As many of our readers are aware, Attorney Adam Kraut and I attended the NSSF’s Import/Export Conference on August 2-3, 2016, for which we blogged about many of the statements made by ATF (and other federal agencies) in our blog – News from the Round Table Discussions at the NSSF Import/Export Conference. One issue that we did not discuss is ATF’s statements during the Round Table Discussions relating to ATF’s position on “makers” of silencers/suppressors, especially relative to what been called “solvent traps.”
For those who are unaware, there are a number of business offering “solvent traps,” which are designed to thread on the end of one’s barrel to capture the solvent, typically in an oil or fuel filter threaded on the end.
While the use of these devices for purposes of collecting solvent is questionable, many of these companies advise their customers that if they want to be able to use the solvent trap as a silencer/suppressor, the customer must first file a Form 1 with ATF to make a silencer and receive approval, before utilizing the solvent trap for purposes of being a silencer. (While we would advise our clients to file a Form 1 and obtain approval of ATF prior to even purchasing a solvent trap or similar device, so to prevent against constructive possession charges, such is beyond the scope of this article).
Under the National Firearms Act (“NFA”), 26 U.S.C. 5801, et seq, one who wishes to “make” an NFA firearm must file an application with the Attorney General, pursuant to 26 U.S.C. 5822. (Although the statute still references the Secretary (of the Treasury), when ATF was moved under DOJ in 2003, it changed to the Attorney General). Under the NFA, pursuant to 26 U.S.C. 5845, “make” is defined as to “include manufacturing (other than by one qualified to engage in such business under this chapter [26 USCS §§ 5801 et seq.]), putting together, altering, any combination of these, or otherwise producing a firearm.” While the NFA, pursuant to 26 U.S.C. 5841, does differentiate between a “maker” and a “manufacturer” in relation to how one is to initially register an NFA firearm and does define “make” as mentioned previously, nothing in the NFA differentiates between the rights of a “maker” and those of a “manufacturer.”
Nevertheless, during a discussion on ATF-29p (ATF’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking relating to Silencer/Suppressor engravings), ATF’s Mike Curtis and Earl Griffith with the Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division (“FATD”) stated that ATF views “makers” of silencers/suppressors differently than “manufacturers.” Specifically, the example of solvent traps was brought up, where they stated that ATF’s position is that a “maker” of a silencer cannot replace a silencer part without filing a new Form 1, paying another $200.00 and obtaining approval from ATF; whereas, a manufacturer, may lawfully replace a silencer part in a silencer it manufactured, provided that the part that is being replaced is destroyed. While there does not exist any specific statutory provision to support this contention, Mr. Curtis went on to explain that an individual who files a Form 1 to make a “solvent trap silencer” can only use the original oil/fuel filter that is installed and is barred from replacing a previously utilized oil/fuel filter with a new filter, absent a newly approved Form 1.
While Mr. Curtis did admit that to his knowledge ATF has not been asked to make a determination on a solvent trap silencer, he was explicitly clear that if a determination request was filed (or criminal charges brought against someone in such a situation), ATF would specifically find and contend that a “maker” of a silencer/suppressor may not repair/replace any part of the silencer/suppressor without first obtaining another approved Form 1.
Obviously, ATF’s position has a great impact on the Firearms Industry, as many individuals have made their own silencers/suppressors, long before the solvent trap silencers, and have been under the impression that like a manufacturer of a silencer/suppressor, they may lawfully replace a part in that silencer, provided that they destroy the part being replaced.
While Firearms Industry Consulting Group (FICG), a division of Prince Law Offices, P.C., does not agree with ATF’s position, we believe it is extremely important to advise those who have Form 1’ed their own silencer/suppressor of ATF’s position, since non-compliance could result in federal charging.