It’s that time of year again, the NSSF Import/Export Conference which is held in Washington, D.C. While the conference is designed to help educate companies about the import/export regulations and laws they might encounter while in the business, the conference does provide for round table discussions with ATF, DDTC and other Firearm Industry officials. Some of the officials from ATF that I had the opportunity to sit around the table with were Ted Clutter (Section Chief of the NFA Branch), Earl Griffith (Head of the Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division [FATD]), Max Kingery (Second in Command at FATD) and Edward Courtney (Head of the Firearms Industry Programs Branch).
Marvin Richardson, the Deputy Assistant Director of Enforcement Programs and Services, announced during the ATF Panel Discussion that there would be a new NFA Division (discussed further below).
Andy Graham Deputy Assist Director for Industry Operations reviewed some statistics from this past year.
177 new importer applications
493 inspections occurred, 177 were related to importer applications, the rest were compliance inspections.
There was 1 application denial, 103 applications which were withdrawn for various reasons, 110 compliance inspections resulted in no further action, 36 compliance inspections that resulted in license surrenders, and 15 special requests for inspections from licensing center.
There were 3 inspections that resulted in warning conferences and 14 inspections that resulted in a warning letter with a recall. There were also 8 inspections that resulted in a warning letter without a recall.
Last fiscal year, base of licensees dropped from ~141,000 to ~139,000.
Alphonso Hughes chief of the Firearms & Explosives Services Division reviewed changes to the structure of different divisions of ATF.
FFL Licensing Center has 20 examiners processing applications. FEL Licensing Center has 10 examiners working for it.
NFA Branch has 24 examiners staffing it. It’s down from 26. There are now 4 sections within the NFA Branch. That’s up from the previous 2. There are 7 vacant examiner positions that they are in the process of filling. Projections into 2017 for additional staff to help the NFA Branch.
Krissy Carlson, the chief of the Firearms and Explosives Industry Division, reviewed the new 4473 that is up for comment (again) on the Federal Register. For more on that see Chief Counsel Joshua Prince’s blog article. They are also introducing a newsletter that they’ve been working on since November! Krissy also mentioned new rulings based on petitions submitted to them.
Andrew Lange the Division Chief of the Officer of Regulatory Affairs spoke about the difference between regulations and rulings. There are a couple of rulemaking proceedings that are in the notice and comment phase. He specifically mentioned the ATF 29P notice and comment period closing today which I filed a comment in Opposition of the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on behalf of Dead Air Silencers. You can find that comment here.
Lastly, Earl Griffith, the Chief of the Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division, spoke. There are some promotions within the division. They are on track to do over 1,000 marking variances this year. They are taking about 2-3 weeks to process.
307,000 NFA Applications were processed. Last year there were 221,000. On track to receive about 400,000 forms for this year based on last years numbers. They are predicting 469,000 for this year because of ATF 41F (shout out to NFATCA).
Processing time is advertised as 6 months. In the last 5 weeks, they received 126,000 forms on top of the 90,000 they already have. 6 months now may be 8 or 9 months. Sorry guys. Just forget you ever submitted anything.
7,500 applications a week were received before 41F was announced. It doubled after the announcement of ATF 41F. It approached 35,000 in a single week closer to ATF 41F being implemented.
Alphonso said that the non-tax paid forms should be close to a 30 day processing time. He told his examiners to make that a priority.
They received several million dollar days in tax paid forms for the month of July. They cleared 11 million dollars in tax paid applications for the month of July.
They are looking to implement an electronic method for the submission of tax paid forms post 41F. Alphonso mentioned the possibility of electronic submission of the application and RP questionnaires with a matching barcode sheet to mail in the fingerprints.
NFA Branch is going to become a division with several branches within it to modernize the workflow. This is due to congressional oversight inquiries. They are looking for approval on paper in the first quarter of fiscal year 2017. Actual implementation in the 2nd or 3rd quarter. Alphonso will be the Chief of the NFA Division.
I also asked the NFA Branch a number of questions during the round table discussion. Before attending the conference I asked members of AR15.com, other industry related forums, and on Facebook questions they had that they wanted answered. I received a number of good questions which I decided I would ask.
Does ATF intend to bring back eForms for Form 1 and Form 4s?
Sounds like due to funding the eForms system will just be maintained where it is, until there is funding to replace it. In other words…
Is the NFA Branch still accepting corrections to forms submitted that had “non fatal” errors?
Yes. They are.
Does the NFA Branch have any procedures in place for forms which were submitted with credit card information that was rejected for wrong numbers, when the right number was listed on the form, particularly in light ATF 41F going into effect?
Not currently. That is something I am going to follow up with ATF about. I was alerted that it would likely need to be run through the NFA Branch counsel before I received an answer.
Does ATF prioritize Form 3 transfers? Is there any plans to “auto approve” Form 3 transfers using the eForms system after verifying the information on the form?
As stated earlier, the NFA branch is again prioritizing Form 3s. They are trying to process them within 30 days (that’s the goal). There is no plan for “auto approval”.
What constitutes a “fatal error” on a form?
A few examples I was given were 1) wrong serial number, 2) no serial number, 3) wrong address.
Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division
If you have a sample you want a determination request on prior to SHOT Show 2017, you must submit it to FATD no later than the end of September.
Office of Regulatory Affairs
For those who had questions regarding why comments reflected in the docket for regulatory changes were not all displayed, I learned a few things. First, if the comment contains just vulgarity, it will not be displayed. ATF will retain it and it will likely be subject to a FOIA request, but it won’t be displayed on regulations.gov. They also may be available for viewing in the reading room.
As for the timeline for comments submitted being displayed on regulations.gov, I was told that depending how much workload they had, it could be very quick or take a while.
Unfortunately, the question that most people wanted answered “Do I have to register under ITAR?” is not one that was able to be asked to someone at DDTC who handles registration. However, the guidance that DDTC issued on July 22nd, available here, tells you whether you have to register under ITAR or not. Additionally, the guidance also tells an individual how to inquire with DDTC as to whether the need to register.