By Jeffrey Folloder
Don’t Fake Your Love Letters
One of the great challenges of writing a regular column for a magazine is embracing the lag between writing the column and having it published. There’s a lot that goes on in between those two events, and it takes effort and time to get things right. That lag also means that it can be difficult to maintain a firm connection with current events, but I don’t think that this column will have a problem with currency in this issue. As this column is being written, there is a small kerfuffle (always wanted to use that word in this column!) on social media regarding a small aspect of the National Firearms Act (NFA).
The latest topic that is fanning the flames is the current activity deployed by ATF’s NFA Division in regard to dealer sample machine guns. Back tracking a moment, the machine gun world in the United States is divided roughly among fully transferable firearms, so-called “pre-May” dealer samples and post-May dealer samples, also known as “posties.” FFL/SOT’s have been able to obtain these posties by way of submitting documentation, along with the Form 3 application for transfer, that establishes that the firearm is particularly suitable for use by a law enforcement agency (or military unit). Such information must show why a sales sample of a particular firearm is suitable for such use and the expected governmental customers who would require a demonstration of the firearm. Information as to the availability of the firearm to fill subsequent orders and letters from governmental entities expressing a need for a particular model or interest in seeing a demonstration of a particular firearm would establish suitability for governmental use. This documentation is often called a “love letter” and has been a long-standing component of the NFA landscape. Some dealers obtained these love letters with ease, and others encountered great difficulty. Apparently, ATF has now decided that some love letters are not quite what they seem and have begun verification of the letters.
Of course, there is a great deal of jumping to conclusions: “Love letters are dead!” “Prices will sky-rocket for the going-out-of-business posties!” “ATF is changing the rules again!” “I predicted the end of this!” A copy of a recent rejection of a love letter has surfaced, and it seems to be the focus of the consternation as shown above.
As is often the case, the ire of social media may, indeed, be slightly misplaced. Most, if not all, FFL/SOTs are still able to utilize bona fide love letters to justify the acquisition of a postie. There is no end to the process, as codified in Federal regulation. There is no change at the NFA Division in Martinsburg, West Virginia. NFA Division has always investigated transfer requests that may be viewed as suspicious. Yet seeing proof of NFA Division doing its job has become a cause celebre’ for the denizens of Facebook and gun forums. Nothing has changed. You can still use a love letter to obtain a postie. What you cannot do is abuse the system. And you absolutely must make certain that the love letter process is legitimate: The CLEO executing the validating statement understands what he or she is affirming and that NFA Division may actually verify the document. Further, the love letter states that a demonstration is requested for contemplation of a future purchase. Don’t submit the letter if you have no intention of doing the demonstration! In short, don’t fake the love letter.
The NFATCA reviews these types of issues on a very regular basis. Let us know if you run across something that catches your eye! We will be happy to check things out and provide some basis in fact for what appears to be happening. Send us an email at email@example.com. Or visit us online at nfatca.org or facebook.com/NFATCA.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V23N2 (February 2019)