By Robert M. Hausman
ATF Issues Ruling 2013-5 on Electronic Previous Variances Rescinded
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recently posted ATF Rul. 2013-5 to its website. The ruling authorizes licensed importers, licensed manufacturers, licensed dealers, and licensed collectors to maintain their acquisition and disposition records electronically, rather than in paper format, provided the requirements of the ruling are met. The ruling supersedes ATF Rul. 2008-2, Records Required for Firearms Licensees. The F.A.I.R. Trade Group notes that the significant requirements of ATF Rul. 2013-5 include the following:
1. The electronic record keeping system must retain any correction of errors as an entirely new entry, without deleting or modifying the original entry. This can be accomplished through a “notes” column to explain corrections.
2. The system must allow queries by serial number, acquisition date, name of the manufacturer or importer, name of purchaser, and address of purchaser or other transferee.
3. The licensee must print or download all records from the system at least semiannually, upon request of an ATF officer, prior to discontinuance of the database, and prior to discontinuance of the licensees’ business. Note that ATF Rul. 2008-2 required periodic printing of all records and did not authorize periodic downloading of records. This is a significant change in policy, as licensees may now download records to external media that require far less storage space than printouts.
4. The printouts/downloads outlined in 3. above must include all firearms in inventory and all firearms transferred during the period covered. ATF Rul. 2008-2 required that the printouts/downloads be limited to information required by the regulations, while ATF Rul. 2013-5 allows inclusion of other information in separate columns, as long as the required information is “readily apparent.”
5. As with ATF Rul. 2008-2, ATF Rul. 2013-5 allows storage of required records on portable storage devices, including CDs, DVDs, and flash drives. Information must be retained on the portable storage device until the next download is prepared and licensees must present the device in printed format at ATF’s request.
6. ATF Rul. 2013-5 requires that electronic records be stored on a computer server owned and operated solely by the licensee and that the records be readily accessible through a computer located at the licensed premises during regular business hours. This requirement, new since issuance of the 2008 ruling, gives licensees more flexibility in determining the location for their servers. For licensees with multiple locations, records may be stored at one location as long as all other locations have a computer with the ability to access the server storing the records. Significantly, the ruling holds that the server storing the records must be located within the United States.
7. The electronic record keeping system must back up the firearms acquisition and disposition records on a daily basis. This requirement has not changed since issuance of the 2008 ruling.
8. ATF Rul. 2013-5 specifically replaces and rescinds all previously approved variances covering electronically maintained firearms acquisition and dispositions records. Licensees holding such variances may not, consistent with the law and regulations, create and maintain their records in reliance on such variances. Licensees must either comply with the requirements of ATF Rul. 2013-5 or submit a new variance request to the Firearms Industry Programs Branch of ATF.
9. ATF Rul. 2008-2 has been superseded, which means it is still in effect but has been modified by ATF Rul. 2013-5. Clients should rely solely on ATF Rul. 2013-5, as its provisions are more specific and stringent than those outlined in the 2008 ruling.
Abramski vs. U.S. Arguments Made
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in Abramski v. U.S. At the heart of the issue is whether Congress intended to have the Gun Control Act of 1968 allow law-abiding individuals to purchase guns for someone else. The “straw man” doctrine was codified into law in 1995, when the ATF modified Form 4473 to say such purchases were illegal on their face and wouldn’t be permitted.
Notes on Broker Reports
A couple of quick notes on broker reports, which historically have been due by the end of January following the year of reported activity.
Broker reports are due with broker renewal submissions (i.e., for persons already registered as brokers). The report must cover all brokering activity not the subject of a prior broker report.
Broker reports must cover all brokering activity up to three months prior to the expiration of the broker registration. For example, if the registration expires at the end of November 30, 2013, then the broker report would cover the period from January 1st – August 31st. For subsequent years, the broker report would include a trailing 12 month period, e.g., September 1, 2013 – August 31, 2014.
ATF Faces Problems with E-forms
ATF has sent out a notice to users of its eForms system cautioning that the system is facing significant performance issues, beyond the known problems. Without the budget to address these issues and improve the system, ATF is continuing its efforts to keep the system operational.
Obama Planning New Regs on Lost & Missing Firearms
The Obama administration is working on new gun control regulations that would target stolen and missing weapons according to The Hill. Police have a hard time tracking firearms that disappear from gun shops, which “just feeds the sort of already large and existing secondary market on guns,” said Sam Hoover, a staff attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
It is unclear precisely what the draft regulations, drawn up by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and under review at the White House’s regulations office, would do. ATF would not comment on the draft rule, since it has not yet been released to the public, but a description provided by the White House asserts that it would target cases where guns go missing “in transit.”
Currently, gun dealers are required to tell ATF after they discover a firearm has gone missing, but they aren’t required to do routine checks. “They can discover a gun missing today and have no idea when it went missing, which really makes that information useless to law enforcement,” said Chelsea Parsons, associate director of crime and firearms policy at the Center for American Progress.
The draft rule was sent to the White House five months after ATF completed a report that found that more than 190,000 firearms were estimated to have been lost or stolen last year. The report was one of 23 executive actions President Obama announced in January to reduce gun violence in the wake of 2012’s shooting in Newtown, Conn. That report helped shine light on an unseen corner of the gun market, supporters of stricter gun laws say. The report was entitled, 2012 Summary: Firearms Reported Lost and Stolen.
“I think that in the area of guns and gun violence and gun commerce, we have had a complete lack of data and a lack of information,” said Parsons. She wants the ATF to be able to take stronger action to monitor and track guns that go missing.
Since 2004, an appropriations rider has prevented the ATF from requiring gun dealers to do periodic checks. Gun rights advocates say that the measure protects innocent victims of crimes from punishment by the government.
After this story was posted, ATF contacted The Hill to clarify that the pending proposal would not affect the longstanding law preventing the agency from requiring gun dealers to check their inventories.
S&W, Ruger to Stop Some CA Sales
Smith and Wesson and Sturm, Ruger have confirmed that both companies are being forced to stop selling new or improved semiautomatic handguns in California due to that state’s implementation of its microstamping law.
On January 9, NSSF and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI) filed suit seeking to invalidate and enjoin enforcement of the unconstitutional and unworkable law, which was signed into law in 2007, but not implemented until last year.
Beretta Building Plant in Tennessee
Italian gun-maker Beretta USA plans to make Gallatin, Tenn. its manufacturing base in the United States, announcing plans to invest $45 million in a firearms plant that will initially employ 300 workers. Tennessee’s reputation as a gun-friendly state was key to the decision.
Gallatin Mayor Jo Ann Graves said “…we’re very excited that they’ve chosen (us) over eight other states.” As a result of choosing Gallatin, Beretta will be eligible for tax credits, infrastructure and job training grants from the state. Details also are being finalized for a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes grant from Gallatin.
Beretta, meanwhile, is negotiating with Gallatin officials to buy 100 acres at the Gallatin Industrial Center, where the manufacturing and research and development facility will be built. Construction should start by May, with production expected to start during the first quarter of 2015.
Beretta USA’s choice of Gallatin came after nearly a year-long search for a location to expand U.S. manufacturing outside of Maryland, where the world’s oldest manufacturing dynasty, operating since 1526 in Italy, employs about 350 at a factory in Accokeek. After Maryland passed stricter gun legislation in the aftermath of the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Beretta expressed frustration about the new laws. Initially, Beretta focused on states that expressed strong support for Second Amendment rights, said Jeff Reh, a board member of Beretta USA. It narrowed down that list by looking at factors for investment, including tax rates, cost of living, quality of local educational institutions, availability of workers and job recruitment support from the state, including training programs. Beretta then visited 80 locations over five months before narrowing the number of sites to six. After more visits, three sites remained in the running and Gallatin was chosen as the best location for the expansion. “We’re convinced we could find no better place than Tennessee to establish our new manufacturing enterprise,” said Franco Gussalli Beretta, executive vice president and a director of Beretta USA. “We look forward to building operations here and being part of the community for many years to come.” The company will keep the manufacturing plant in Maryland open. “It’s a spectacular opportunity for Gallatin, and it allows for the visibility that Gallatin deserves,” James Fenton, executive director of the Gallatin Economic Development Agency, said about the Beretta expansion.
ATF Releases Inspection Report of FFLs
ATF has released a new report demonstrating the success of federal firearms licensees in complying with federal laws and regulations. ATF reported that during Fiscal Year 2013, the agency conducted compliance inspections of 10,002 licensees, and the results show that the licensees are overwhelmingly complying with myriad laws and regulations.
Less than one percent, 0.69 percent, of the inspections resulted in a license revocation or a denied renewal. Roughly half of those inspected, 48.73 percent, were found to have no violations, slightly higher than FY 2012 and generally consistent with historical patterns showing a culture of compliance.
The author publishes two of the small arms industry’s most widely read trade newsletters. The International Firearms Trade covers the world firearms scene, and The New Firearms Business covers the domestic market. He may be reached at: FirearmsB@aol.com.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V18N4 (August 2014)|