U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- According to a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) internal document obtained by AmmoLand News, employees of the federal agency will start referring cases of manufactures filing Form 2s early for…(wait for it)… criminal prosecution! After AmmoLand News requested comments about the new rule the ATF walked back the statement by deleting it from a revised memo.
When a manufacturer holding a Federal Firearms License (FFL) and has paid the Special Occupancy Tax (SOT) makes a suppressor, the company will file a Form 2 with the ATF. The Form 2 will include information about the new suppressor. This information provides the caliber, serial number, manufacture, and location (city/state) of the company. Once the suppressor is created, The FFL/SOT has until the end of the next business day to file a Form 2 with the ATF for the serial number for information about the suppressor to be added to the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR).
In the past, the federal government has prosecuted FFL/SOTs for not filing a Form 2 fast enough. The ATF has prosecuted FFL/SOTs for having unassembled suppressor parts that were not serialized. Now it seems that the agency is about to crack down on FFL/SOTs that try to get ahead of the process and not miss the deadline for filing a Form 2 with an agency with a history of overzealous prosecutions.
The ATF considers registering a suppressor early the same as making a false entry to the NFRTR. The violation could also cause the FFL/SOT to have their license revoked, putting the company out of business. In addition to being shut down by the ATF, the FFL/SOT holder could be put in prison for committing a felony.
The now-deleted paragraph in the document reads:
“At no time should an ATF Form 2 be submitted for devices that don’t meet the definition of a NFA firearm, likewise an ATF Form 3 or ATF Form 4 should not be submitted for these devices. This results in falsification of NFA records and is a violation of the NFA, such activity should also be referred for prosecution. “
It would have made the manufacturer guess as to when a suppressor is in a state where an Industry Operations Inspector (IOI) would consider it “complete.” Even the IOIs are not given strict guidelines. It is like the ATF using phrases like “readily convertible” without defining what the agency considers readily convertible.
A lot of the determinations that the IOIs use are subjective. One IOI could look at a suppressor and consider it in a state that could be regarded as complete and refer the FFL/SOT for prosecution for not filing a Form 2 fast enough. Another IOI can look at the same device that has a Form 2 filed and determine it is not far enough along in the manufacturing process to warrant a Form 2 and would have referred the manufacturer for prosecution for falsifying an entry to the NFRTR.
Both documents also talk about the IOI requesting a “freeze” of a serial number of an unfinished suppressor. That state would mean that the suppressor could not be transferred until the freeze is removed. The ATF could compel the FFL/SOT to complete the suppressor, or the NFA division could purge the serial number from the NFRTR if the suppressor remained in an “unfinished” state.
The original document muddies the waters of what is allowed and what is not allowed.
Even IOIs were confused by the original document. It isn’t clear how the IOIs will use the new document in their inspections. This cloudy area of the original document wasn’t lost on Gun Owners of America’s legal counsel and lead counsel in the bump stock case, Robert Olson.
“The original version of the ATF guidance was insane,” Olson told AmmoLand News. “Well intentioned FFLs literally have gone to federal prison for failing to register NFA weapons, even though they are unfinished. Now, on the flip side of that coin, ATF threatens to prosecute manufacturers who register NFA items before ATF considers them to be complete.”
“Together, this creates a bureaucratic Catch-22, creating criminal liability for manufacturers who register items either too early or too late, leaving it entirely up to ATF to decide when that critical line has been crossed.”
Neither document addresses ATF Form 1 builds where gun owners make their own NFA firearms. Before the firearm can be assembled the gun owner needs to have an approved Form 1. Does that mean all the gun owners that went through the proper channels and paid their tax are guilty of falsifying NFA records? Was this going to be a test run for the ATF to block new Form 1 builds? Also, the ATF has admitted NFRTR is inaccurate so why would the ATF crackdown on the submission of Form 2 documents?
AmmoLand News reached out to the ATF for a comment, but the agency didn’t respond. The agency did change its document after AmmoLand News started inquiring about the new “Goldilocks” mandate.
About John Crump
John is an NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.