ATF Proposed Rule to be Published Monday

For persons interested in the initiative to revise regulations so as to make it more difficult to obtain approval to make or transfer firearms regulated under the National Firearms Act (“NFA”), the breaking news is that the Office of the Federal Register has announced that the proposed rule from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has been received and will be officially published in the Federal Register on Monday, September 9, 2013.  As readers of this blog know, that publication is the first formal step in the federal rulemaking process.  I previously described that process step-by-step.  The key points for now are (1) that publication begins the calendar running on the ninety (90) day period within which interested persons may file public comments and (2) we have more confidence just what ATF will propose on Monday.  Just a few days ago I reviewed the appropriate steps interested persons should take upon publication. Remember the first point:  Take time to understand the proposal and gather your thoughts.


The “pre-publication draft” of the ATF proposed rule may be viewed here.  At first blush, it appears substantially similar to the draft made available last week.  There are numerous posts on this site evaluating the August 29 draft with respect to the substance of changes it would bring if ever finalized into a rule, apparent flaws in ATF’s reasoning and justification for the changes, and the seeming disregard ATF has shown for the procedural requirements designed to ensure that proposals undergo a thorough evaluation before publication in the Federal Register.


Earlier this week the Firearms Industry Consulting Group (“FICG”) requested that ATF make public the documents and studies referenced in the draft proposal upon which ATF seems to rely.  ATF has declined to do so.  FICG requested that ATF revise the draft before publication in the Federal Register so as to inform the public as to how any new rule would be implemented, a matter on which ATF privately provided oral guidance to at least one attorney.  ATF declined to make any such revision or to confirm in writing that any new regulation would not be applied to “responsible persons” already in place with respect to trusts and other legal entities previously established for firearms as to which ATF had previously approved a making or transfer application.  All prior indications were that ATF would apply any new rule only to newly filed applications to make or transfer NFA firearms but, again, it is concerning that ATF refuses to include that clarification in the actual proposal.  ATF had also indicated that any new rule would not be applied to applications that were pending review at the time the new rule became effective.  But, again, ATF has now refused FICG’s request to include such a statement in the official Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.  Congress established the Federal Register and enacted the Administrative Procedure Act to ensure all members of the interested public would have access to the same information regarding an agency’s rules and a fair opportunity to be heard in the formulation of those rules.  Unfortunately, ATF seems to prefer to operate as though the era of “secret law” still prevailed.

14 thoughts on “ATF Proposed Rule to be Published Monday

  1. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will appear in the Monday, September 9, 2013, issue of the Federal Register, volume 78, on pages 55014 through 55029. The deadline for public comments is December 9, 2013.


  2. Is it really possible that all pending forms that involved trusts and corporations would be kicked back because they don’t comply with the proposed rule once it’s finalized? Wouldn’t that amount to thousands of forms that may have been pending for what could be nearly a year?


    1. If, on the one hand, it was clear that ATF could not possibly take such an unreasonable position, it would have been easy enough for ATF to have confirmed in an e-mail what it has orally indicated, without necessarily changing the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. If, on the other hand, ATF views its mission as doing all within its power to discourage acquisition of NFA firearms, it would indeed seem possible ATF could take such an extreme position even at the risk that a court might disagree. For now, the most I can say is that I am “concerned” by ATF’s position.


      1. Thank you for your honest, although slightly unsettling response. I just want to thank those involved with this site for providing forms to be sent to our elected officials. I sent letters today to both of my federal elected officials that I thought would possibly listen on this issue.


      2. I would like to think the ATF would not want to spread the word to much about pending applications getting approved. If they did so then there would be an even larger surge of class 3 purchases in the next three months. Wishful thinking possibly…


    1. Tom,

      Are there any changes from the draft to the actual proposal?

      Specifically, any news on what happens to pending applications?




  3. I thought there was posted a method to contact the ATF for this period starting today. Am I missing it, or was it purely to contact local representatives, state and federal?


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