Good News Gun Owners! Leaked ATF 'White Paper' Indicates Positive Changes Ahead
In what appears to fly in the face of the Bureau’s prior attitudes towards enforcement of gun laws, a white paper by BATFE AssociateDeputy Director Ronald Turk was recently leaked which proposed loosening or modifying gun regulations in sixteen ways, to be discussed below. If you have not yet read Nicholas’ post on the leak, you can do that, and also follow the link here to the white paper itself. In this article, I’ll be taking a (hopefully) brief look at what the white paper means and why it’s so significant (and it is significant, don’t get me wrong).
First, we must understand what the white paper isn’t. It is not a new set of regulations, and it is not an announcement that regulations will soon change. It’s more like a memorandum containing suggestions that could be implemented in the future. Indeed, the entire document is worded this way, making it very clear. It even says, in the executive summary:
This paper serves to provide the new Administration and the Bureau multiple options to consider and discuss regarding firearms regulations specific to ATF. These general thoughts provide potential ways to reduce or modify regulations, or suggest changes that promote commerce and defend the Second Amendment without significant negative impact on ATF’s mission to fight violent firearms crime and regulate the firearms industry. This white paper is intended to provide ideas and provoke conversation; it is not guidance or policy of any kind.
So we’re not looking at something that immediately changes the law, or even indicates that the law will soon be changed. However, even though it is just a list of suggestions, what those suggestions are and how they are written may indicate a major shift in attitude may be occurring within the ATF. Let’s quickly summarize what these sixteen suggestions are, first (I have bolded the most interesting suggestions):
- Allow/facilitating gunshow-only dealers to apply for an Federal Firearms License
- Reform the process of classifying ammunition as “armor piercing handgun ammunition” to allow manufacturers to produce new armor-piercing rifle ammunition while maintaining the exemption for SS109/M855, as well as an acknowledgement that many rounds not classified as “armor piercing” will still penetrate body armor.
- Work with the State Department and Trump Administration to import surplus C&R US service arms for sale to the American public.
- Allow greater flexibility to the ATF to grant FFL/SOTs permission to transfer post-86 machine guns to other FFL/SOTs working for DoD agents and in the film industry.
- Remove the clause in the pistol stabilizing brace (PSB) ruling that lists shouldering the brace as an NFA violation.
- Revise the “sporting purpose” wording to accommodate so-called “Modern Sporting Rifles” within that category.
- Create a database of easily accessible and understood firearms regulations and rulings.
- Consider reclassifying silencers as non-NFA items, revising the definition of “silencer”.
- Allow FFLs to transfer firearms out-of-state (such as at gun shows in a neighboring state).
- Discuss changing Destructive Device rulings to better differentiate between launchers and munitions (e.g. by allowing manufacturers to register whole lots of munitions as DDs, rather than the individual munitions).
- Change the Demand Letter 2 (DL2) requirement to a number between 10 and 25 firearms (15 suggested), from the current 10.
- Eliminate Demand Letter 3.
- Review and possibly discard the current proposal to have FFLs retain records indefinitely, from the current regulation of 20 years.
- Allow FFLs to run NICS checks on potential employees.
- Push for a Presidentially-nominated, Senate-confirmed ATF Director.
- Remove or amend old, obsolete regulations like the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban
Whew! Got all that? Good!
With that out of the way, several significant aspects of the white paper jump out at me. First, much of the language is structured to indicate what appear to be four major priorities:
- Appeasing a newer, blacker gun industry.
- Avoiding litigation over some of the less legally rigorous ATF regulations currently on the books.
- Reducing ATF workload.
- Transitioning from the Obama administration to the Trump administration