Repeated attempts by Bearing Arms to seek clarification from the ATF about an erroneous FAQ posted the the ATF’s eForms website have gone unanswered. Bearing Arms initially reported on the errant FAQ back on January 26th, 2023. As part of that reporting, both Cam Edwards and I reached out to the ATF directly, as well as to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) for comment. The NSSF immediately responded to us, but the ATF still has not.
Our initial questions were sent to the ATF on January 26th addressing the accuracy of the FAQ and any previously unannounced ATF policy changes and the impact to law-abiding owners of NFA items.
Is this a new policy, regulation or interpretation of regulation or Federal Statute by ATF? When did this change take place? Was there a public notice and comment period?
This would seem to put gun ranges that rent NFA items out of business. It would also potentially make owners of NFA items that allow friends and family to use NFA items in violation of the answer in this FAQ and potentially subject to ATF action. Is that accurate?
At the time I reported on the FAQ and alerted the NSSF, the ATF quickly took down the FAQ telling the NSSF, “[t]he Q&A currently listed on the eforms account is incorrect. In this scenario, the registered owner of the NFA weapon is co-located with the firearm and thus no transfer has occurred. However, if the person firing the NFA weapon is prohibited from possessing the firearm there could be a GCA violation. We are working to correct the site as quickly as possible.”
I asked the ATF for confirmation of the message forwarded to Bearing Arms by the the NSSF. I’ve heard nothing.
So on January 30th, I again asked the ATF for confirmation of the response to the NSSF. More importantly, I wanted to know how this incorrect FAQ managed to get published on an official ATF website. I asked the ATF the following:
First, we would request a confirmation of the information provided to the NSSF. Is it accurate? Second, we have questions about the publication of the NFA eForms FAQ. As you can imagine, the firearms industry, FFLs and the public rely on information found on ATF websites. When that information is inaccurate, it creates confusion and could potentially lead to inadvertent violations of the law. With recent changes in how the ATF interprets federal law, the guidance given to the public is more important than ever.1. How did an FAQ that included information that directly conflicts with ATF Regulations, specifically previous ATF guidance on the topic, published and sent to FFL in June 2017 (see attached) get publshed by the ATF?2. Who is responsible for creating the information in the NFA eForms FAQ and other FAQs location on ATF websites? Who posts or publishes the information?3. Who is responsible to confirming the accuracy of ATF FAQs and other content that is published on ATF websites?4. Is the person or persons responsible for creating, publishing and ensuring the accuracy of published content on ATF websites an ATF agent (agents)?
NSSF became aware that information published on ATF’s FAQ page was erroneous and created confusion. NSSF immediately reached out to ATF headquarters seeking clarification. ATF immediately responded that the information was, in fact, incorrect, and indicated that it would remedied.
NSSF appreciates the quick and timely response to this error. The industry strives to ensure there are open lines of communication for the firearm industry and gun owners to understand the rules and regulations surrounding the lawful commerce in arms and lawful gun ownership. That is critical not only for the firearm industry, but also for the ATF, as they are the agency charged with regulating firearms and ammunition.
In this instance, the information under the FAQ incorrectly noted that only a registered owner of an NFA item could fire that item listed. In fact, as long as the owner is present and co-located with the item, no transfer has taken place and an individual accompanying the registered NFA item is authorized to fire that item. This is of particular concern to firearm ranges that rent NFA items to customers, but no transfer of the item takes place.
While the action taken by the ATF to remove the FAQ from the eForms website addresses the original issue, it does not address how this happened. We agree that there need to be open lines of communication between the industry and the ATF, and we also believe those lines of communication should extend to gun owners.
It should also extend to those reporting on their mistakes on behalf of gun owners, and the lack of response by the ATF should be troubling to all of us. Well, I’m not done seeking answers, so stay tuned.