As part of President Obama’s push for tighter restrictions on gun owners and dealers, the ATF has issued their final ruling on requiring gun dealers to report guns that have been lost or stolen in transit. Previously FFLs were able to ship firearms, mark them as being out of their inventory, and forget about it once they had their cash in hand. Now the onus is on the shipping dealer to track that package and ensure that it reaches the intended destination. Naturally the NSSF has taken issue with this, and the rule (as well as their opposition) was explained in an email blast yesterday . . .
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has published the final lost and stolen in transit rule in the Federal Register. NSSF has actively opposed the rule since a version was first published in 2000. The rule becomes effective 30 days from today, on Feb. 11. Apart from ATF’s lack of statutory authority to impose the rule, the major problem with this rule is that it requires FFLs to report as lost or stolen in transit firearms that have already left their inventory. Once firearms have been sold FOB, shipped and recorded as a disposition, this rule essentially requires that they still be considered part of the shipping FFL’s inventory for purposes of timely reporting to ATF in the exceeding rare case when they are lost or stolen while in transit. Rather than putting the onus on the receiving FFL, who would best know whether the firearms they paid for and are expecting have arrived, and continuing the effective long-standing voluntary reporting program, ATF chose to publish the final rule.
In short, it’s now the duty of the shipping FFL to ensure that the receiving FFL has obtained the firearm. Why is that a problem? Here’s one scenario that happened to me.
I have an FFL — the 03 “Collector of Curios and Relics” license. Under that authority I can have firearms shipped to my address provided they meet the license’s requirements (mainly old guns). One way I used this license is to ship my grandfather’s old WWII M1 Carbine from my ancestral home in New York to my residence in the free state of Texas. I did everything right: shipped it via ground, required a signature on delivery, and so forth. Nevertheless the delivery guy decided to leave it on my porch, listing the package as “delivered.”
If I had been a normal FFL shipping to another FFL, I might never have realized where the package had been left. All I would have been able to see online through the shipper’s tracking system is that the package had been successfully delivered. Under the old rules, if the package had been pilfered I wouldn’t have been on the hook for reporting it as stolen — that would be duty of the receiver. Now, under the new rules, I’m responsible for ensuring that the package made it all the way into the bound book of the buyer and reporting (in a timely manner) if that doesn’t happen.
That means a lot more work now for shipping FFLs. Not only do I need to check the shipper’s tracking site to ensure the package made it, but they also need to ensure that the buyer actually has it in hand. And if I don’t? That’s a crime.
The new requirement doesn’t really do much to improve gun safety. The number of guns lost in transit this way is minuscule. What it actually does is create a lot more busy work for all FFLs involved in the process — not only the shipping FFL for tracking and confirming guns made it to their destination, but also for receiving FFLs fielding calls from worried shippers wanting to confirm that their inventory is correct. Busy work, designed to soak up manpower from gun dealers, with no real benefit.