By Jeffery E. Follonfader
The Doors of ATF Cooperation Are Opening Once Again?
Many of you have experienced the silence from ATF over the last couple of years. The kind of silence we are referring to is the silence that occurs when a new President takes office and the various offices of the government sit back and wait to get their orders. The first term was quiet but we all know now that this administration is doing an end run on congressional approval to get the legislation that they want; primarily through executive orders.
What was once a healthy and productive relationship with the industry turned silent. Whenever the anti-gun party takes the head seat then things quickly go south on Capitol Hill. Like many government agencies, ATF gets caught up in the politics of the day and in most situations the best interests of the community are not always served. Unfortunately, many of the senior executive staff begin to listen very closely for the little bits of information that trickle out of the Department of Justice giving some type of indication as to how they should set the stage for the coming years. This presidency has been no different and organizations like the NFATCA have suffered the wrath of this political backlash in a number of ways.
The one thing that we always try and remember is that deep inside ATF there are still many good friends of the firearms community, as well as many who simply want to get their jobs done “Right.”
Remember that the firearms industry is a great place to work and, once you retire, given that as an option, creating a lot of enemies in the private sector for politically expedient factors might not necessarily be the best strategy. There are many examples where that type of transition has worked extremely well. Let’s always keep those doors open.
On June 18, ATF convened an industry meeting at its headquarters in Washington D.C. as a forum for new announcements, changes to regulatory issues, and many tidbits of good news on issues like transfer times for NFA. This meeting served as a level playing field where both ATF and the industry could sit and discuss a number of issues. As with many other controversial issues that had come up during the year, e.g., P41, a lot of good healthy guarded discussions ensued at that meeting. It was the first time in nearly two years where we sat and discussed issues of mutual interest and directions forward. I came away from that meeting thinking, “Things must be changing.” How they are changing we still don’t know but it was certain that this was a good opportunity for us to begin discussions again. In that meeting were powerful men who represented some of the largest manufacturers in the country. Cautiously optimistic was the term of the day. At the conclusion of that meeting ATF had agreed to begin the process of updating the NFA Handbook and taking a good hard look at the Firearms Technology Handbook, a project in the making for nearly three years.
Although the meeting lasted over an hour, all representatives from every major branch of ATF were present and presented an overview of the highlights of things they were individually working. This news represented improvements to process or updates to the activities within the branch. This was information that we all used to share on a regular basis and it looks now as if they want to come to the table again and invite industry to enter into discussions on activities, issues, and the things that we can work on and contribute together. This is a far cry from having sat in front of previous representatives who boldly told me, “We don’t need any input from the industry.” The meeting was upbeat and was well received and perceived as the first in series of events that brought our regulators and the industry back to the table to work together.
At the conclusion of this meeting there were additional meetings set to follow up on initiating joint actions on issues such as the NFA Handbook and exploring the work on the Firearms Technology Handbook. Although ATF had taken title and ownership of the NFA Handbook, I had almost given up hope that any further progress would be made on this resource. Over the last few years the NFATCA and ATF have collected numerous issues with the text and clarification that badly needed to be updated. Very soon we will solicit comments from the industry on update information and comments for the next revision of this important document. The NFA-TCA will also keep you updated on the progress on the Technology Handbook. At this writing, the draft of the document entails nearly 300 pages of information accumulated by many hours of work with the Firearms Technology Branch. This initiative will be exciting and will draw questions and input from the industry. Watch the NFATCA web site as we work down the path of completing version one of this tremendous resource of information.
I might suggest to readers that the one thing that you will want to pay particular attention to is the NFACTA web site. We will post regular updates on our forum and the web site to keep you informed. We will also ask for your input on issues like the NFA Handbook and the FTB Handbook. We have not quite figured out how to get a 300 page document out for comment yet, but believe me we are working on that. I know as many of our readers digest this information you will take the same position that most of us at that meeting had, and that again is being “Cautiously Optimistic.” It is a start of a potential new beginning and we can’t afford to ignore the offering. Once again we will keep you posted and keep our fingers crossed.
Thank you for your continued support as we push forward. Come visit us at www.nfatca.org.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V18N6 (December 2014)