Wait Time for ATF Approval of NFA Paperwork Still Sky High

A few months back, while I was still waiting for the ATF to stamp my paperwork, I discovered a disheartening trend — wait times for NFA paperwork have exploded. A form that used to take less than 60 days to be approved (well, in some cases at least) was pushing well past 150 days. It was enough to make even the most law abiding citizen start looking at his oil filter in that “special way.” Now that a couple months have passed I thought I would revisit that absolutely terrible graph and try to come up with something more usable. I give you fair warning: you’re not going to like it…

This graph was compiled using the latest available data from the NFATracker.com website, the means we have of indirectly observing the ATF. And yeah, there’s no hope whatsoever. Wait times are continuing to increase, having surged past the previous 160 day mark and heading with unwavering certainty towards 180.

One of our readers, Charles, thought he had discovered something that would help explain the increase in wait times. Turns out, the ATF changed their mechanism for assigning investigators to paperwork from alphabetical to region based around the time the wait times started really taking off. But there’s an issue: the wait times started taking off BEFORE the policy was put in place.

With the U.S. Government, you can never completely rule out incompetence as the root cause of anything — even success. But personally, as a guy who fiddles with computer networks, I have a different opinion on the matter. To me, its an issue of bandwidth.

Here’s a graph of how many new NFA forms are submitted to the NFA tracker website each month. And while this might just be an issue of our friends at NFA Tracker becoming more popular, I see this as an indication that the number of forms being submitted to the ATF is growing nearly exponentially. The same handful of investigators that used to handle  a dozen or so forms every month are being hammered with ten times that amount of paperwork. There simply aren’t enough investigators to handle the flow, and so its taking longer to process the forms.

The solution is simple: hire more staff. But there’s a hiring freeze — in an attempt to save money, the Government has stopped hiring new workers. Which is ironic, considering that shorter NFA wait times would mean increased revenue in the form of tax stamps. Personally, the only reason I haven’t plopped down the cash for can #2 yet is the wait.

The good news to take away from this is that the silencer industry is booming. Well, figuratively at least. More demand means cheaper products, increased competition, and superior quality down the road. But the bad news is that the industry is still entirely dependent on the ATF to approve the transfers. Its like trying to drag race in a car that has the parking brake applied.

Hopefully, one day, I won’t need a Form 4. Until then, all I can do is wait longer and longer for something that is completely legal to own.