By John Brown
If you read The Legal Side by our Firearms Attorney in this issue, it should now be very apparent to everyone just how important the NFATCA is to every NFA owner in the country. We played a major role in that decision. The NFATCA is working far beyond what anyone expected. We continue to work for the good of all of the community and hope that every NFA owner realizes that this one single effort has done more for our community as a unified organization than any other effort in the history of NFA ownership. And, we are currently on top of virtually every issue that faces the NFA community.
Most of you don’t know that for over a year now the NFATCA has been working closely with ATF on a matter that affects more than 1,700 transferable machine guns that are in many of your hands today. Unfortunately, there was some question as to whether the upper or the lower on the FNC rifle was the recognized receiver of this gun. To add to the confusion, on some guns, you could find the serial number of the gun on both places. So the question came up many times from within the Bureau, as well as within the industry, as to what is the recognized receiver on an FNC rifle: the upper or the lower?
Conversion of the FNC rifle with a registered FNC sear has been going on, with ATF approval, for over twenty years. In the early days of this conversion there was no defined written process as to how to receive approval for converting a gun using a registered FNC sear. In many cases an ATF representative would visit the manufacturer and look at the process and would say, “The manufacturer’s process was fine.” End of story. Because there was no formal approval process these guns were readily converted, sold and transferred, over and over again. Because the sears were properly registered and the guns were recognized in section “h.” (additional information) as the host gun, no one ever questioned the validity of the conversion. Literally hundreds of the FNC guns were converted and recognized as fully transferable machine guns. Then, all of a sudden, someone in the Class III community posed the question, “What really is the receiver on an FNC; the upper, or the lower?” Remember the old axiom to be careful what you ask for. In this case, that was surely true. What occurred next cost both the Bureau and the NFATCA countless hours of research and negotiation to reach a final and complete understanding of this single question.
Take into consideration that if the lower is officially recognized as the receiver, and the receiver was in fact modified to accept an FN sear, then you would have created a Post 86 machine gun because even though you are using a registered sear, you would have been modifying the receiver, in effect, making a “new” machine gun. Stop and think about that for a moment. It is truly scary to think that over 1,700 FNC converted machine guns would all of a sudden be re-classified as Post 86 machine guns, simply because the noted receiver of these guns had been modified to accept the sear. This was a huge problem and our greatest fear. What was once a $7,500 investment would now be, for the most part, worthless to the average owner of these converted machine guns. Once the NFATCA learned that this was a possibility we feverishly began working with the Firearms Technology Branch, ATF counsel, and executives within the ATF to defend a position for the entire community. Our position was that the true receiver in the FNC family of rifles was the upper, not the lower portion of this weapon, and modification of the trigger assembly for the use of a sear was in fact modifying gun parts and not the receiver. Nearly 70% of the FNCs imported into the US by HOWCO or Gun South saw a serial number on the upper only. In most cases the serial number did not appear on the lower. This is a great point to ponder when you consider the similarity on the conversions of the HK family of rifles: installing a sear in the trigger pack or gun part.
After much and lengthy discussion and work within the Bureau, the NFATCA successfully negotiated a position with ATF to protect the FNC and any future conversions of this weapon’s platform. Our efforts, and most importantly our relationship with ATF, are paying off for everyone. The ATF ruling, 2008-1, was a major win for the entire community and a key accomplishment, especially for the relationship that both the BATFE and the NFATCA have worked so hard to bring together. This single effort exemplifies what can happen when we all work as a team.
The NFATCA would especially like to extend our thanks to Acting Director Sullivan and his entire team in working so closely with us on this one single issue.
I would encourage everyone to read the ruling in The Legal Side column in this issue. It is critical for all of us to understand that the NFATCA is successful and is working to not only improve the relationship with our governing body, the BATFE, but to improve the communications, the understandings, and the many rulings that affect all of us. Yes, things can change, and our relationship with the Bureau allows us the opportunity to make things work.
Still wondering why you should join the NFATCA? This is a perfect example of the things we can accomplish. Come and join the spirit of a relationship that is working for all of our benefits. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: United We Stand, Divided We Fall. In the face of an uncertain political climate, join and support the only organization that is working on your behalf, the NFATCA. Visit us at www.NFATCA.org.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V11N12 (September 2008)|