Today at the NSSF’s 12th Annual Import/Export Conference in Washington D.C., the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) announced that it will be accepting electronic Form 1, 4 and 5 applications for entities that do not require Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) signatures, fingerprint cards, and photographs.
In July of 2012, I had posted a blog regarding the ATF considering the use of e-Forms for National Firearms Act (NFA) applications, where the entity applying was other than an individual (AKA a trust, corporation..etc). Since that time, ATF has worked on devising a program that will allow Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) (and individuals, see below) to electronically file numerous types of NFA applications, including the Form 1 and Form 4. Specifically, ATF stated, “ATF is pleased to announce the implementation of the NFA forms into ATF’s eForms system. ATF Forms 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, and 10 are currently available in eForms [sic] submission.” The announcement continues on to say, “The submission of Forms 2, 3, 4, 5, and 9 can only be done by a Federal Firearms Licensee who had paid the special (occupational) tax for the current Tax Year.” Unfortunately, because a Form 1, 4 or 5, when submitted by an individual, requires photographs, fingerprints and a CLEO signature, electronic submission will not be available if the entity applying is an individual. It will only apply to entities such as trusts, corporations and other fictitious entities.
The FFL (or individuals, see below) will have to register at www.atfonline.gov, using its FFL number and SOT number on the ATF’s site:
For payment, the FFL (or individual) will have to maintain a separate account with Pay.gov for submission of the payment; thus, requiring the FFL to obtain payment from the customer, which is technically correct pursuant to the law, as it is the obligation of the Transferor, not the Transferee, to pay the tax.
I inquired of whether an other entity (other than an individual) can register to submit Form 1 applications and I was informed by Information and Technology Specialist Lee Alston-Williams that trusts, corporations and other fictitous entities will be able to register and submit Form 1s; however, they need to deal with issues such as who should register for the account (AKA the trust? the settlor? a member of an LLC?). She requested that I contact her so that we can work through the different potential scenarios and develop a FAQ or instruction sheet to walk everyone through the proper way to register and submit the applications. There will also be “roles” in each registered users account, which will be “super user,” “delegate” and “submitter.” We will need to work on a comprehensive FAQ so that, as an example, a trust account can be properly set up with its Settlor(s), Trustee(s)…etc. I also expect to discuss with her eForm 4s, which, if both persons are in the same state and the transferor is a trust, corp, etc, that eForms should be available.
For an additional benefit of electronic submissions, by their nature, eForms will be given preferential treatment. For import applications, it should result in a 1-2 week reduction. With NFA applications, it should result in a 6 -8 week reduction. The reason for the reduction is the elimination of the data entry phase, which currently has a backlog of 6 – 8 weeks. Since the electronic data will be automatically entered into the database, no human interaction is necessary at this stage. Upon filing the eForm, provided there is no error in the submission, it will be be almost immediately placed into that examiners active/pending file for processing.
More importantly, in my opinion, this will greatly reduce the possibility of human error in entering the data into the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR). I have previously written extensively on the error rate of the NFRTR in my article Violating Due Process: Convictions Based on the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record When It’s “Files are Missing.” This change it a definite welcome change to those of us living in the electronic age.
Making all of this more interesting is ATF’s alleged desire to enter into rulemaking; whereby, it would eliminate the CLEO Signature requirement while enacting a “responsible person” requirement for other entities, such as trusts and corporations, where the responsible person would have to submit fingerprints and photographs. Why would the ATF be moving moving forward with the elimination of the CLEO signature requirement, a main aspect of which, would require entities other than individuals to submit fingerprints and photographs, which would completely nullify the electronic Form 1 and 4 application submission ability? By enacting such a regulation, all entities (which are non-FFLs) submitting Form 1 and 4 applications would be required to submit fingerprints and photographs; thereby, precluding the use of the electronic forms.
Logically, what can be extrapolated from this move towards e-Form 1 and 4 applications is that ATF will not be entering into rulemaking to change the regulations relating to what must be submitted for Form 1 or 4 applications, where it involves an entity other than an individual. Hence, I do not anticipate any movement by the ATF on the published intent to enter into rulemaking – RIN 1140-AA43 – Background Checks for Principal Officers of Corporations, Trusts, and Other Legal Entities With Respect to the Making or Transferring of a National Firearms Act Firearm.