Category Archives: ATF

PRESS RELEASE: Monumental Mental Health Second Amendment As-Applied Challenge Success

We are extremely proud to announce that Attorney Joshua Prince was successful in a second Second Amendment as-applied challenge in relation to a prior mental health commitment.

As our viewers are likely aware from Attorney Prince’s blog article Monumental Decision from the Middle District Court of Pennsylvania Regarding Mental Health Commitments and the Second Amendment, over a year and three months ago, Attorney Prince was successful in obtaining relief for Mr. Yox, who had previously been involuntarily committed as a juvenile but later went on to honorably serve in our Armed Forces and later as a state correctional officer. Under federal law, Mr. Yox was permitted to possess a firearm and ammunition in his official capacity as a law enforcement officer, but was precluded from possessing a firearm and ammunition in his private capacity. In fact, in providing relief to Mr. Yox, the court declared:

Indeed, Mr. Yox provides the perfect test case to challenge § 922(g)(4), as the illogical contradiction of being able to possess firearms in his professional capacities but not being able to possess a firearm for protection in his own home puts in relief a factual scenario where an as-applied Second Amendment challenge to this statute may succeed.

Indeed, if Mr. Yox were not to succeed on his as-applied challenge, we cannot imagine that there exists any person who could.

Unfortunately, the court had previously dismissed his co-plaintiff’s (Mr. Keyes’) identical arguments on the basis that the Pennsylvania Superior Court had already considered his Second Amendment challenge and found against him in In re Keyes. After rendering its decision on Plaintiff Yox’s claims, Mr. Keyes filed a request for the court to reconsider its prior ruling and arguing that it would be a manifest injustice if the court were deny him relief based on the faulty decision of the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

On October 4, 2016, Judge John E. Jones, III. overturned his prior holding finding that Mr. Keyes’ Second Amendment as-applied claim was barred and declared that Mr. Keyes “is in a materially identical situation” to Mr. Yox and that denying Keyes, while granting relief to Mr. Yox, would seem to constitute an “inequitable administration of the law” and “manifest injustice.”Judge Jones specifically declared in finding that the Pennsylvania Superior Court incorrectly analyzed his prior Second Amendment challenge:

The result is that Keyes is left behind while his co-Plaintiff receives full relief simply because Keyes pursued his Second Amendment claims in what turned out to be the wrong court. He is left with no recourse to receive vindication of his constitutional right to bear arms, even though this Court has, for all material purposes, made clear that his claim has full merit. This is a grossly unfair and inequitable result.

Judge Jones went on to state that “[w]e would be hard pressed to think of a better example of an inequitable administration of the laws, and it is a circumstance that cries out to be rectified.”

Thereafter, extensive discovery ensued and the Government and Mr. Keyes filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Yesterday, in an initially sealed memorandum (which was unsealed today with the consent of Mr. Keyes), Judge Jones, after providing a substantial and substantive analysis of the law and evidence of record, declared:

We have been presented with no evidence to indicate that disarming those who went through a period of mental illness and suicide attempts over a decade ago and who have regularly carried firearms in their professional capacity since that time reasonably fits within the governmental interest to promote safety. As such, 18 U.S.C. § 924(g)(4) cannot withstand intermediate scrutiny in the face of Keyes’ as-applied challenge. Enforcement of the statute against Keyes therefore violates his right to keep and bear arms – a right guaranteed to him by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.

More importantly, telling of Judge Jones’ character and being an ardent defender of constitutional rights, he further declared:

We freely acknowledge our mindfulness of the fact that this decision is rendered in a time when our country appears awash in gun violence. Given the tenor of the times, it would be easy and indeed alluring to conclude that Plaintiff lacks any recourse. But to do so would be an abdication of this Court’s responsibility to carefully apply precedent, even when, as here, it is less than clear. Our jurisprudence and the unique facts presented guide us to the inescapable conclusion that if the Second Amendment is to mean anything, and it is beyond peradventure that it does, Plaintiff is entitled to relief.

Please join us in congratulating Attorney Prince for this monumental victory, as well as, Judge Jones for ensuring that for every wrong committed, the court has the power to correct it.

If you or someone you know has been involuntarily committed and is now prohibited from purchasing and possessing firearms and ammunition, contact us today to discuss your options.

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ATF releases 2017 Report on Firearm Commerce in the United States (Numbers, Bar Graphs, and Pie Charts!)

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ATF has released its annual Firearms Commerce in the United States Statistical Update for 2017. As my one friend put it, “[t]his is like fantasy football stats for silencer dorks.” It’s actually like that for a lot more than the silencer crowd, but I digress.

The Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Exportation Report (AFMER) is only current through 2015. This is because AFMER data is not published until one year after the close of a calendar reporting year because the information provided by those whole filed a report is protected from immediate disclosure by the Trade Secrets Act. Which is why you see a two year lag (2015 data reporting in the beginning of 2016 and a year delay between its reporting and publication).

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In 2015, there were a total of 9,358,661 firearms manufactured. This was up from 2014’s number of 9,050,626 by about 3.3%. Interestingly the number of exports fell by about 20%, from 420,932 in 2014 down to 343,456.

The total number of imports rose from 3,930,211 in 2015 to 5,137,771 in 2016 (imports are not included not the AFMER report which is why the numbers are more current). Interestingly, it was handguns that account for a little over 1.2 million more firearms imported in 2016. And as you may have guessed Austria leads the charge with handguns imported, accounting for over 1.3 million coming into the country. Probably a safe bet that Glock is responsible for the majority of those.

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For those of you NFA junkies, in 2016, there was $6,018,000 in occupational taxes paid (SOTs). This is up again from the year prior and slightly under double that of 2012. Taxes paid were $62,596,000 for 2016, almost double the year before (thanks ATF 41F). Interestingly, there were 6,547 record checks, which means that ATF searched the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR) that many times to determine if a firearm was possessed lawfully or if the transfer was performed lawfully.

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In 2016, there were 49,985 Form 1s and 133,911 Form 4s filed. These numbers were up from the year prior, but not by a significant margin for the Form 4s (Form 1s were up by about 17,000). While the number of forms process by the NFA Branch was up about a million from the year prior, it was the Form 2s that accounted for almost half of that number. For those that are unaware, Form 2s are used by industry to give notice to ATF that they produced or imported a NFA firearm.

As far as NFA firearms registered by state, Texas leads with 588,696. California follows with 344,622. Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania round out the top 5. Interestingly, Connecticut leads the charge with registered machine guns, sitting at 52,965. However, when you consider law enforcement, it starts to make sense.

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There are currently 57,345 licensed collectors of curios or relics, making it the most popular license type. It is followed closely by dealer in firearms, of which there are 56,754 active licenses. ATF reports 137,464 active licenses. Texas holds 10,954 of those licenses, making it the state with the most.

In 2016, 16 license applications were denied. This number is down almost 50% from the year prior. As for compliance inspections, ATF performed 9,790 last year. This equates to 7.1% of all licensees in 2016 being inspected.

As always, the annual report helps give some insight as to ongoings within the firearms industry.

 

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News from the 16th Annual NSSF Import/Export Conference in Washington, D.C.

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Attorney Joshua Prince and I attended the Annual NSSF Import/Export Conference in Washington, D.C. this week. There were a variety of presentations that were given on a variety of topics including: Federal Search Warrants and Regulatory Site Visits, Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards, Foreign Military Sales, ATF Panel Discussion, and Round Table Discussions (the best part in my opinion) on Day 1. On Day 2’s agenda is Prohibited and Embargoed Countries, DDTC Presentation on Information Technology, and a presentation from DDTC on Licensing and Agreements.

As most of our readers are more concerned with up-to-date statistics and information from ATF, this blog article will only address those and information learned at the Round Table Discussions.

ATF Panel

Sitting on the ATF Panel giving updates were: Marvin Richardson (Assistant Director, Enforcement Programs and Services), Curtis Gilbert (Deputy Assistant Director Enforcement Program and Services), Andrew Graham (Deputy Assistant Director Industry Operations), Earl Griffith (Chief of the Firearms Ammunition Technology Division), Alphonso Hughes (Division Chief, National Firearms Act Division), Gary Taylor (Firearms and Explosives Services Division), Andrew Lange (Division Chief of the Office of Regulatory Affairs), and Krissy Carlson (Division Chief of the Firearms and Explosives Industry Enforcement Programs and Services).

Industry Operations

Andy Graham stated that there are currently 791 Industry Operations Investigators (IOIs) not including the administrative staff. In 2018 they hope to add 48 more. There are two classes, one in February and one in July.

There are currently ~1,100 firearm importers and ~230 destructive device importers. There are about 162 active inspections occurring with regard to those licensees.

Office of Regulatory Affairs

Andrew Lange announced regulations.atf.gov, a website that had the most up to date regulations pertaining to ATF. The website is actually the first government website that I’ve perused that was functional and useful! The information is pulled directly from the Federal Register, so if ATF implements a final rule, it will automatically update.

The website features the ability to see the history of a particular regulation (so you can see the changes over time) and defined terms are hot linked so they will populate on the right hand side, meaning you can read a provision and see the definition of terms which are defined at the same time (allowing a reader to have better context or understanding). Even cooler is that it links to ruling that were issued. I’m genuinely impressed with the system. If only the eForms system worked as well.

Phase 2 is expected to be rolled out in September of this year.

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Firearms Ammunition Technology Division

Earl Griffith introduced the Firearms Ammunition Technology Division or “FATD”. They hired six more firearms enforcement officers who have now completed a significant amount of training (if I recall it was about a year to a year and a half, I didn’t write down the length of time), bringing the total to twelve. They are responsible for the evaluation of samples sent to FATD.

Currently, FATD is running about 30-90 days on most evaluations. They have currently issued about 800 marking variances which are taking about 30 days to issue. So far this year there have been about 250 product evaluations.

NFA Division

As was published in the most recent ATF FFL Newsletter, the NFA Branch has been transformed into the National Firearms Act Division, which became effective April 3, 2017. The Division will be led by Division Chief Alphonso Hughes, the previous Chief of the Firearms and Explosives Services Division. The new division, consists of two branches – the Industry Processing Branch (IPB), dealing with industry and the Government Support Branch (GSB) dealing with government related matters.

Alphonso stated that the NFA Division was going to undergo a full evaluation of the internal business processes in the first quarter of 2018. It would involve outside eyes looking in.

The former 2-3 month time period for application data entry has now been reduced to ~72 hours. For those with access to eForms…use them. eForms result in faster turnaround on approvals. While they can’t auto approve at this point, they are automating as much as possible. Form 2-3s are hovering around 10 days or under (eForms from my understanding).

41F – Everyone’s favorite topic (sarcasm if you couldn’t tell). There were ~280,000 applications received from the announcement of the final rule until it went into effect. That was about a full years worth of applications. They are on the downward slope of pre 41F paperwork.

ATF is working overtime to process these forms. They are currently working 7 days a week to reduce the wait times and are literally working overtime hours to accomplish that goal (up to 20 hours per person in addition to their standard work week).

Pre 41F, they were receiving ~35,000 forms a week and processing about 8,000 forms a week. Post 41F they were receiving about 5-6,000 form a week and processing 8-9,000 forms a week. They are currently predicting a 6-7 month turn around if you submit a form today.

In January, six additional examiners were hired. They are going to continue to push for resources in FY 2018-19.

Alphonso was also asked about the possibility of the reopening of the MG registry. He replied that it was not within the NFA division’s purview to address the issue (and he isn’t wrong. The original statutory language read “The Secretary of the Treasury, after publication in the Federal Register of his intention to do so, is authorized to establish such periods of amnesty, not to exceed ninety days in the case of any single period, and immunity from liability during any such period, as the Secretary determines will contribute to the purpose of this title.” 82 Stat. 1235, § 207(d). As ATF was transferred to DOJ, the power would now be held by the Attorney General. See 27 CFR 479.101(b)).

Firearms and Explosives Industry Enforcement Programs and Services

Last, but not least, was Krissy, who stressed eForms usage for industry. She was also asked about the possibility of the HPA passing. As you probably guessed, this is in the hands of Congress and not ATF. ATF holds no opinions on proposed legislation.

Round Tables

ATF Firearms and Explosives Industry Division 

I followed up on a question that arose last week at the NICS Retailer Event at FBI. While there, someone had asked about the new 4473 and question 12.d.2, specifically whether or not someone had to complete the question.

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The answer I received was “yes”, the form must be completed. This question has seemed to cause a lot of confusion on the new form.

There was also the question of “sex” on the 4473. Some states have now recognized a new gender. ATF has provided limited guidance, simply saying the individual has to complete the form. However, it is suggested, after discussion with ATF, if a licensee is unsure or uncomfortable with the person’s response, that they can document the transaction, etc. in the notes section of the 4473. A photocopy of the identification (a standard practice in a  lot of shops anyway) is suggested. ATF is still in the preliminary stages of looking into this issue and only provided guidance in relation to the question must be answered.

NFA Division

A common question I receive is whether or not you have to notify the NFA Branch of a change in configuration. I was informed that an individual can write a letter to ATF adding another configuration to a registered receiver. For instance, if the Form 1 or 4 is approved for a 10.5″ 5.56 gun and a person has a 8″ 300 Blackout upper, they can notify the NFA branch of the additional configuration. It was strongly encouraged that an individual do such, even if the change is temporary.

It was reported that the NFA Branch had little to no issues with the electronic fingerprint submissions. They advised that most prints they received were fine.

Lastly, for those curious about the process within the NFA Branch regarding trust applications, I was given this simplified process.

The application is received along with the payment. Payment is cashed and the data entry occurs. After the data is entered (it is kept in the order received) it is submitted to NICS for a check. Obviously the more Responsible Persons the more room for error, delays, etc. If a delay comes back on one person, the entire application is held up. This work is done by the legal assistants. By the time it hits the examiner, it is ready for approval or denial.

As I’m writing this, it I realized I forgot to ask about the disparity between approvals and postmark dates.

Firearms Ammunition Technology Division

Form 1 silencer builders have been in a constant state of argument as to what they can or can’t do. As of where we stand today, it is the opinion of FATD that a Form 1 maker CANNOT repair their silencer. They cannot replace a baffle if it is destroyed, repair a damaged endcap, or shorten the silencer. While not the answer the community wants to hear, that is the current position. Essentially, you’d have to file a new Form 1 and build a new silencer.

For those wondering about the new Autoglove, FATD has not seen a sample of that product.

If you’re thinking about building a clone of a firearm that has been approved as a non NFA firearm (ala Tac 14 or Shockwave, etc.) there is no requirement that you submit a determination request (which is true of any domestically built firearm). However, it was strongly encouraged to ensure your compliance.

 

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Breaking News: ATF To Issue Two Monumental Determinations

Today, at the NSSF/FAIR Trade Group’s 16th Annual Firearms Import/Export Conference, during the roundtable discussions, the Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division (FATD) stated that it is working on two monumental determinations regarding modular silencers and vertical/angled foregrips.

First, in relation to vertical/angled foregrips, it was disclosed that FATD has received numerous requests for determination. These requests vary greatly in form and substance and resulted in Branch Chief Curtis stating that some form of determination would be issued to the Firearms Industry; hopefully in the coming weeks. He even mentioned that at this point, the degree of the angled foregrip would have to be addressed in the determination, after review of all past determinations, including ones issued by his predecessors and ones which may be in conflict.

Second, in relation to modular silencers, FATD acknowledged that it currently has pending before it a request for determination of legality from a modular silencer manufacture. Division Chief Griffith and Branch Chief Curtis raised concern over the determination request and the issues that must be addressed, including whether modular silencer are legal, when reduced in size. In essence, the concern stems from there arguably existing additional silencer parts that are not part of the modular silencer’s configuration, when it is reduced in length. In the event that ATF would rule that modular silencers are generally lawful, it raises a plethora of other issues, including where the markings must be placed (which is interrelated to ATF’s currently pending rulemaking: ATF-29P) or whether such silencers would require either specific location markings or multiple markings.

This means that if you are a silencer manufacturer, who manufactures modular silencers, there is still time to submit legal arguments to FATD as to the general legality of modular silencers. If you wish to submit legal arguments, contact Firearms Industry Consulting Group (FICG) today to discuss your options.

Although ATF was reluctant to state whether these determinations would be in the form of “policy determinations,” “guidance” or “formal rulings,”  and stated that it could not provide an exact timeframe for these determinations, it was stated that they are overdue and should be expected in the very near future.

Stay tuned for a blog article from Attorney Adam Kraut on other news and revelations from the 16th Annual Firearms Import/Export Conference!


Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®) is a registered trademark and division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., with rights and permissions granted to Prince Law Offices, P.C. to use in this article.

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After 5 Years of Violating Its Own Regulations, ATF Publishes State Laws and Published Ordinances – Firearms (32nd Edition)

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ATF has published its long overdue update to the State Laws and Published Ordinances. The publication was announced to retailers who attended the NICS Retailer Day held at FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Center this past Monday.

Prior to the publication of this edition, ATF had violated its own regulations by consistently failing to “annually revise and furnish Federal firearms licensees with a compilation of State laws and published ordinances” since 2011. Had a licensee failed to do something the regulations required them to do for a period of 6 years, they would have almost certainly been found to have “willfully” violated the Gun Control Act.

The newest edition provides licensees and individuals with information that is current through January 2017. If a state has passed a new law since, it will not be reflected in this edition of the publication.

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Rather than publishing a large .pdf file, ATF opted to break each state into its own chapter. At the beginning of each state’s laws and ordinances, there is contact information for the ATF Field Division and State’s Attorney General.

The message from Acting Director Thomas Brandon does cause some concern.

Interpretation of a State or local law or ordinance:  Contact your State police, local law enforcement authority, or your State Attorney General’s office.

Anyone who has ever contacted law enforcement for the interpretation of laws knows that the police officers are not always correct in their interpretation of the law, as they are charged with enforcement rather than interpretation of it. However, the website, immediately under Mr. Brandon’s message, states “If you have any questions regarding State, County or local laws, please contact your state’s Attorney General.”

It’s nice to see ATF following their own regulations after a 6 year lapse in compliance.

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2018 Appropriations Bill Still Doesn’t Provide Funding For Federal Firearms Relief Determinations – Contact Your U.S. Representatives!

As our viewers are aware, although 18 U.S.C. § 925(c) provides for federal firearm relief determinations, since 1992, the ATF’s appropriation bill – which has been enacted each year thereafter – has provided a restriction on ATF’s use of any of the appropriate money for federal firearms relief determinations. As I reported in 2015, an amendment to the 2016 appropriations bill – H.R. 2578 – was passed, which provided for funding of federal firearm relief determinations. Thereafter, the bill, as amended, was passed by the entire House of Representatives. Unfortunately, due to the late nature of the House passing the bill, when it was received by the Senate, the Senate gutted all the language and replaced it with the language from an appropriations bill that it was working on in the interim. The Senate’s version was later passed by the House, including the provision precluding ATF’s usage of the appropriated money for federal firearms relief determinations.

The House is now working on an appropriations bill for 2018 and although it has been reported to include pro-Second Amendment provisions (which it does and are discussed below), the one provision which has not been modified, is the restriction on the appropriated money being used for federal firearms relief determination. Specifically, it provides that

Provided, That none of the funds appropriated herein shall be available to investigate or act upon applications for relief from Federal firearms disabilities under section 925(c) of title 18, United States Code

Accordingly, I am respectfully requesting that you contact your U.S Representatives and demand that the language in the Fiscal Year 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill be amended to remove the restriction on ATF utilizing the appropriated money for federal firearms relief determinations. In the alternative, if your Representatives push back regarding the cost, then I would respectfully suggest that the language be modified to:

Provided, That none of the funds appropriated herein shall be available to investigate or act upon applications for relief from Federal firearms disabilities under section 925(c) of title 18, United States Code; however, nothing shall preclude an individual from funding his/her own application for relief from Federal firearms disabilities under section 925(c); whereby, the cost to the individual shall not exceed $1,000.00

As this strikes a balance between allowing federal firearms relief determinations to be made and the cost being born by the prohibited person, it is hard to fathom what objection anyone would have to this language.

In relation to the pro-Second Amendment provisions included in the current version of the Fiscal Year 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill,  it would:

  1. Ban the use of funds for the program launched under the Obama administration to require federally licensed firearm dealers in Southwestern Border States to report certain rifle sales to the U.S. government;
  2. Permanently defund any form of unmonitored “gun walking” operations involved in U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s death;
  3. Effectively block the implementation of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty;
  4. Permanently block any attempt by anti-gun groups within the ATF to implement a highly restrictive framework on the importability of shotguns (i.e. any shotgun that was importable before the release of ATF’s 2011 shotgun importability study could not be reclassified as “non-sporting” and therefore banned from importation); and,
  5. Promote the importation of collectible “curio and relic” firearms and facilitate export of certain firearm parts valued at $500 or less to persons in Canada.

Accordingly, please join us in supporting the Fiscal Year 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill, while demanding that the language restricting federal firearms relief determinations be removed.

 

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SCOTUS Denies Certiorari in Binderup/Suarez

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the U.S. Government’s request for appeal in the combined cases of Attorney General Sessions v. Binerup and Suarez, leaving in place the District Court and Third Circuit decisions holding that an individual can successfully bring a Second Amendment as-applied challenge to a non-violent misdemeanor firearms disability.

I previously reviewed the Third Circuit’s decision in this blog article.

If you are prohibited as a result of a misdemeanor conviction, contact Firearms Industry Consulting Group, a division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., to help you restore your Second Amendment Rights.

 


Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®) is a registered trademark and division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., with rights and permissions granted to Prince Law Offices, P.C. to use in this article.

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