Tag Archives: “FATD”

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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News from the Round Table Discussions at the NSSF Import/Export Conference

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).

ATF

General ATF

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.

Inspection statistics:

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.

 

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NFA Branch

NFA Stats:

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…

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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.

Itar

DDTC

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.

 

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A Round Table Discussion with ATF

Having had the opportunity to sit around a table with different members of ATF, a few different things were learned.

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And don’t worry, the cartoon doesn’t reflect the attitude of those I spoke to.

NFA Branch

In regards to the NFA Branch and processing times, it appears that they are aiming for a processing time of about 90 days for Form 1s and Form 4s. They are currently around the 120 day mark and are working diligently to improve that time. They have gone from 9 to 26 examiners, which should allow them to meet that goal after everyone has been brought up to speed.

Trusts account for the majority of Form 1s and Form 4s that the branch is receiving. I also learned that there is a substantial increase in Form 1 submissions since the introduction of the eForms system. Additionally, the processing times for eForm and paper form submissions are now currently running about the same time, so there is not necessarily any advantage time-wise to utilize the eForms system.

Form-4

Furthermore, I learned that ATF hoped to have had the eForm 4s back by SHOT but they indicated that did not look like it would happen. They are currently in discussions with a contractor regarding the system.

There was also a question asked of the NFA branch in relation to 3D printed parts. The attendee asked if he printed a part, that was technically a NFA firearm, would he need to notify the branch of its creation and/or destruction. The answer was yes, provided the part was functional, it would be controlled by the NFA.

Imports Branch

The Import section fielded a question relating to the “sporting purpose” exemption. Disappointingly, there does not seem to be any hope in the near future for it to be revisited in order to consider such sports as 3-Gun, USPSA, IDPA or other shooting sports.

Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division

I also had the opportunity to sit down with the Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division (FATD).

For Industry Members, if you’re looking to receive a determination on your product, you can expect it to take about 120 days. That means if you WANT a determination on your product prior to SHOT 2016, you need to have your submission to FATD before September.

They did state that they would not give you priority just because your attending SHOT and need a determination prior to it. So you have to get moving on the product and submission now. If you’re an industry member and require a letter with your submission please contact us, as letters for determinations are something we handle on a frequent basis.

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The new product on the block that is catching a lot of attention by the industry seems to be the APS 1 Shot Dynamic Pistol Rest. Having had the opportunity to sit down with FATD and discuss the dynamic pistol rest, I can say several issues have arisen. Contrary to the claims of the company, ATF stated that it has no record of receiving any samples of the product in order to issue a determination. Additionally, FATD stated they welcome a sample to be submitted for a determination. This is in stark contrast to the statement that the company has proffered that ATF will not issue a determination.

The company had stated in a Recoil Web article:

“We asked the ATF their opinion and they had none, as it is not a permanent part of the weapon…”

Furthermore, having shown FATD a picture of the product, I was immediately informed that it was a shoulder stock and ATF had previously ruled on “friction stocks” in other determinations. It would behoove APS to submit a sample to ATF in order to have a formal determination on the product, so that individuals can know whether possession of the product with a handgun would potentially subject them to criminal prosecution or not.

Firearms Industry Operations

Good news for licensees. Is there a topic you want ATF to cover for training? Apparently, you can either call your local field office or headquarters to request a seminar on the particular topic. Furthermore, if you receive or have received conflicting information from your local field office, you may want to contact the Firearms Industry Programs Branch to get a “final determination” on the matter. Of course, I’d recommend you get it in writing, which they stated they usually provide a copy of their decision to the field office as well as the licensee with the question.

ATF 41p

ATF 41P was mentioned several times. The news? ATF is still reviewing comments and there is no news as to when/if they will move forward with any kind of final rule. Additionally there are 4 reviewers for the comments and all of them have been assigned to ATF 41P.

ATF 51P

ATF 51P has had no action as far as the review of comments on it yet.

General Rulemaking

ATF stated that the priority for rulemaking determinations were ATF 41p, ATF 51P and Reporting of Losses of Firearms in Transit.

Federal Firearms Relief

If the appropriations bill is enacted as written, Federal Firearms Relief would become available again, for the first time since 1992. ATF stated that if the appropriations bill is implemented, they do not currently have an action plan in place to address the forecasted river of applications it will receive.

ATF Ruling 2013-5

ATF also stated that it would be entering into rulemaking to clarify the electronic record keeping for FFLS in relation to Ruling 2013-5. Issues that would be addressed include cloud storage, the maintenance of records offsite but on a server and tracking changes in the bound book.

 

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