By John Brown
For the last couple of years the NFATCA has had the fortune of working extremely close with the NFA Branch. Ken Houchens was graceful enough to begin the process of sharing information with us on how things actually worked within the Bureau. Thanks to Ken and the tireless efforts of Gary Schaible, we know a lot of information today that seemed a mystery five years ago. A number that I carry about and speak of is the actual number of transferable machine guns available to the NFA community. Keep in mind this was a snapshot taken at the end of last year based on the information that Ken and Gary were able to glean from the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR). Yes, we all know that the registry has some problems, but Gary and Ken did a lot of work to come up with this number on that particular day last year. There were, at the time, 182,619 transferable machine guns in the NFRTR. And guess what? That number isn’t growing. I am still amazed when someone asks me, “Why are prices still going up?” It is a simple law of supply and demand. With that number declining every year the value of a transferable machine gun will continue to increase in value.
In addition to this research, the Bureau has provided us with a lot of good information on just how much activity takes place in the NFA community. In 2006, ATF processed a total of 370,905 Forms including everything from a 5320.20 to a Form 10. If you look at the processed total for 2007, that number is 650,024. If you think the economy is slowing this process down, think again. The NFA Branch has been busier in the last year than they have in the history of the Branch. Keep in mind that this number represents all Forms processing that must take place to keep track of any NFA weapon.
The NFA Branch has undergone a complete upheaval in everything from employees, to training, to management to the total process in its operations. Nothing short of a miracle could have prompted Ken Houchens to stand in front of the entire import community and show the rank and file that the average transfer time for a Form 3 was 5 days and the average time for a Form 4 was 22 days. Compared to results from 5 years ago this progress is simply staggering. However, please note that these times represent the time of actual processing at the Branch. It does not include time in the mail, check clearing, routing between agencies, FBI fingerprint processing, security/background checks, etc. These other activities outside the branch must be considered when looking at the total time frame of a transfer. Thus, a Form 4 transfer will take an average of 5-6 weeks to work its way through the system though the Branch time takes 3 weeks. This is still an extraordinary improvement from the 4-7 months it used to take.
In addition to the above numbers, in 2007, the NFA Branch processed a total of 21,949 Form 4s, or an average of 133 Form 4s per day. The Branch also processed some 50,082 Form 3s for an average of 304 Form 3s per day. Combine all the rest of the forms that the Branch processed in 2007 and you will find that the Branch processed an average of 3,940 forms per day, assuming a work available load of 165 days per year. Keep in mind that many of the examiners have worked weekends and a ton of extra hours to try and get the trade in a position where it didn’t take 10 months to get a transfer completed. I know we all recognize that the entire Branch has done a great job.
With the change in the Branch Chief, the NFATCA will be working extremely close with all personnel to make certain that we continue to hold up our end on submitting clean forms. In the past we have written several articles on the kinds of mistakes we have made that slowed down the processing time. For 2007, the winner of the bad habits for submission awards were poorly hand written forms and bad checks. Let’s all try and do our part and keep the input side of forms processing clean in ’08 and keep this magnificent process running like the clockwork it has been during the last year.
There is a lot of information on the numbers that we simply don’t have the time and space to share in this article but as future articles come around we’ll share as much of that current information as possible.
The NFATCA is making constant and consistent giant steps forward for the betterment of the NFA community. But our strength lies in our numbers and we need your support. Log on to www.NFATCA.org and see for yourself and join us in our efforts.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V11N9 (June 2008)|