The BATFE’s NFA branch has been in charge of processing all NFA paperwork — the tax forms that allow the legal purchase and possession of everything from short barreled rifles and silencers to machine guns and large explosive devices. And for each slip of paper, the ATF collects $200 (or $5 for some items), perform a background check, do some registration updating and so forth. It’s a long, involved process. However, as of Friday, the ATF has announced that it is finally “caught up” on all of the pending applications and the current turnaround time for new applications is now running around 4-6 days . . .
At the end of last year, the NFA Branch announced that it was hiring new employees despite the hiring freeze on the rest of the Department of Justice. While the NFA branch has yet to hire new investigators — the people who actually sign the paperwork — they have since employed a small army of clerical assistants that have basically turned the position of “investigator” into a rubber stamp job. Applications are reviewed by the new clerks and the ones that pass muster, are simply signed by the hundreds by the investigators.
The improvements come as the NFA Branch has been flooded by both Form 1 and Form 4 applications, caused by the devaluation of the dollar to the point where a $200 investment for an NFA device isn’t as much of a pain in the ass as it used to be. When the price was originally set it was intended to be used to keep the poor and minorities from owning “dangerous weapons,” allowing only the rich to buy suppressors and the like. However, thanks to the poor state of the economy, that value is so low that almost anyone can afford the fee these days.
Despite the relatively low value of that $200 tax, a change in the way the fees are handled has made it possible for the ATF NFA Branch to hire an army of employees. Previously, the fee had simply gone straight into the pool of money used to fund the government’s operations. However, a little-known change in the way those fees are routed was made through the recent efforts to keep the budget sequester from having too onerous an impact. That means the NFA branch now keeps all of those fees. Estimates put the new funding for the office at around $3 million.
ATF Spokesman William J. Lepetomane said that as of Friday all pending applications had been processed and that the approved forms will be sent out in the coming week for the latest batch of applicants. According to Lepetomane, while the daily incoming application load had been too high to be processed in real time, the new staffing levels are more than sufficient to process every new application as soon as it comes through the door. When asked what the employees will be doing with their new spare time, Lepetomane said that the NFA Branch was investing in training aids for the office.
“It is important to keep the skills of our workers in top condition,” he said at a press conference on Friday. “We have found that visual training aids work best, especially in an interactive environment.” The training aides chosen are said to have been sourced from Microsoft and Sony. Rooms are being specially designed, with contracts let to Frito Lay, Coca-Cola as well as the new Hostess included in the deal.
When a local gun store owner was asked about the quicker turnaround from the ATF, he responded that “NFA items are our biggest seller. People are going crazy for silencers. But as for this news, all I can say is . . . Happy April Fool’s Day!”