent Forum posts and replies, there is a thread that weaves its way through certain comments to the effect that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), CIA, FBI, etc. are carefully monitoring our Forum in a clandestine attempt to uncover some unpatriotic, illegal, or otherwise undesirable ammunition-information activity. While I have no specific way to know for sure, I believe this idea to be very wrong, although I’m sure some ATF, CIA, FBI, etc. personnel do read the Forum because of their personal interest in ammunition. Several are IAA members. Some friends of mine are current and past ATF and FBI agents. Why shouldn’t they enjoy the Forum?
I believe the idea of government agencies monitoring the IAA Forum may have come about as a result of the outstanding work done by then-IAA-President Lew Curtis, which continues to benefit cartridge collectors worldwide.
After 9-11, there was a very serious threat to the ability of our foreign “non-resident aliens” to participate in the SLICS by bringing a small quantity of live small arms ammunition into the U.S. It’s not hard to imagine how government bureaucrats unfamiliar with our hobby could decide, under the circumstances, to ban the individual non-resident alien temporary importation of small arms display ammunition in their checked baggage. There were some exceptions to the restriction that would have effectively removed the “International” from the St. Louis International Cartridge Show; recognized sporting events such as the Olympics and others, recognized trade shows, and a very few others.
As IAA President, Lew Curtis saw what was about to happen, and he set forth on his own time and expense to come up with a legal way for non-resident aliens to be able to fully participate in the IAA-sanctioned St. Louis International Cartridge Show. Through his relentless personal efforts with ATF, Lew earned official recognition of SLICS as a qualifying IAA-sanctioned event, which meant that with an official invitation from me as SLICS manager to a non-resident alien, he could use that invitation and the show’s status as an ATF-recognized event to acquire a license to bring in his small arms ammunition for display at the show, to the mutual benefit of all involved. Lew told me that one of the key elements of the ATF recognition was the scholarly, serious content of the IAA Forum, in addition, of course, to the outstanding IAA Journal and our status as an IRS-recognized not-for-profit organization.
In other words, the ATF came here to the Forum, carefully looked it over, and saw that it was clearly a part of a valuable organization in the ammunition research field and deserving of official ATF recognition. With that recognition came the ability of our foreign non-resident aliens to participate, next, in SLICS 2011. So when you go to the back of the ballroom at SLICS 2011 and spend some time with the Dutch big-bore group, or enjoy some Swiss chocolate samples (and cartridges) brought in by Dimi and Loli Goulas, or “His Lordship” Martin Golland’s displays from the UK, or enjoy seeing and learning from the wonderful cartridge displays brought down from Canada by Chris Punnett, Will Adye-White, Paul Smith, and others, or Armin Bickel’s German cartridge displays, or those of any of the other “non-resident aliens” who add so much to our hobby, why not also take just a minute or two to thank Lew Curtis, without whose work that would not have been possible? And yes, that work involved having the ATF look over the IAA Forum to see, in part, what the IAA is all about.
Lew is a retired U.S. Air Force General Officer, having served his country on active duty for 36 years. He has been a very active IAA member for 45 years. When he presented his case to the ATF, they listened. U.S. Air Force Generals are not known for their frivolity. Lew put his professional reputation on the line for all of us, including non-resident aliens, and we should, in my opinion, thank him at every opportunity. If we maintain a professional level of posts and replies on the Forum, that will help maintain the IAA’s status as a serious organization deserving of recognition.
Disclaimer: I will be forever grateful that certain Dutch, German, English (who would have thought?), and other foreign collectors were able to provide me with so much information about Gyrojets and other ordnance, so I’m biased in favor of foreign participation in our IAA, its Forum, and its sanctioned show. And as a past SLICS manager, I know I’m biased in favor of what Lew did for “my” show.