January Zoom Meeting Yields Important Updates
By Jeff Folloder
This article was written at the beginning of February, while the pandemic was still in full swing. There is hope that by the time you are reading this, the effects of COVID-19 upon our community, our country and the world will have begun to abate. Sadly, many people and their families have been severely impacted, and it is not without sadness that we note that there have been three, back-to-back cancellations of the lauded Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot. There have been some opportunities for NFA enthusiasts to meet face-to-face, but those efforts have been few and far between and have left a bit to be desired in terms of opportunity and interaction.
The same can be said for the NFATCA’s work with the regulatory community. The NFATCA has sought, over the past ~15 years, to maintain a working and productive relationship with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). We are passionate Second Amendment supporters but also understand that the world that we live in does have regulations and restrictions upon firearms. As such, we have sought to work with the appointed regulators to find ways to make more NFA opportunities available to more people, more often and to work with the ATF to find ways to speed up what many view as an onerous application process. One of the best ways that we do this has been in face-to-face meetings with the leadership of the ATF.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has managed to wallop that endeavor, as well. The NFATCA has maintained a very visible outreach at the annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas, held by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, each January. We also use that time to have productive, formal and informal meetings with ATF leadership. As feared, COVID-19 put the kybosh on that. SHOT Show was cancelled, along with almost all in-person meetings with the ATF. Though not a totally adequate substitute, ATF leadership held an extensive Zoom video conference with the NFATCA leadership at the end of January.
Sharing a few notes from this meeting is in order. First up, the ATF has confirmed that the surge and drop-off in NFA forms processing associated with 41F is now a distant memory. Not only has the consumer-forms flow caught up with the volume and trend lines from pre-41F, it has now surpassed the volume trend from before the “deadline deluge.” Put another way, the laments that 41F would kill the NFA business were flat out wrong, as we knew they would be. Putting everyone on an equal playing field has, ultimately, expanded the purchase volume. No more need to kiss the sheriff’s ring to buy a suppressor or a machine gun. Getting fingerprints and photos is not the arduous burden that many lamented. Now we are selling and buying more, which is good for everyone.
Second, we are proud to discuss that patience has been rewarded. The ATF is now in a position to grant our request to update The NFA Handbook, which is certainly showing its age. The NFATCA was the original author of this valuable reference guide, and we will be working with the ATF over the coming months to bring the resource into a more current status. Concurrently, the NFATCA and ATF are looking to resume work on a key effort that has been languishing for some time. When we first started during a snowy Armageddon in West Virginia many years ago, the working title of a new effort was The FTB Handbook. Well, the Firearms Technology Branch (FTB) is now the Firearms Technology Division (FATD). That handbook is still needed, and it looks like we have a way forward to resume work on it. We will keep you informed!
Now, about that previously mentioned forms volume increase. It doesn’t appear to be abating, so the NFATCA has been working closely with the ATF, as always, on improvements to the eForms system. Many non-licensees have already experienced the speed and fast approval times of using the electronic Form 1’s. A process that previously took many months is now down to a few weeks. That is welcome. The NFATCA is pleased to announce two significant improvements. The first is that the eForms system is no longer completely down on Wednesdays. We heard you loud and clear, and we made sure that the ATF also heard you as well. The ATF will make eForms available at 10:00 a.m. each Wednesday for all to use. There may be an occasional need for additional outage, but the goal is for the system to be useable, at the least, every business day and most weekends.
The second eForms improvement involves eForm 4. You read that right! The NFATCA has been working with the ATF’s development team on the upcoming rollout of eForm 4. All of us will agree that bringing a robust and functional eForm 4 back to the NFA community is an essential component of improving the NFA experience. We have moved from development to an impressive demonstration of the release candidate for eForm 4. Here are some key elements of what is to come:
- Users will only be able to advance each step of their applications (getting to the next “train stop”) with “clean” data. If the data is not right, one cannot advance or submit.
- Users will be able to submit electronic and encrypted fingerprints.
- Users will be able to submit electronic photos and other supporting documents.
- Users will only be able to pay online, in the application using pay.gov.
- Users will be able to eventually receive 90-day approvals on Form 4s.
The NFATCA will be participating in the upcoming beta test program for the eForms release candidate. If all goes well, you will likely be able to use it by the time you read this article. If not, it’s just around the corner. We understand the belief that there really should be no regulation of the NFA or any firearms. That said, the world we live in does have regulation. The NFATCA will continue to find ways to lessen the burden of the regulations by working within the system.
Please consider supporting us, today. You can renew or start your membership at nfatca.org.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V25N3 (March 2021)|