June 2nd, 2010

ATF Reverses Policy on Gun Shipments for Testing and Review

ATF logoReversing an interpretation of the Gun Control Act (GCA) that has been on the books for more than four decades, on May 20th the ATF posted a New Ruling declaring that ANY shipment of a firearm by a manufacturer (FFL) to an authorized agent or contractor (e.g., an engineering firm, patent lawyer, testing lab, gun writer, etc.) is to be treated as a “transfer” under the Gun Control Act of 1968. As a consequence, legitimate business-related shipments will now require the recipient to complete a Form 4473 and undergo a Brady criminal background check. And, in some jurisdictions, a testing engineer or patent lawyer will have to sit out a waiting period before they can access the firearm and start working with it.

The 5/20/2010 ruling states: “The temporary assignment of a firearm by an FFL to its unlicensed agents, contractors, volunteers, or any other person who is not an employee of the FFL, even for bona fide business purposes, is a transfer or disposition for purposes of the Gun Control Act, and, accordingly, the FFL must contact NICS for a background check, record a disposition entry, and complete an ATF Form 4473.”

ATF officials have acknowledged this is a radical change from ATF’s long-standing interpretation that shipments to agents were not a “transfer” under the Gun Control Act that was set forth in a 1969 Ruling (“Shipment or Delivery of Firearms By Licensees to Employees, Agents, Representatives, Writers and Evaluators.”) and further clarified in a 1972 Ruling. ATF is now saying that its own long-standing rulings, issued shortly after the Gun Control Act was enacted, were wrong. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) believes this new interpretation should be challenged:

ATF should be required to explain why it took 42 years to decide that its original understanding and interpretation of the Gun Control Act is now somehow wrong. ATF appears to be under the mistaken impression that the Brady Act of 1993 changed what constitutes a “transfer” under the Gun Control Act. Even if this were true — and it is not — then ATF should be required to explain why it took 17 years to figure this out. ATF itself admits that neither the Gun Control Act nor the Brady Act defines “transfer”. There is simply nothing in the Brady Act or is there any other legal reason that compels ATF to now reject 40 years of precedent.

For more than four decades manufacturers have shipped firearms to agents for bona fide business purposes, such as testing, engineering studies, or reviews. According to the NSSF: “ATF is unable to identify a single instance during the past 40 years where a single firearm shipped to an [authorized] agent … was used in a crime.” Changing the rule on shipping to a gun writer, patent lawyer, or testing lab will only waste time and money, and make it harder to engineer improvements in firearms designs. We wonder if this new policy was “cooked up” under pressure from political leaders in Washington.

Similar Posts:

Tags: , , ,