With all this misleading talk of gun-grabbing U.N. treaties, American gun rights groups got seriously sandbagged by a sudden change in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (BAFTE) rules for moving guns around the country. gundigest.com provides the potted version. “The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) has posted a ruling declaring any shipment of a firearm by a manufacturer (FFL) to any agent or business (e.g., an engineering-design firm, patent lawyer, testing lab, gun writer, etc.) for a bona fide business purpose will now be considered a ‘transfer’ under the Gun Control Act of 1968.” What this could mean for you . . .
If this ruling remains, it could embolden the BATFE to apply it to non-industry gun owners. If that happened, all movements—repairs, perhaps even crossing state lines, would have to go from an FFL dealer to an FFL dealer. And every time you’d do so, you’d have to fill out a form 4473 and pay transfer fees (in both directions).
Your dealer would have to perform a NICS criminal background check every time the gun went through his establishment. And states with a “cooling off period” (e.g. Rhode Island) would have to hold the weapon for the mandatory time period—even though the weapon is “yours.”
Not to coin a phrase, but the National Shooting Sports Foundation is up in arms about the rule change . . .
ATF officials have acknowledged this is a radical change from ATF’s long-standing interpretation that this was not a “transfer” under the Gun Control Act that was set forth in a 1969 ruling (“Shipment or Delivery of Firearms By Licensees to Employees, Agents, Representatives, Writers and Evaluators.”) and further clarified in a 1972 ruling.
In other words, ATF is now saying its long-standing rulings, issued shortly after the Gun Control Act was enacted, were wrong. ATF should be required to explain why it took 42 years to decide that its original understanding and interpretation of the Gun Control Act is now somehow wrong. ATF appears to be under the mistaken impression that the Brady Act of 1993 changed what constitutes a “transfer” under the Gun Control Act. Even if this were true – and it is not — then ATF should be required to explain why it took 17 years to figure this out.
ATF itself admits that neither the Gun Control Act nor the Brady Act defines “transfer.” There is simply nothing in the Brady Act or is there any other legal reason that compels ATF to now reject 40 years of precedent.
For more than four decades manufacturers have shipped firearms to agents for bona fide business purposes. ATF is unable to identify a single instance during the past 40 years where a single firearm shipped in reliance upon ATF’s rulings was used in a crime. This unwarranted reinterpretation of the law will cause significant disruption and additional costs for industry members and increase the cost of doing business, while doing nothing to advance public safety.
At the risk of tarnishing my tin hat, the move came one day before the Department of Justice empowered the BATFE to take control of the entire federal firearms licensing process. This could be the agency’s once-temporary now Deputy Director (as per the federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998) flexing his newly created political muscles. Or Kenneth E. Melson could be over-reaching in that “I’m a lawyer and there’s nothing in the actual law that stops us from doing this” kinda way.
Quick question: with the FBI and state, county and local law enforcement, why do we need the BATFE anyway? if the organization had any supporters in the firearms industry, it just lost them.