It should be no surprise to anyone that the Trump administration’s ATF would be a kinder gentler regulator to the firearms industry. The NRA-backed pro-gun president made eliminating wasteful, useless regulations one of his key campaign promises and his extremely pro-gun son has apparently helped push him further in the right direction. Word comes today through a leaked ATF white paper exactly what kinds of pro-gun regulatory changes are coming down the road.
The full white paper is available here, but here’s a quick summary:
- New Federal Firearms License specifically for online and gun show sales. This would be the return of the “kitchen counter” FFL, allowing private citizens to enjoy all the benefits of a Federal Firearms License without actually needing to run a proper business. Ostensibly it would be used for those who don’t have a retail location but still want to sell guns online and at gun shows, but reality is that it would be a way for every citizen to pay one licensing fee and have guns shipped straight to their door from the factory with no middleman (since the government already did a more thorough background check than any NICS check could do).
- Redefinition of “armor Piercing Ammunition.” Companies making and importing ammunition that currently meets the definition of “armor piercing” such as lead free projectiles and the 7N6 ban from 2014 would be able to sell their wares once more without fear. It would also drive down the cost of ammo for Soviet surplus ammunition since the pipeline would once more be open.
- Lifting the M1 Garand, M1 Carbine, and M1911 Army Surplus Importation Ban. For years there has been a treasure trove of surplus M1 Garand, M1 Carbine, and M1911 handguns sitting in Korea waiting to be shipped back to the UnitedStates so that the CMP could sell these guns to the U.S. citizens at dirt cheap prices. The Obama administration blocked their importation citing concerns over “gun violence”. Overturning that decision would be quick and painless and make many a firearms collector very happy.
- Eliminating Law Letter Requirements. If an FFL wants to get a machine gun manufactured after 1986 they need a letter from a local law enforcement agency requesting the gun for demonstration purposes. These “law letters” or “demo letters” are really just a time consuming formality keeping gun stores and FFL holders from buying machine guns. Elimination of this archaic requirement would allow new machine guns to be avalable to every FFL/SOT holder. Possibly including the new wave of “kitchen counter” FFL holders.
- Reversing the decision on shouldering a pistol brace. A couple years back the ATF issued a series of confusing and conflicting rulings about whether it was illegal to shoulder a pistol arm brace such as the SB Tactical brace. There’s apparently quite a bit of energy being directed at reversing the ruling and once more enabling the mass shouldering of pistol arm braces.
- Redefine “Sporting Purposes.” There’s a Chinese manufacturer that is making brand new M14 style rifles. They are plentiful in Canada but unavailable in the United States because, according to the law, they are not for “sporting purposes” and ineligible for importation. The folks behind this white paper seem to think that it’s high time we redefine what “sporting purposes” are. This might qualify things like 3-gun and other competition shooting activities as “sporting” and open the door for just about everything to be imported.
- Make agency rulings searchable. Instead of relying on what opinion letters have been published on the internet, make those opinions publicly available and searchable so that everyone can see previous opinions and hold the ATF accountable.
- Remove silencers from the NFA. This one isn’t really possible to do from within the ATF, it would probably require Congress to act through the Hearing Protection Act. But support from the ATF goes a long way towards public acceptance of the idea.
- Allow interstate firearms sales at gun shows. Right now gun stores can only sell guns to residents of their own state from locations within that state’s borders. If they want to visit a gun show across state lines they can only take orders and ship to a local FFL, not directly sell. The ATF wants to make it so that FFLs can travel from state to state and sell guns as they see fit.
- Reclassify “destructive devices”. Right now both destructive device munitions and launcers are considered “destructive devices” and regulated just like silencers and machine guns, meaning every round of HE for your grenade launcher needs a serial number and its own Form 4. The ATF wants to make it so that only the launcher, not the munition, is considered the registered “destructive device.”
- Raise the threshold for “grey market” records reporting. Right now any store that has more than 10 crime guns traced to it needs to do extra recording and reporting to the ATF of their used guns. The ATF wants to raise that threshold to lessen the strain on dealers.
- Eliminate “multiple gun reporting” for border states. Right now, if you buy more than one AR-15 in a certain time period in Texas and other border states the ATF requires a special form to be sent detailing the sale. It’s ostensibly to stop straw purchasers, but the success rate is low enough to be statistically zero. Eliminating that burden would help gun dealers.
- Reduce record retention requirements. The ATF currently requires all 4473 forms to be kept for 20 years. That’s a bit much, don’t you think? This proposal would reduce that burden on gun stores.
- Allow NICS checks for non-gun purchases. You can’t work in a gun store if you are prohibited form buying a gun. To figure out if an employee is disqualified the simplest way would be to have the store run a NICS check, but that’s not allowed under the current law. Allowing background checks for employees would reduce the cost to hire new employees and make life easier for gun stores.
Right now these are just proposals — none of them have been approved or implemented. The document in question was prepared as a menu of items for the new ATF head to consider, not necessarily a final list of things that will be implemented. But it seems reasonable to expect that this is at least an indication of the general directions of things to come. And of course, the anti-gun groups are already in full pearl-clutching mode.
“This white paper offers a disturbing series of giveaways to the gun industry that would weaken regulatory oversight of the gun industry without adequate consideration of the impact on public safety,” said Chelsea Parsons, vice president of guns and crime policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
“ATF has long described its regulatory function as a core part of its law enforcement mission to fight gun crime, yet this paper seems to prioritize reducing perceived burdens on the gun industry over an interest in protecting public safety from the illegal diversion of firearms,” Parsons said.
The regulations the white paper moves would address were put in place largely without any consideration of their impact on the rights of gun owning Americans and have little or no impact on crime. A little swing of the pendulum back in the opposite direction is very much in order.