The American Suppressor Association, ASA, has weighed in on the final ruling for Docket No. ATF 41P, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking amending the process for acquiring and transferring National Firearms Act-regulated firearms, issued late Monday night.
It will take some time for legal experts to come to a consensus on all of the ramifications of the ruling, but one element stands out clearly: the chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) signatory requirement has been removed for all NFA transfers. Instead, transfers will require only CLEO notification.
“Since the announcement of ATF 41P, the American Suppressor Association has spearheaded efforts alongside partner organizations on the State and Federal levels to block the expansion of CLEO certification requirements,” said Knox Williams, President and Executive Director of the ASA. “For the first time in 82 years, local law enforcement will no longer have de facto veto power over any NFA applications,” explains Williams. “While their inclusion in the process made sense in 1934, before background checks, or even computers existed, the removal of this antiquated measure from the NFA process is a major victory for the suppressor and NFA communities.”
By eliminating the CLEO sign-off requirement, the ruling eliminates back-door bans on NFA transfers by CLEOs who blanketly refuse to sign applications. It’s a surprise, but welcome, change. Other changes have only raised new questions.
The ATF ruling also creates new requirements for “responsible persons” or the people who are allowed to take possession of NFA-regulated firearms owned by a trust. Each person will be required to provide photos and fingerprint cards with each NFA application. These credentials will remain on-file for two years for future applications, assuming the trust has not had any other corporate or personnel changes.
The Prince Law Offices have pledged to fight the ATF on any final ruling and are still looking to challenge at least some of these terms.
“Throughout the final rule, ATF seemingly proposes several different interpretations of what constitutes a responsible person based on the entity type,” said Joshua Prince for the Prince Law blog. “This results in serious questions, such as whether the language is overly vague. Are now all employees who can possess a firearm of a corporation responsible persons? And also, whether ATF is treating different fictitious entities differently in violation of the law. Are trustees who can possess firearms of the trust responsible persons, but employees who possess firearms of corporations not? Moreover, what is the basis for treating non-licensees and licensees differently?”
“In the next week, we will be taking a comprehensive review of all 248 pages and providing further insight into the final rule, ATF’s responses and a potential legal challenge to the final rule,” said Prince.
The ASA is still committed to making suppressor ownership easier, and their primary goal is still to get suppressors removed from the NFA entirely through the Hearing Protection Act, or HPA.
“The HPA will remove suppressors from the onerous requirements of the NFA, and instead require purchasers to pass an instant NICS check, the same background check that is used during the sale of long guns,” states the ASA. “In doing so, law-abiding citizens will remain free to purchase suppressors, while prohibited persons will continue to be barred from purchasing or possessing these accessories.”
This is one announcement that will unfold over time, and we’ll continue to follow the story as things progress.