By Jeffrey Folloder
Mixed Messages from Shows
This NFATCA Report is being written while the temperatures in Brownsville, Texas are significantly colder than the temperatures in Anchorage, Alaska—a bit unsettling for the first week of January 2018. That said, the unusual weather patterns appear to be mimicking the unusual legislative and regulatory activity going on in Washington, D.C. You never know quite what you’re going to get, and you will be hard-pressed to come up with a solid reason This NFATCA Report is being written while the temperatures in Brownsville, Texas are significantly colder than the temperatures in Anchorage, Alaska—a bit unsettling for the first week of January 2018. That said, the unusual weather patterns appear to be mimicking the unusual legislative and regulatory activity going on in Washington, D.C. You never know quite what you’re going to get, and you will be hard-pressed to come up with a solid reason for why it is happening. Or maybe it’s just that the reasons are difficult to fathom.
There was a Notice issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on December 21, 2017, just before Christmas. A list of 25 guidance documents was withdrawn after a November 17 memorandum from Attorney General Sessions prohibiting the DOJ from using guidance documents to circumvent the rulemaking process. A handful of the 25 rulings and circulars involved the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) and were dumped as being obsolete, redundant or unnecessary:
- ATF Procedure 75-4, guidance incorporated into current document
- Industry Circular 75-10, guidance incorporated into current document
- ATF Ruling 85-3, obsolete
- Industry Circular 85-3, obsolete
- ATF Ruling 2001-1, obsolete
- ATF Ruling 2004-1, obsolete
There was a considerable buzz from the community and even the media trying to divine what ATF might be up to. To quote Dr. Freud, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” The referenced items were obsolete and redundant and needed to go. Unfortunately, getting rid of these items may also be paying heed to the President’s requirement that two regulations must be tossed for each new one brought to bear.
And then there is the three-ringed circus surrounding bump stocks and other firearms accessories. The previous administration previously determined that such accessories were not firearms and did not fall under the purview of firearms enforcement regulations of any kind. BATFE appeared to be toeing this line after the Las Vegas mass-shooting incident. However, calls to do something could not be resisted. Conflicting messages were bandied about from many pro-2A and gun-control advocates. Recently, the BATFE and the DOJ announced their intentions to change the settled landscape view on Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM): https://goo.gl/5q5jji. It is uncertain as to whether BATFE will come to the same conclusions, whether BATFE will determine that legislation is required to make any changes in enforcement or if there is something else, entirely different, at work.
The NFATCA strongly opposes any attempt by BATFE and the DOJ to “re-interpret” the legislative definition of National Firearms Act items, specifically machine guns, to include so-called “bump/slide fire” stocks and other similar, non-firearm accessories. Previous BATFE/DOJ research has found that these devices do not meet the definition of firearms or machine guns, and nothing has changed since those recent evaluations were made on numerous occasions.
The NFATCA encourages everyone to participate in the open comment period and clearly express their views when BATFE makes the ANPRM public.
It is not unusual to receive mixed messages from regulators and legislators. Indeed, it can be quite difficult to determine which way the wind is blowing (apologies for another weather connection). Even seasoned legislative professionals can come up short when trying to figure out exactly what is going on. That is why it is important to stay on top of the issues and to learn as much as you can from as many sources so that you can present a reasoned and cogent perspective. The NFATCA is certain that 2018 will present many opportunities to the NFA community. Hopefully, those challenges will include the elimination of even more unnecessary regulation and the rejection of new regulation that serves no public interest.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N4 (April 2018)