Mark from Austin’s Silencer Shop is a downright pleasant fellow. Talking to him yesterday afternoon after our story posted about the rumored ATF cease and desist letter that’s coming down the pike, he sounded calm, cool, and collected. But one thing that did seem to concern him was how, as he sees it, the ATF is trying to use his shop as a scapegoat . . .
The eForms system that the ATF put in place was supposed to solve the NFA paperwork processing problem. Instead of submitting forms on dead trees that needed staff at the ATF to transcribe them into digital records, the individual gun shops themselves could do that and save a ton of wait time. By slicing out that time-consuming step they could finally start to make a dent in the pile of pending applications, and maybe even get to a point where the 10-month wait for approved could be whittled down to only a few weeks. But the key to the entire process was their shiny new website.
However in a manner reminiscent of healthcare.gov, the new site had major issues from day one. Gun shops complained that the system wasn’t working, wasn’t compatible with their web browser, or was just generally slow. And over time, things have only gotten worse. Unlike the Obamacare portal – because of a much lower public profile, no doubt – things never improved.
Months down the line now, nothing has improved. FFLs have yet to stop complaining, and things aren’t getting any better. And now there’s increasing chatter from both FFLs and sources in the ATF that are blaming it squarely on Mark’s shop.
The problem is that Mark actually is doing something different. Where most shops submit their forms online one at a time, Silencer Shop uses an automated process to upload all of their forms in a batch as quickly as possible. According to Mark, that’s about four forms per minute when they get rolling. But Mark claims that the upload process only runs during the night, when everyone else in the country is asleep. In fact, he believes that by removing Silencer Shop from the daily press of people trying to use the site during business hours, it improves the overall performance of the system.
There’s one other small piece of evidence that makes me sympathetic to Mark’s claim. “The [batch uploading] system has been offline since Saturday, it’s being upgraded” he says. “You haven’t heard any reports that things are getting better, have you?”
I’ve been basing my posts on this subject on a number of tips that I’ve been receiving from multiple sources — it’s not just one person feeding me information about the ATF’s opinion on this matter. But given their track record, I’m more than open to the idea that the regulators are trying to pin the blame for their failed computer system on the Silencer Shop rather than facing the music themselves. We’ll be watching to see how the situation shakes out.