NFA firearms collectors group initiated ATF gun trust rule change

ATF's Jones, VP Biden and AG Holder will be happy to increase their control over gun owners at the request of collectors.Examiner – by David Codrea

The Obama administration’s proposed regulatory amendment regarding background checks for principal officers of gun trusts will still require a chief law enforcement officer sign-off, and the rule change itself was initiated by a petition from a group representing National Firearms Act gun collectors. That information comes from a draft Department of Justice notice made public this morning by firearms industry consulting attorney Joshua Prince.  

Gun Rights Examiner reported on the proposed regulation change last Friday, relying on the government’s summary as posted on the Executive Office of the President’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs website, which stated:

The proposed regulations would (1) add a definition for the term “responsible person”; (2) require each responsible person of a corporation, trust or legal entity to complete a specified form, and to submit photographs and fingerprints; (3) require that a copy of all applications to make or transfer a firearm be forwarded to the chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) of the locality in which the maker or transferee is located; and (4) eliminate the requirement for a certification signed by the CLEO.

While this column expressed concerns for the new requirements, commentators weighed in emphasizing the benefits of doing away with the CLEO signature requirement, as the current state of affairs allows a police chief or sheriff to ignore the application, thus halting the firearms transfer. The change was thus represented by some as a tradeoff worth making.

“Unfortunately, we just obtained a copy of the 62-page proposal and the above statement is a false depiction of the actual proposal, as everyone was made to believe that the CLEO signature requirement would be eliminated in exchange for additional regulations on fictitious entities,” Prince explained. “ATF will NOT be eliminating the CLEO requirement and instead IMPOSING it on ALL entities.”

A review of the DOJ draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking bears that out.

“ATF does not propose to eliminate the CLEO certificate requirement at this time,” the proposal confirms. “Rather, ATF proposes extending the CLEO certificate requirement to responsible persons of a legal entity.”

What they’re evidently proposing to eliminate, for liability reasons, is having the CLEO certify “that he has no information that the applicant or transferee will use the firearm for other than lawful purposes.”

The rule change itself, the draft continues, was instigated by a petition from the National Firearms Act Trade and Collectors Association.

“The NFATCA expressed concern that persons who are prohibited by law from possessing or receiving firearms may acquire NFA firearms through the establishment of legal entities such as a corporation, trust, or partnership,” the notice explains. “The Petitioner [NFATCA] expressed concern that an NFA firearm could be obtained by a prohibited person and used in a violent crime.

“Therefore, for applications for a corporation, trust, partnership, or other legal entity to make or receive an NFA firearms, petitioner has requested amendments … to require photographs and fingerprint cards for persons who are responsible for directing the management and policies of the entity, so that a background check of the individual may be conducted,” the notice elaborates.

In other words, the leadership of a national influential collectors group petitioned ATF and endorsed more “gun control,” apparently under the assumption that there would be a tradeoff benefit to them in terms of eliminating a certification some CLEOs have been reluctant to provide.

As for their concern that violent criminals are going to be using trusts and lawyers to skirt the law, ATF noted “the number of Forms … involving legal entities that are not Federal firearms licensees increased … to 40,700 in 2012.” Despite this, the only corroborating example ATF cited was where an applicant denied transfer of a silencer “subsequently applied to transfer the same silencer to a trust,” that was discovered and the application was denied. Further information about the specifics of the example and the likely danger this posed in terms of increasing violent crime risks were not provided.

“No criminal would subject themselves to notifying the ATF of their intent to purchase a machine gun, wait six – 12 months to be able to receive the firearm, pay a $200 tax, and pay an extra $10,000 – $20,000 to purchase a legal machine gun when illegal machine guns can be purchased or made easily without waiting or notifying the ATF,” Gun Trust Lawyer David M. Goldman wrote yesterday in a deconstruction of a so-called fact sheet from the White House. “This logic is flawed.”

What’s apparent from these new revelations is that additional public scrutiny is required, including scrutiny of backroom deals being arranged without fanfare by special interest groups who petition for changes to regulations that will reach beyond their membership of collectors and investors. What is unknown at this time is what changes the White House will insist on before a final draft is presented for public comment. That period has not yet begun, but when it does, as today’s revelations should make clear, it will be in the interests of all gun owners to become informed and engaged.

As such, Prince and colleague Tom Odom have taken point and posted several updates just this morning, including Procedural issues with ATF’s draft proposalNational Firearms Act Day of Reckoning – September 3, 2013, and a summary of ATF’s draft proposal. Bookmarking and regularly visiting that blog will help ensure concerned citizens can keep up to date on the information being uncovered there.


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