NFA Trust Rule Change Explained

First, here’s the text of the Proposed Rule by the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Bureau on 09/09/2013 [published on the Federal Register for public comment] re: Machine Guns, Destructive Devices and Certain Other Firearms; Background Checks for Responsible Persons of a Corporation, Trust or Other Legal Entity With Respect To Making or Transferring a Firearm . . .

The Department of Justice proposes amending Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) regulations that concern the making or transferring of a firearm under the National Firearms Act (NFA). The proposed changes include: Defining the term “responsible person,” as used in reference to a trust, partnership, association, company, or corporation; requiring “responsible persons” of such legal entities to submit, inter alia, photographs and fingerprints, as well as a law enforcement certificate, when the legal entity files an application to make an NFA firearm or is listed as the transferee on an application to transfer an NFA firearm; modifying the information required in a law enforcement certificate, so that the certificate no longer requires a statement from the certifying official that he or she has no information indicating that the maker or transferee of the NFA firearm will use the firearm for other than lawful purposes; and adding a new section to ATF’s regulations to address the possession and transfer of firearms registered to a decedent. The new section would clarify that the executor, administrator, personal representative, or other person authorized under state law to dispose of property in an estate may possess a firearm registered to a decedent during the term of probate without such possession being treated as a “transfer” under the NFA. It also would specify that the transfer of the firearm to any beneficiary of the estate may be made on a tax-exempt basis.

Whew! What that means: the CLEO sign-off will be extended, under the proposed law, to every “responsible person” on the trust/corp. That’s the grantee, grantor, trustee, beneficiary, corp officers, whatever. If they can legally possess the NFA item under the terms of the organization, they’ll have to have a signoff. What that line changes is that the current Form 4 says:

I certify that I am the chief law enforcement officer of the organization named below having jurisdiction in the area of residence of _______. I have no information indicating that the transferee will use the firearm or device described on this application for other than lawful purposes. I have no information that the receipt or possession of the firearm or device described in item 4 would be place the transferee in violation of State or local law.

Because one of the reasons that CLEOs have claimed to be unwilling to sign was that they were unwilling to certify the “other than lawful purposes” part, they’re simply removing that line. How exactly they will reword it is not known at this time, but that’s all they’re doing. Of course, it’s my firm belief that that vast majority of CLEOs claiming that line as their reason for not signing were simply using that as cover, when the real reason they wouldn’t sign was they “didn’t want those items in” their jurisdiction, or they “just don’t think anyone needs to own them.”

If this rule goes live as it’s written, it’ll be interesting to see how they will deal with it, and where we’ll go from there. Orange County, Florida’s (where Orlando is) current sheriff will absolutely not sign off on NFA items. If this law passes as written, it will completely remove the ability for anyone in my area to obtain NFA items. That’s actually true for most of Florida, believe it or not. The number of CLEOs in the state who will unreservedly sign off can be counted on one hand.



  1. avatar Danny says:

    I probably speak for many when I say I don’t understand any of this. The whole thing with NFA items is kinda difficult for those who don’t have stuff like that or don’t ever plan on getting those items. I can understand why it may be hard for NFA owners to voice their opinions to the public because they are a minority in the gun community from what I understand.

    1. avatar MW says:

      They’re the minority and so many others in the gun community view what they do as “legitimate” uses for a firearm, like deer hunting with an old wooden stocked .308 model 700, and view NFA items as RECOIL magazine’s former idiot in charge did as having no “legitimate” purpose. It’s a solidarity in the firearms community issue.

  2. avatar Julian says:

    “modifying the information required in a law enforcement certificate, so that the certificate no longer requires a statement from the certifying official that he or she has no information indicating that the maker or transferee of the NFA firearm will use the firearm for other than lawful purposes”

    Sooo… does that mean no CLEO signoff for corporations/trusts?

    1. avatar Danny says:

      Well I guess that means I won’t ever be getting a suppressor. I bet Miami-Dade county sheriffs are dicks about these things, too.

      1. avatar Edgehill says:

        Miami-Dade and Broward sheriffs have both stated that they will not sign NFA forms. That’s why everyone I know down here uses the trusts. I wished now that I had done it last year when I was thinking about it. I don’t have the opportunity now to get a trust together.

    2. avatar Xander says:

      +1, I want to know too. That is what I am reading however the breakdown provided by Matt seems to state otherwise.

      1. avatar Matt in FL says:

        My answer to him was incorporated into the post above. My answer was everything from “What that means…” to the end.

        Apparently I got ahead of myself though, because as Pro-Liberty pointed out below, the beneficiary doesn’t need signoffs and stuff unless they also have current authority to possess the NFA item.

  3. avatar Chris says:

    And this will prevent murders exactly how?

    1. avatar Adam says:

      The idea isn’t to stop murder. It’s to f*** with gun owners anyway Obummer can.

  4. avatar Mike B. says:

    So of course I just formed an NFA trust, like just got it notorized yesterday. this weekend, i was going to go star the paperwork on my first NFA item.
    Should I even start it with the trust? or will the potential of this going thru during the 6 month wait mean i would end up starting for scratch after getting rejected because they changed the rules mid-process?

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      Nobody knows what they’ll do, whether they’ll require resubmission or set a date and say “all applications after this date.” If it was me, I’d get the paperwork rolling. Worst case, you start over. Best case, you’re grandfathered in.

      1. avatar Mike B. says:

        fair point.

    2. avatar Joe says:

      The proposed comment period runs until December 9th, then the ATF/DOJ/OMB have to all approve modifications to the proposed rule, answers to comments submitted, and post it in the Federal Register. Realistically, we’re looking at a minimum of 8 months before this could possibly take effect.

      1. avatar Semper Why says:

        And a current backlog of Class III applications of six months. I see I should hustle on getting the paperwork finished.

  5. avatar duroSIG556R says:

    This is crazy. So, if a cleo doesn’t want to sign off, is there someone else you can go to, since he’s refusing to do his job?

    1. avatar Matt says:

      Sheriff, chief of police, or DA count from my understanding.

      1. avatar PeterZ in West Tennessee says:

        How about a Judge?

    2. avatar phoenixNFA says:


      Q: What law enforcement officials’ certifications on an application to transfer or make an NFA weapon are acceptable to ATF?
      As provided by regulations, certifications by the local chief of police, sheriff of the county, head of the State police, or State or local district attorney or prosecutor are acceptable. The regulations also provide that certifications of other officials are appropriate if found in a particular case to be acceptable to the Director. Examples of other officials who have been accepted in specific situations include State attorneys general and judges of State courts having authority to conduct jury trials in felony cases.
      [27 CFR 479.63 and 479.85]

    3. avatar JeremyR says:

      they need to include a must sign clause and give it teeth. Sharp teeth such as automatic forfeiture of office if they do not sign off in ten working days.
      Ok, thats a bit strong, but a $100 fine and restitution to the agreived party would fit the bill.

    4. avatar beanfield says:

      You can also sue your cleo or help campaign, fund someone else for their position. Just because your current sheriff won’t sign off doesn’t mean they necessarily need to remain your sheriff next election.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      Yeah, they’re doing good work. I’m going to see if I can get permission to reproduce some of their stuff here, like the guidelines on commenting to the ATF.

      1. avatar JustLeaveLawfulGunOwnersAlone says:

        Great, thank you Matt!

        I have been hoping to get ttag and other blogs to repost this.

        I put links to this on FSN as well.


  6. avatar Frank Masotti says:

    When this POS change is made, it should also count to all LEO departments and for that matter all feds as well. We the lowly serfs do not misplace our “federal regulated” firearms, because we know what a pain it is to get and ow expensive it is.

  7. avatar Newt421 says:

    It’s my opinion that we potg should start a nullification campaign against the nfa gca fopa since they are blatantly unconstitutional regardless what scotus says. Shall not be infringed means just that. If we the people of the gun with the guns stand together we can’t lose. 80million+ people with 300million+ guns can’t be wrong.

    1. avatar VSN says:

      Doesn’t FOPA contain the language that prohibits a federal firearms registry? Are you referring specifically to the Hughes amendment?

  8. avatar M.J. Brennan says:

    They should change the CLEO sign-off in a CLEO notification like they require for FFL Type 03 licenses. Under that scheme, the licensee must notify the CLEO of their intent to obtain a Type 03 FFL by mail, but it doesn’t actually require any action on the part of the CLEO unless they have data to show cause for denial.

    Less work for the CLEO, they do not have any implied responsibility for the NFA items or there use, and the community can be assured that non-eligible people are not included in an NFA transfer.

    More of a “shall issue, unless you can show cause not to” approach. In the world of law, this would be an example of the exercise of a negative right to own and posses NFA.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      That (notification instead of signoff) was exactly what everyone was expecting out of this rule change. They were expecting to trade some increased requirements regarding fingerprints and such in exchange for getting rid of the CLEO signoff. It’s what every prior draft of the NPR has said, until the ATF pulled a bait and switch about two weeks ago and changed it to the current “YOU get a signoff and YOU get a signoff and YOU get a signoff and EVERYONE GETS A SIGNOFF” language. They took the compromise of “you give us this and we’ll give you that” and changed it to “you give us this, and then you give us this other thing too.”

  9. avatar jdb says:

    What the BATF should REALLY do is streamline the process as much as possible, subsidize companies that make/sell NFA items, and advertise how easy and cheap it is to get into the game. They would make a fortune.

  10. avatar mike says:

    I guess being a very gun-friendly state doesn’t automatically mean it’s NFA-friendly also.

    Gut feeling tells me the ATF will set a hard deadline date in the future; probably by USPS date stamp. Just like they did for machine guns in 1986. Otherwise it would cause double duty for the ATF to decline/notify/return all pending submissions and tell everyone with a trust application to start over.

  11. avatar Cubby123 says:

    I smell Obama /Biden sticking their clueless noses into more ways to infringe on American’s Rights to keep and bear arms,even full automatic arms.
    So these assholes put more clueless asshole in a position of deliberate illegal discrimination and denial !

  12. avatar phoenixNFA says:

    and in case you are wondering, yes, the industry leaders are just as worried as we consumers are. a VERY well-known industry face for a VERY large silencer company has started a thread on my home forum (lets just say we talk about nfa items there, legally of course) wanting to garner opinions from everyone regarding this proposed change.

    if you are worried the companies are going to bail on you guys, dont be. even the ones who can live of .gov contracts want to help the little guys too.

  13. avatar B says:

    Could you guys please link this so people can comment on the rule change?!documentDetail;D=ATF-2013-0001-0001

  14. avatar Buttugly says:

    A little help from the NFA folks as to what to comment on please. I got the part about the CLEO Certificate should be automatic unless they have “reason” (same as TYPE 03), but what other issues should we adress? Specific wording would help, please.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      I’m going to work on getting something together with pointers and stuff. Be patient. The comment period is 90 days long and there’s no race to be the “first comment.” There’s plenty of time to go slow and do it right, with supporting documentation if the situation warrants it. The more rock solid each submission is, the more credence they’ll give to it, so submissions that basically just say “My CLEO is a nazi douche who won’t sign anything because he thinks suppressors are the debbil!” (and I’m certain they’ll get a lot of those) are really completely pointless.

  15. avatar Pat says:

    United We Stand! COME ON MEN! We Red Hat Ladies have done it for years. I am 64 and 120lbs. 5’2. NOBODY will take my guns

  16. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

    Once again we’re nibbling around the edges. We’re worrying about these ‘little’ changes that impact this legal construct while we should be outraged that we ever needed to develop a trust system in order to exercise a right that we once let get infringed. The question we should be asking is not why they’re changing the rules affecting these trusts, but why do we even have restrictions on these items in the first place? Has the original reasoning for the restrictions proven to be false or have the restrictions had any positive effect at all? By reacting to the rule change instead of questioning the need for the rules at all, we’re letting the “anti-gun” forces dictate the terms of the engagement.

    1. avatar G.R. Mead says:

      Someone challenge the FOPA new machine gun ban and the whole NFA infrastructure. Legally, it is and has always ever and only been just A TAX. The police architecture is a set dressing. The ATF regulations (not the Congressional NFA ACT itself) impedes lawful acquisition (subject to the NFA tax) with all this administrative BS invented for wholly collateral (and unconstitutional) purposes of gun control. I repeat the NFA — IS JUST A TAX. Make the government treat it like one and wipe out the rest of this immaterial “control” that they use the “tax” as a cover for. In fact, ironically, the Obamacare decision that the “penalty” is simply a “tax” gives us just that angle to apply in ways that would not have been as clear before. The only legal duty regarding a tax is to pay it. The only legal power of an agency over a tax is to collect it. The only tax regulations that properly burden a taxpayer are those that govern a failure to pay it.

      Police can obtain new-made machine guns notwithstanding the FOPA. Under Miller, their uses establish a “militia purpose” for such weapons. There can be no basis to ban new-manufactured machine guns for the citizens while allowing actively-serving police to have them. BOTH are simply members of the Militia under the Constitution. Federalist 29 is remarkably clear — what we call police or law enforcement are simply “select corps” of Militia — differentiated only by additional training — and being actively “called forth” and nothing else.

      That legal discrimination between members of the regular Militia and these “select corps,” however, has two ways to attack it.
      — 1) equal protection — our lives are not less valuable than the police and we should have equal protection of the laws regarding suitable tools to defend ourselves; and
      — 2) attacking the entire “commerce clause” basis for ALL gun regulation, per Lopez — because citizens’ weapons and their lawful access to acquire them are NOT under the Commerce clause — but under the Militia clauses, which yields a wholly different scheme of analysis and very results.

      Congress has power only for “arming” the Militia — and no power whatsoever for “disarming.” States have NO power over prescribing or proscribing any arms of the Militia — certainly not to disarm, and the power to “govern” and “discipline” the Militia is expressly reserved to Congress.

      All that is necessary to establish standing is to offer to purchase a new-manufactured FOPA automatic rifle from a manufacturer or Class-II Dealer, offering to pay the tax, and then sue to strike down the FOPA ban and the ATF’s prior restraint transfer regulations as unconstitutional on these grounds.

  17. avatar Dan says:

    @ Matt in FL — I want to submit my comment (!documentDetail;D=ATF-2013-0001-0001) on this proposed regulation change, but I am unsure what to write. I mean, I don’t want to sound stupid or say something that would just cause more problems for the NFA community. I want to submit a comment about the CLEO sign-off. The only reason why I setup an NFA Trust was because my CLEO refused to sign-off on the form. Anyway, do you know of any boiler-plate or template response that I could customize and submit?

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      Working on it. As I just left in a comment to Buttugly above, the comment period is 90 days, and the order of comments is unimportant, so there’s plenty of time.

  18. avatar I_Like_Pie says:

    All I can say is – Thank God for the internet and places like TTAG that bring this to our attention. 10 years ago this would have slipped under the radar until it was too late.

  19. avatar Pro-Liberty says:

    “What that means: the CLEO sign-off will be extended, under the proposed law, to every ‘responsible person’ on the trust/corp. That’s the grantee, grantor, trustee, beneficiary…”

    Not true, unless a particular beneficiary has current authority to possess the firearm under the terms of the trust agreement.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      Noted. Text amended. That was originally a reply to a comment, and my typing speed got away with me.

  20. avatar Rich says:

    Well, we can expect other executive orders coming down in the next 3.5 yrs of this regime. WE need to all stand together and vote only pro-gun politicians in the 2014 elections or we shall all hang separately.

  21. avatar David says:

    So how would this portion of the trust thing be satisfied if you lived on federal land?

  22. avatar Kevin says:

    I understand the head of any state-wide police agency is authorized to sign for anyone in the state.

    So you might look into whether any of the police chiefs appointed by the governor are willing to help.

  23. avatar Dave says:

    Here’s the hilarious unintended side-effect.

    Let’s say you’re the officer in charge of the animal control unit for your city. And you’ve decided that in order to get rid of the feral hogs that are invading your neighborhood, you want to buy about 5 of the Ruger 77/44 rifles with suppressed barrels so you can take out the hogs at night without disturbing the populace.

    Formerly, you could file for your animal control division to own the guns and distribute them to the officers as needed. Now each and every officer is going to have to own his own rifle and keep control of it, or face ATF punishments for allowing a non-owner to touch the gun.

  24. avatar Robert Shirley says:

    I don’t really expect to see NFA 1934 overturned right now; but I agree with those who think it’s high time to attack the real issues. First, it’s time to roll back Volkmer-McLure’s prohibition on newly manufactured machineguns. Then the CLEO signature issue can be addressed. The whole idea that a regulatory agency sets it’s own laws to be enforced is absurd. I am no fan of the weak-kneed NRA, but right now is the time for them to finally mobilize and militarize and hit the mattresses. Break some unnecessary agencies down and do away with them.

  25. avatar Josh in TX says:

    Little late to the party, but I logged onto the site and argued against, citing specific sections of the document. Also sent the link abd a personal appeal to pretty much everybody I know. Hope it helps. There were 2500ish comments lusted as of this morning.

  26. avatar Ron says:

    Sorry, but the CLEO sign off is not the main point. I refuse to give my fingerprints, photo, or any other personal information. This is why I use a trust. The only reason for this change is to keep us under their thumb. They are control freaks and enjoy your suffering. They are the criminals.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      The CLEO sign off is very much the point for anyone who lives in a jurisdiction where the CLEO steadfastly refuses to sign off. (That’s like 2/3 of Florida, by the way.) It doesn’t matter whether you’re willing to give your fingerprints or not if the option isn’t even open for you to make that choice.

  27. avatar yuki samantha says:

    Thoughtful writing ! BTW , others are searching for a a form , my friend filled a blank form here

  28. NFA Trust Rule Change Explained – The Truth About Guns
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