Tag Archives: suppressor

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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ATF’s Shocking Position on “Makers” of Silencers/Suppressors, Especially in Relation to Solvent Traps

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.

Oil Filter Suppressor 1Oil Filter Suppressor 2.jpg

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.

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FICG Files Comment in Opposition to ATF 29P on Behalf of Dead Air Armament

DA logo

The Firearms Industry Consulting Group, a division of Prince Law Offices, P.C.,  is pleased to announce that it was retained by Dead Air Armament (“Dead Air”) to prepare a detailed filing in opposition to ATF’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPR”) 29P.  Dead Air has combined the brains and passion of both Mike Pappas and Gary Hughes to bring to the market some of the most innovative and anticipated silencers of the past year.

Because there is a delay in the posting of newly filed comments on http://www.regulations.gov, a copy is available for your viewing here.

An inspection of the docket this morning showed that no other silencer companies have filed a comment in opposition to this ANPR, making Dead Air the first in the silencer industry to take charge in the fight to prevent additional, unnecessary regulations.

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Hunting with Silencers in PA is Legal!

A number of individuals have inquired with our office whether it is legal to hunt with a silencer in PA. As silencers have become more popular, affordable and increasingly marketed to the hunting community, they are being utilized in the field by more people than ever. In Pennsylvania, it is legal to hunt while using a silencer.

silencer

In 2009, Chief Counsel Joshua Prince wrote to the Game Commission requesting confirmation that there are no prohibitions on hunting with silencers in PA. The Game Commission replied that it was legal to do so and suggested that individuals have a copy of their “license” for their silencer. A copy of that letter can be found here.

While the Game Commission itself spoke of a license, it is likely they meant a copy of your approved form from ATF. While researching the topic a bit further I stumbled across another letter that was issued by the Game Commission in January of this year.

Hunting with Silencer 2015

It seems in the years following Joshua’s original request, the Game Commission has taken to training their officers on the use and possession of silencers.

If you are a Pennsylvania resident and want to obtain a silencer but are unsure where to start, give us a call! We can help you form a Gun Trust to purchase your silencers. For more information on Gun Trusts you can read this blog article by Joshua Prince.

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Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, You’re a Trustee, So No Background Check For You!

In late March, I wrote an article questioning whether ATF directed FFLs to abuse the NICS system in “requiring” a background check on a trustee to be performed on the transfer of a silencer to a trust. Furthermore, I contended that a Pennsylvania FFL who utilized the PICS system to perform such a check was committing a felony of the third degree under state law.

nics

To my knowledge there is a legal service, who will remain unnamed, that advised Pennsylvania based FFLs to stop transferring silencers to trusts relying on the Dakota Silencer letter that had been published. Relying on the faulty logic that ATF utilized, the legal service concluded that because a trust is not defined as a person under the Gun Control Act of 1968, a trustee must undergo a background check in order to have the silencer transferred from the Pennsylvania FFL to the trustee. I am aware of several Pennsylvania FFLs who have either stopped transferring silencers to trustees or have required that individuals undergo background checks.

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Prior to the writing of the article I had submitted a Right to Know Law Request to the Pennsylvania State Police asking for:

…all records, including but not limited to, any and all communications (either internal or external), determinations, notes, documents, records, etc. regarding gun/firearms trusts and the Uniform Firearms Act 18 Pa.C.S. 6101, et seq. and whether a background check being performed on a trustee purchasing or receiving a transfer on behalf of the trust is necessary.

I received a response today granting my request in part and denying it in part. The denial was merely based on personal identifying information (phone numbers and email addresses which were redacted). You can find the documents here.

The response includes a chain of emails between Christopher Clark of the Pennsylvania State Police and Susan B. Whitman of ATF. Mr. Clark inquires of Mrs. Whitman whether “ATF requires a NICS check on a trustee picking up a silencer on behalf of a trust”.

Mrs. Whitman replies:

No, ATF does not require a PICS/NICS check or a silencer/suppressor or a NFA firearm. PSP requires a PICS check on all firearms including NFA firearms. Silencer/Suppressors do not meet the PA state definition of firearm.

(Emphasis added, misspellings original).

Mr. Clark then asks if it makes a difference if it is being transferred to a trust or corporation and that he received a call from an attorney who indicated to him that ATF told him there has to be a background check when it involves a trust.

Mrs. Whitman responds:

An ATF Form 4473 is required, but the NICS is not required if the firearm/silencer is subject to the provisions of the National Firearms Act (NFA) and has been approved for transfer. The licensee must keep an ATF Form 4473 on file for all NFA transfers.

Under PA State law, all firearm transfers/sales between licensees require a PICS, therefore the ATF Form 4473 for the NFA firearms would include completing the NICS section and conducting a PICS background check.

(Emphasis added).

atf reference

A look at the FAQs in the newest edition of the ATF’s Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide (Revised September 2014) has an entry P18: “Are there transfers that are exempt from the NICS background check requirement?” The answer in the guide is rather telling.

Firearm transfers are exempt from the requirement for a NICS background check in three situations. These include transfers: (1) to transferees having a State permit that has been recognized by ATF as an alternative to a NICS check; (2) of National Firearms Act weapons to persons approved by ATF; and (3) certi­fied by ATF as exempt because compli­ance with the NICS background check requirement is impracticable.

[18 U.S.C. 922(t); 27 CFR 478.102(d)]

(Emphasis added). ATF states in its Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide, which was updated after the letter sent to Dakota Silencer, that no NICS check is required for a NFA firearm to a person approved by ATF. Since all NFA firearm transfers have to be approved by ATF, there is only one conclusion to draw. No NICS check is required. Period.

Furthermore, the citation to the Brady Bill language in 18 U.S.C. 922 at the bottom of the FAQ references the same provision I cited in my previous article on the subject. The regulation that is referenced states:

(d) Exceptions to NICS check. The provisions of paragraph (a) of this section shall not apply if—…

(2) The firearm is subject to the provisions of the National Firearms Act and has been approved for transfer under 27 CFR part 479…

 

UPDATE:

As there have been some emails and comments on this post, it is appropriate to update it so there is no confusion. In PA and from what I understand, several other states, the definition of a firearm does not include a silencer. However, in PA SBRs, SBSs, Machine Guns and AOWs would require a FFL to conduct a PICS check as the definition of firearm would include those items. I apologize if anyone was misled. This was strictly in the context of a silencer. As always, consult with your legal counsel before making any decisions.

 

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Has ATF Directed FFLs to Abuse the NICS System?

It’s no secret that ATF told at least one FFL they need to run a NICS check on trustees picking up NFA firearms on behalf of a trust. In a letter addressed to Dakota Silencer, ATF explained:

The term “person” is defined by the GCA at 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(1), to include “any individual, corporation, company, association, firm, partnership, society, or joint stock company.”

ATF has interpreted the GCA exception in sections 922(t)(3)(B) and 478.102(d)(2) to mean that firearms transfers are exempt from a NICS check when they have been approved under the NFA to the person receiving the firearm. Unlike individuals, corporations, partnerships, and associations; unincorporated trusts do not fall within the definition of “person” in the GCA.

Because unincorporated trusts are not “persons” under the GCA, a Federal firearms licensee (FFL) cannot transfer firearms to them without complying with the GCA. Thus, when an FFL transfers an NFA firearm to a trustee or other person acting on behalf of a trust, the transfer is made to this person as an individual (i.e., not as a trust). As the trustee or other person acting on behalf of the trust is not the approved transferee under the NFA, 18 U.S.C. 5812, the trustee or other person acting on behalf of a trust must undergo a NICS check. The individual must also be a resident of the same State as the FFL when receiving the firearm.

This interpretation is what spawned the blog post “Did ATF’s Determination on NICS Checks Open the Door for Manufacture of New Machineguns for Trusts”  by Chief Counsel Joshua Prince. And as we all know, the NFA Examiners issued a number of approved Form 1s before they had to recall them due to an “error”.

Since this letter was published, a number of FFLs either on their own accord or through advice of counsel have begun to perform background checks when transferring NFA Firearms to trustees. But is this actually required?

A person under the National Firearms Act is defined in 26 U.S.C.A. § 7701:

The term “person” shall be construed to mean and include an individual, a trust, estate, partnership, association, company or corporation.

As defined in the National Firearms Act of 1934, the term firearm means:

 (1) a shotgun having a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length; (2) a weapon made from a shotgun if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length; (3) a rifle having a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length; (4) a weapon made from a rifle if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length; (5) any other weapon, as defined in subsection (e); (6) a machinegun; (7) any silencer (as defined in section 921 of Title 18, United States Code); and (8) a destructive device. 26 U.S.C.S § 5845(a)

maxim

As defined in the Gun Control Act of 1968, the term firearm means:

(A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon; (C) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or (D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm. 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3)

So what’s the big deal you ask? There are a few different issues that need to be addressed.

First, does the GCA of 1968 even APPLY to trusts? As Section 921(a)(1) does not define the term “person” to include an unincorporated trust, there is nothing in the GCA to indicate a trust falls under its purview! As Chief Counsel Joshua Prince pointed out to me in our discussions on this topic, ATF has said that a trust cannot hold an FFL because trusts, by definition, are not a person under the GCA and thus do not fall into the purview of 18 U.S.C. § 923. Yet, in the same breath, ATF is stating that trustees need to have a background check performed when they pick up a NFA item! How is it that ATF can refuse an FFL to a trust, because it is not a person under the GCA and refuse to pierce through the trust to an actual person, while requiring an FFL to, in essence, pierce through the trust to perform a background check for an NFA item?

It would seem that ATF is directing at least one FFL to perform a background check that I can find no legal requirement to perform. To my knowledge there has not been an industry wide newsletter or open letter directing that FFLs perform such a check. And even if there were, there is nothing I can find in the law to suggest that it is actually required.

ATF in a 2011 newsletter to FFLs, addressed the licensing of trusts under federal firearms law. ATF stated that only a person under the GCA could obtain a FFL. ATF went on to say that under Section 921:

“The term ‘person’ does not include trusts.”

In a 2008 newsletter to FFLs, ATF addressed the transfer of a National Firearms Act firearm to a corporation or other legal entity.

Procedure after approval
Approved NFA transfers are exempt from the NICS background check. So, when the FFL arranges for the disposition of the NFA firearm to a representative of the corporation or other entity, only the ATF
Form 4473, Firearms Transaction Record, must be completed by the representative of the corporation or other entity.

Furthermore, the NICS system isn’t even run by ATF. FBI is responsible for NICS and for what purposes it can be used. 28 C.F.R. § 25.6 provides:

(a) FFLs may initiate a NICS background check only in connection with a proposed firearm transfer as required by the Brady Act. FFLs are strictly prohibited from initiating a NICS background check for any other purpose.

The Brady Act amended § 922 along with a few other sections of Chapter 44.

Looking at 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(1), it provides:

Beginning on the date that is 30 days after the Attorney General notifies licensees under section 103(d) of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act that the national instant criminal background check system is established, a … licensed dealer shall not transfer a firearm to any other person who is not licensed under this chapter, unless—
(A) before the completion of the transfer, the licensee contacts the national instant criminal background check system established under section 103 of that Act;

Section 922(t)(3) provides:

Paragraph (1) shall not apply to a firearm transfer between a licensee and another person if–…

(B) the Attorney General has approved the transfer under section 5812 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;…

If the Attorney General approved the transfer under Section 5812 of the Internal Revenue Code then no NICS check is required. But the devil is in the details. We are talking about a transfer from a licensee to a person and a trust is not a person as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921. Since the licensed dealer isn’t transferring the firearm to a person, how could the GCA apply at all? Furthermore, why does it matter that the trustee or person acting on behalf of the trust is not the approved transferee under 26 U.S.C. § 5812? What makes them so special that they need a NICS check performed? A person who comes in to pick up a NFA firearm on behalf of a corporation or a LLC isn’t the approved transferee. Yet, ATF doesn’t seem to have any qualms about that individual picking up a NFA firearm without a NICS check under the 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(3)(B) exemption.

Moreover, 28 C.F.R. § 25.6 prohibits FFLS from utilizing the NICS system for any other purpose than required by the Brady Act. Ostensibly, FFLs cannot comply with what ATF purportedly wants them to do; access NICS to perform a background check on a Trustee picking up a NFA firearm.

Utilizing the NICS system for purposes other than allowed by Subpart A of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System as defined by 28 C.F.R. §§ 25.1-25.11 shall result in a fine not to exceed $10,000 and the possible cancellation of NICS inquiry privileges. Which can more or less be read as the loss of ability to conduct business as a FFL, if it is canceled.

Even if the NICS query would not be illegal to perform, there is another issue under Pennsylvania law!

Pennsylvania defines firearm very differently. In 18 Pa.C.S. § 6102 a firearm is defined as:

Any pistol or revolver with a barrel length less than 15 inches, any shotgun with a barrel length less than 18 inches or any rifle with a barrel length less than 16 inches, or any pistol, revolver, rifle or shotgun with an overall length of less than 26 inches. The barrel length of a firearm shall be determined by measuring from the muzzle of the barrel to the face of the closed action, bolt or cylinder, whichever is applicable.

As you are probably aware, the Pennsylvania State Police act as a point of contact for the NICS system. However, Pennsylvania law only allows for limited uses of the PICS system. These uses are defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111.

psp

Section 6111(b) requires that:

No … licensed dealer shall sell or deliver any firearm to another person … until the conditions of subsection (a) have been satisfied and until he has:

(1) For purposes of a firearm as defined insection 6102 (relating to definitions), obtained a completed application/record of sale from the potential buyer or transferee…

(2) Inspected photoidentification of the potential purchaser or transferee…

(3) Requested by means of a telephone call that the Pennsylvania State Police conduct a criminal history, juvenile delinquency history and a mental health record check.

(4) Received a unique approval number for that inquiry from the Pennsylvania State Police and recorded the date and the number on the application/record of sale form.

(5) Issued a receipt containing the information from paragraph (4), including the unique approval number of the purchaser….

Section 6111(f)(1) provides:

For the purposes of this section only … “firearm” shall mean any weapon which is designed to or may readily be converted to expel any projectile by the action of an explosive or the frame or receiver of any such weapon.

Even with the expanded definition of firearm for the purposes of this section, a silencer does not fit into the criteria spelled out by the General Assembly!

So what does all of this mean?

Section 6111(g)(3) states:

Any … licensed dealer … who knowingly and intentionally requests a criminal history, juvenile delinquency or mental health record check or other confidential information from the Pennsylvania State Police under this chapter for any purpose other than compliance with this chapter … commits a felony of the third degree.

Even if FFLs could contact NICS to perform a background check on a trustee when delivering a NFA Firearm without abusing the system, a Pennsylvania FFL will be committing a felony of the third degree under state law!

nics

FFLs who are conducting background checks on trustees due to their interpretation of the Dakota Silencer letter or legal advice they received may wish to inquire with their counsel as to whether or not they actually need to perform one. There does not appear to be any basis in the law for such a requirement. Section 921 does not include an unincorporated trust in the definition of a “person” and the Attorney General would have approved the transfer under 26 U.S.C.A. § 5812 to the trust!

 

UPDATE:

As there have been some emails and comments on this post, it is appropriate to update it so there is no confusion. In PA and from what I understand, several other states, the definition of a firearm does not include a silencer. However, in PA SBRs, SBSs, Machine Guns and AOWs would require a FFL to conduct a PICS check as the definition of firearm would include those items. I apologize if anyone was misled. This was strictly in the context of a silencer. As always, consult with your legal counsel before making any decisions.

 

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