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The Obama administration has proposed changes to regulations dealing with the transfer of legally owned full-auto guns and other restricted items like short-barreled rifles and silencers.
Such items are legal, but controlled under the National Firearms Act of 1934 and are commonly referred to as NFA items. Under current NFA regulations, an individual wishing to purchase an NFA item must submit to an extensive background check, pay a special $200 excise tax on each NFA item and get the signature of his local “Chief Law Enforcement Officer,” or CLEO – typically a sheriff or chief of police. While possession of NFA items is legal in almost all states, a number of CLEOs routinely block all transfers by simply refusing to sign off on any paperwork. The CLEOs’ roadblocks have led to people who wish to legally own NFA items finding a way around the CLEO signature requirement. The solution they found was to set up a business entity or trust, or use an existing one, to own the items. (I own the business. The business owns the gun or other item. As the business owner, I have legal access and use of the items.) There is currently no requirement for a CLEO signature to transfer NFA weapons to a trust or corporate entity.
Putting NFA items in a trust or business has benefits beyond going around recalcitrant law enforcement. It makes estate planning much easier and also provides a way for multiple people to share ownership and each be able to be in sole possession of the item(s) at any given time, rather than the named owner being required to always be in possession when the item is out of the safe. Of course, it is illegal for anyone to allow a “prohibited person,” such as a convicted felon, to have access to an NFA item, whether that person is a part owner of the company or not.
This summer the ATF issued a proposal for changing the regulations. Unfortunately, their proposed changes solve few real problems while creating more.
The 90-day comment period on the proposed regulation changes is almost over, so it is critical that anyone concerned with the new regulations submit comments as soon as possible. Original comments with suggestions for improvements carry the most weight. You can read about the proposed regulations and submit a comment on the government regulation site by clicking here.
Below is the comment submitted by our organization, The Firearms Coalition. You are invited to use as much of it as you like. You can also read comments from others on the site to get ideas of things to say in your own comment.
Please don’t delay. The window is closing and we need to have our voices heard. It is also a good idea to send a copy of your comments to both of your senators and your representative, asking them to intervene and stop the Obama administration from promulgating more restrictive, anti-gun regulations.
Here’s our comment:
On behalf of the many thousands of members and supporters of The Firearms Coalition, I am writing in opposition to this proposed regulatory change. Regulations should be changed to make them more efficient and reasonable, not more complex, expensive, and unreasonable. The proposals, as written, are supposedly aimed at addressing specific issues which have never been shown to be a problem. The expressed concern about prohibited persons having access to firearms through trusts or companies is a stalking horse. We have not seen a single example of any prohibited person who might have had such access actually being in possession of an NFA firearm, much less committing a crime of violence with one. The only real problems with the current regulations are that they are wasteful, overly complex and invite local law enforcement to unjustifiably interfere with firearm transfers. The proposed changes to the regulations make the regulations more complex, time consuming and expensive – and expand the power of local law enforcement to interfere with firearm transfers. This is unacceptable.
The NFA Branch, responsible for application of these regulations, is woefully backlogged with an annual caseload of approximately 30,000 individual transactions a year. Adding to that the burden of processing background checks and paperwork for an additional 40,000 individuals who are “responsible persons” in a trust, or other legal entity virtually guarantees that the current 6 to 9 month delays will grow to be measured in years.
While we believe that the current Chief Law Enforcement Officer certification requirement should be done away with completely, it should, at a minimum, be modified to require a timely response and be structured in such a way that the default is approval, not denial. If the CLEO has valid reasons to object to a firearm transfer, they should be required to articulate those reasons on the form and the transferee should have an avenue by which to contest the CLEO’s contentions. As things stand, the CLEO is able to stop a transfer by simply doing nothing, and the transferee has no way to appeal.
These regulations are written as though there is an active underworld conspiracy attempting to circumvent current laws in order to obtain NFA items. That is clearly not the case, and it would be ridiculous for any criminal to even consider such a course of action. Firearms and accessories – including NFA firearms and destructive devices – are not, for the most part, complicated devices. Most are based on technology that is almost 100 years old and have been successfully replicated by poorly educated tribesmen utilizing primitive tools in the Khyber Pass region of Pakistan and Afghanistan. No criminal or criminal organization is going to submit themselves to government scrutiny and the ridiculously high expense of obtaining legal NFA items when they could acquire the same items through smuggling, illegal manufacture, or theft from police or the military. NFA owners are proven to be among the most responsible and law-abiding of citizens. Use of a legally acquired NFA item in a crime of violence is virtually unheard of. Increasing the costs and complication of legally purchasing or constructing NFA items is completely unjustifiable. While we agree that these regulations should be revised, we oppose any revision that does not simplify the process and make it more affordable and equitable.
Director, The Firearms Coalition
Manassas, VA / Buckeye, AZ
The Obama administration wants to change the rules. It’s up to us to stop them. The comment period ends December 9 so don’t delay. Go to Regulations.gov and make your voice heard.