The bureaucrats at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives and Really Big Fires see the writing on the wall. With a lot of nail biting, they watched the new sheriff roll into town on Inauguration Day. In response to the writing on the wall, they drafted a "white paper" titled "Options to Reduce or Modify Firearms Regulations" dated January 20, 2017. It is my belief, as a member of the Trump administration's Second Amendment Coalition Team, that the BATF wants to pre-empt massive rollbacks of 80 years of gun control with this paper.
Yes, the political types at BATF see the implementation of these changes listed below as a way to blunt even further, more permanent rollbacks of gun control schemes. They wish to prevent the codification of these rule changes into black letter law. If Congress rolls back these regulations under law, it would make it much more difficult for a subsequent administration to bring these regulations back. Why is that? Restoring these changes would require legislation to do so, not department-level rule-making.
I see this as a huge win for us. If this paper (and the discussion fostered therein) serves as the starting point for BATF bureaucrats, then it represents a sea change in attitudes about the viability of many gun control among policymakers at the federal level.
Yes, Donald Trump is "draining the swap". In this case, some of the swamp creatures are trying to limit the "damage" to Big Gun Control before Congress gets involved.
Of course, the House struck down Obama's Social Security Gun Ban down last week and that legislation now goes to the Senate. Trump will no doubt sign the legislation when it reaches his desk.
Here are the highlights of the "White Paper":
Options to Reduce or Modify Firearms Regulations
ATF is the only Federal law enforcement agency with a primary mission that directly involves an Amendment to the United States Constitution. Thus, our actions and policies are appropriately subjected to intense review and scrutiny. This paper serves to provide the new Administration and the Bureau m ultiple options to consider and discuss regarding firearms regulations specific to ATF. These general thoughts provide potential ways to reduce or modify regulations, or suggest changes that promote commerce and defend the Second A mendment without significant negative impact on ATF’ s mission to fight violent firearms crime and regulate the firearms industry. This white paper is intended to provide ideas and provoke conversation; it is not guidance or policy of any kin. ATF’s enforcement and regulatory efforts are focused on reducing violence and increasing public safety. Positive steps to further reduce gun violence through enforcement or regulation are extremely important but are not the focus of this paper.
Here is a summary:
1. Allow non-retail space Federal Firearms Licenses. Basically a return of the "home gun dealer" licensing for those interested in buying and selling at gun shows or online.
2. Clear definitions of "Armor Piercing Ammunition" which would allow lead-free projectiles, "green tip" ammo, and so forth. This would also drive down ammo costs by allowing Chinese and Russian surplus ammo importation. No more fuzzy definitions and rulings.
3. Lifting the Obama bans on importing surplus M1 Garands, M1 Carbines and 1911 pistols.
4. Allowing new full auto guns to be manufactured and purchased by every FFL/SOT license holders. (Possibly even the new home FFLs!)
5. Reversing the arbitrary ban on shouldering "pistol brace" guns.
6. Redefining "Sporting Purposes". The "Sporting Purposes" test for importation of firearms has been twisted and perverted by anti-gun administrations for at least two generations.
7. Make BATF agency rulings and opinion letters searchable online.
8. Remove suppressors from the National Firearms Act.
I have appended the entire language of this particular point in light of our efforts to pass suppressor legalization in Illinois:
Silencers: Current Federal law requires ATF to regulate silencers under the NFA. This requires a Federal tax payment of $200 for transfer s, ATF approval, and entry of the silencer into a national NFA database. In the past several year, opinions about silencers hav e changed across the United States . Their use to reduce noise at shooting ranges and applications within the sporting and hunting industry are now well recognized. At present, 42 states generally allow silencers to be used for sporting purposes. The wide acceptance of silencers and corresponding changes in state laws have created substantial demand across the country. This surge in demand has caused ATF to have a significant backlog on silencer applications . ATF’s processing time is now approximately 8 months. ATF has devoted substantial resources in attempts to reduce processing times, spending over $1 million annually in overtime and temporary duty expenses, and dedicating over 33 additional full – time and contract positions since 2011 to support NFA processing. Despite these efforts, NFA processing times are widely viewed by applicants and the industry as far too long, resulting in numerous complaints to Congress. Since silencers account for the vast majority of NFA applications, the most direct way to reduce processing times is to reduce the number of silencer applications. In light of the expanding demand and acceptance of silencers, however, that volume is unlikely to diminish unless they are removed from the NFA. While DOJ and ATF have historically not supported removal of items from the NFA, the change in public acceptance of silencers arguably indicates that the reason for their inclusion in the NFA is archaic and historical reluctance to removing them from the NFA should be reevaluated. ATF’s experience with the criminal use of silencers also supports reassessing their inclusion in the NFA. On average in the past 10 years, ATF has only recommended 44 defendants a year for prosecution on silencer – related violations; of those, only approximately 6 of the defendants had prior felony convictions. Moreover, consistent with this low number of prosecution referrals, silencers are very rarely used in criminal shootings. Given the lack of criminality associated with silencers, it is reasonable to conclude that they should not be viewed as a threat to public safety necessitating NFA classification, and should be considered for reclassification under the GCA.
If such a change were to be considered, a revision in the definition of a silencer would be important . The current definition of a silencer extends to “any combination of [silencer] parts,” as well as “any part intended only for use in” a silencer. Compared to the definition of a firearm, which specifies the frame or receiver is the key regulated part, any individual silencer part is generally regulated just as if it were a completed silencer. Revising the definition could eliminate many of the current issues encountered by silencer manufacturers and their parts suppliers. Specifically, clarifying when a part or combination of parts meets a minimum threshold requiring serialization would be useful.
9. Allow interstate firearm sales at gun shows. Key verbiage: "would have no detrimental effect on public safety and still provide ATF a means to trace firearms."
10. Reclassification of "Destructive Devices". Basically, eliminate the munitions from the "Destructive Devices" law. So, if you've got a pack howitzer, each of the explosive shells would no longer need to be registered (and subject to a $200 tax stamp).
11. Modification of ATF Demand Letter 2. "Grey Market Dealers". Gun shops with more than ten guns traced back from crime scenes are subject to extra record-keeping requirements. The threshold for this would be raised.
12. Modification of ATF Demand Letter 3: Multiple long gun sales reporting for border states. Obama put this in place after the "Fast and Furious" gun-walking scandal broke. This would be eliminated.
13. Form 4473 Retention rollback. ATF wants dealers to retain their Form 4473s for 20 years, and Obama wanted to make it indefinite. Now all the sudden, ATF wants to take a second look and perhaps reduce the retention time.
14. Allowing permissive use of NICS checks for dealers. This will help dealers ensure that employees are not prohibited persons, ineligible to handle firearms.
15. Need for an ATF Director. I nominate John Ross.
16. Strike obsolete rules and regulations. Things like the scary gun ban that ended back in 2004.
There are many regulatory changes or modifications that can be made by or through ATF that would have an immediate, positive impact on commerce and industry without significantly hindering ATFs mission or adversely affecting public safety. There are also areas where adjustments to policy or processes could improve ATF operations. Alleviating some of these concerns would continue to support ATF’s relationships across the firearms and sporting industry, and allow ATF to further focus precious personnel and resources on the mission to combat gun violence.
In addition to these points of discussion, it is vital for ATF to find resources to refresh aging technology and system s that support law enforcement and the firearms industry. Functionality at ATF’s Martinsburg facility and other areas has been severely hampered by outdated technology and systems that negatively impact ATF’s ability to provide services and information.
Note: The opinions expressed within this white paper are not those of the ATF; they are merely the ideas and opinions of this writer. They are provided for internal use within ATF and DOJ and not intended to be public. They are also general thoughts tha t cannot be taken as exacting language regarding policy or quotable specifics. Additional specific details can be provided to further these general discussions .
The men and women of ATF are overwhelmingly a fantastic group of hard working civil servants who look to reduce violent crime and ensure public safety. The focus on combating gun violence is key. Fairly regulating the firearms and explosives industries is also important. As the firearms conversations take place over the next few month s and years, this paper is offered to provide informal insight on potential productive ways to limit regulation and continue to protect our Second Amendment freedoms , while focus ing on ATF ’s mission to protect our nation.
Again, if these changes were made through legislation instead of regulatory rule-making, it would literally take an act of Congress to roll them back. By making these changes now, I believe the ATF is trying to thwart a more permanent implementation of these changes – and more!
Of course, Big Gun Control is having kittens about this policy paper. They are trying to minimize its significance while trying to come up with marginally articulate some talking points to oppose the inevitable casting of gun control into the dustbin of history. It sucks to be them.