Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday, February 06, 2017

A Federal Firearms Regulations White Paper (non-published)

Ronald Turk, Associate Deputy Director of BATFE (herein ATF) has non-published his white paper on Federal regulations of firearms. It was not intended for public distribution, but as things will go sometimes, here it is.

Mr. Turk makes some startling admissions and revelations in this paper.  I will discuss some of them here.

In the first paragraph (executive summary), he states that ATF can

"...promote commerce and defend the Second Amendment..."

Huh? ATF, defend the Second Amendment? Thats what he says.

His first point of discussion is about making it easier for people to get an FFL for dealing only at gun shows. He makes the point that ATF has long held that if you buy and sell guns at gun shows you are engaging in business and under the Gun Control Act, must have a License. At the same time, on ATF's FFL application, they ask this question: "Do you intend to do business only at gun shoes?" If you answer in the affirmative, ATF National Licensing Center will deny your application. Now he says,

"...limited or no actual sales out the business’s front door should not be an issue."

and,

"... ATF can start that process while immediately issuing a policy change to the above practice which would have no negative impact to public safety. In fact, it would encourage more sales and business through a licensee, including background checks on sales at gun show events, and likely increase public safety."

Again, I ask, "Huh"?

Is this the same ATF which, at the direction of the Clinton administration, pressured people into giving up their FFLs, among other reasons, because they were not selling enough guns and therefor didn't "need" an FFL? Or, pressured people to surrender their FFLs because they were being used primarily to enhance a personal collection at a reduced cost? They never pressured the Brady Campaign, of Washington D.C. to surrender their FFL when they never sold a single firearm and indeed, such a business would have been illegal in D.C. at the time. Now they want to encourage the much maligned "kitchen table dealer" to get an FFL? Now they say his activity will enhance actually public safety?

Say whah...?

In section 2 he talks about armor piercing ammunition and how ATF has been working with the firearms industry to come up with a way to approve of manufacture of what might be considered armor piercing RIFLE ammunition. 

You see, AP ammo is NOT illegal under federal law. Armor piercing HANDGUN AMMUNITION is illegal. In 1993, ATF, in all their wisdom and concern for public safety, declared that ALL 7.62x39 rifle ammunition which had a steel core was suddenly armor piercing handgun ammo and thus contraband. They did this as importers had millions of dollars worth of that very ammunition on the docks waiting for customs approval or in transit on the ocean. Why did they do that? The excuse they used was because Olympic Arms made a few prototype handguns based on the AR-15 design, which chambered the 7.62x39 cartridge. You see, such ammo was being imported from china for about ten cents per round. Producing such a unique firearm made perfect marketing sense. Despite the fact that federal law defined AP handgun ammo as cartridges designed to be fired from a handgun, thus narrowly defining them and eliminating rifle ammunition from such prohibition, ATF decided on their own that the Commie 7.62 was now a handgun cartridge. Cute huh?

Now, Turk says they have been working on a way to loosen up that interpretation, but, shucks by golly, the 5.56mm green tip exemption was part of the deal. Since there was such an uproar about the potential reclassification of green tip M855 as armor piercing handgun ammunition, the whole deal was off. No new rule was published. You think maybe they could have done a good thing with manufacturers while leaving the M855 green tip classification alone? Ya think? Nope, in traditional ATF fashion, they tried to pull a fast one, slicky boy style, hoping they would get away with it. There was too much blowback.

Turk says this should be revisited.

In section 3 he talks about the reimportation of military firearms which were exported to allies fifty or more years ago. Rifles such as the M1 Carbine and M1 Garand and handguns such as the M1911A1 have been sitting in warehouses in countries like Korea awaiting importation permits. The last effort was made while Madam Clinton was Secretary of State and was scuttled by that department. The Obama administration was hostile to reimportation of Curio and Relic firearms. Their argument was that weapons of war have no place on our "streets" and that since there was no proof that they would not be used in crimes, they shouldn't be reimported. How do you prove a negative? You can't. Gotcha. Turk now tells us that these firearms pose to threat to public safety and that importing them would facilitate collectors and other lawful users.

A Deputy Director of ATF saying this? Huh?

In section 4 he talks about clearing up section 922o of the law so that variances could more easily be granted to FFL/SOTs. thus facilitating their business in post 86 machine guns. What he doesn't say, and give his other positions I was hoping he would, is that the Hughes Amendment should be repealed. Basically, the NFA says you must register and pay a tax before you can legally own/possess a machine gun. In 1986, Congress passed the Hughes Amendment to the Firearm Owners Protection Act which made it impossible to register any new machine guns. There was now no way to comply with the law. Gotcha. 

Here is the link to the video of the voice vote on the Hughes Amendment.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxYnxx8cRxg

If Mr. Turk has a new found admiration and respect for the Second Amendment and for lawful gun owners, why wouldn't he advocate for the repeal of the Hughes Amendment? Wishful thinking on my part? Definitely.

In section 5 he makes a very practical statement on devices such as the SigBrace. ATF has recently sent out a letter stating that simply putting the SigBrace against your shoulder is a "redisgn" of the firearm, thus making it a short barreled rifle, and requiring an NFA registration and $200 tax paid. Did you get that? It is current ATF policy that simply placing a handgun with a SigBrace against your shoulder is a "redesign", magically turning it into an NFA firearm.

Turk reasonably argues that this position should be reversed. Has reason suddenly found a home at ATF? Huh?

In section 6 Turk states that ATF's position on the definition of "Sporting Purposes" should be revisited given the modern and ubiquitous use of what we call MSR's. The AR-15 pattern rifle, once maligned and nearly banned into non-existance, has become the most common rifle in America. He wants to redefine "Sporting Purposes" because their definition of that term is twenty years old. A better thing to do would be to advise Congress to eliminate the "Sporting Purposes" clause from the Gun Control Act.

In section 7 he advocates for a searchable database of current and previous rulings, available to industry people and ATF personnel alike. This is LONG overdue. As it is, there is no database of rulings, so neither ATF personnel, or members of the regulated industries can be sure of any ruling at any given time.

In section 8, Turk addresses suppressors, or "silencers" as they are sometimes known. He advocates the removal of suppressors from the NFA. It is about fucking time someone in ATF said it. They are getting so popular and commonly used that dealing with all the form 1's and form 4's is increasing ATF's workload exponentially. ATF NFA branch is swamped. Getting a tax stamp approved takes 8 months now. All this for a muffler, a simple sound muffler. 

In recent years, ATF has held the position that any part of a suppressor was a suppressor. If you had nothing more than one K Baffle, or one "wipe", you could be prosecuted. See here and here. This is simply WRONG. A suppressor on the end of my rifle barrel is no more a firearm than the muffler on my truck is an automobile.

In section 9 Turk addresses the prohibition on FFLs selling guns outside of their own state. As it is now, an FFL may sell guns ONLY within the State in which he is licensed. Lets say a Licensed dealer  has a retail store in... Texarkana, Tx. He can sell guns on the Texas side of town, but if he crosses State Line Blvd. to attend a weekend gun show on the Arkansas side and takes some of his inventory with him, he can ONLY take orders and return home at the end of the show with his inventory. Hopefully, some of his customers will come see him across town on Monday. If he sells one gun on the Arkansas side of town, he is in violation of federal law and risks having his FFL revoked and being prosecuted. Turk advocates a revision to allow FFLs to sell guns interstate as long as the law in each state is complied with and all other federal laws, such as the Brady act are followed. Again, it is about time.

In section 10 he addresses Destructive Devices. Just about all his advocacy is toward making it easier for industry members to interact with the military and other industry members. 

In sections 11 and 12, he discusses ATF's famous Demand Letters. The most recent of which demanded that dealers in Southern Border States report multiple rifle sales to ATF National Tracing Center. He thinks it is a swell idea. he doesn't address the FACT that ATF's Fast and Furious gun smuggling program was the cause and the reason for the demand letters. He should be reminded of this by members of Congress if they should ever take up any of his recommendations.

In section 13 he addresses ATF's requirement that FFLs keep their records for at least twenty years. He says that some in ATF think that dealers should be required to keep records forever. The idea being that "time to crime" is sometimes longer than twenty years for crime guns. As it is, dealers keep tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of 4473s in boxes at their business location. I would argue that keeping records more than ten years old is not conducive to "reducing violent crime through enforcement of the gun control act".

In section 15 he addresses the need for a confirmed permanent Director. 

Could this be why he is advocating for all these changes? Perhaps he has his eye on the job? I don't know. It may be. 

I think Turk is to be congratulated on his foresight. It seems he realizes that the gun CONTROLLERS, have lost the argument. He might realize the new administration is not so friendly to the control agenda and program as the last administration was. He seems to see the writing on the wall after Heller and McDonald and understands that if ATF survives as an agency, its mission will be much streamlined from what it has historically been.

I would remind Mr. Turk, that it was his agency's doings at Ruby Ridge and Waco specifically, and the AWB during the Clinton administration, which caused the gun culture to blossom and mushroom. 

Are better days ahead for firearms enthusiasts? I believe so. I think some in ATF, in spite of themselves, can see it also.