ATF Announces Imminent Launch of New Electronic System for Submitting Form 4s

Authors Industry News Jordan Michaels This Week
ATF Announces Imminent Launch of New Electronic System for Submitting Form 4s
Will this new system result in shorter wait times? Right now, it’s unclear.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) announced over the weekend the imminent launch of a new online system designed to streamline and expedite the process of approving Form 4s for suppressor purchases.

The agency has previously offered the option to submit eForms, but that system is currently only open to Forms 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 6A, 9, 10 and 5300.11. The agency told the American Suppressor Association (ASA) over the weekend about a new platform designed to accommodate Form 4, the form necessary to purchase a suppressor. The agency has said it will launch the new platform between December 15 and Christmas Day.

Current wait times for Form 4 approval average 9-12 months, and many gun owners have experienced even longer holdups. As we reported in 2019, this is largely due to the antiquated system the ATF uses to approve these forms. Each paper application is reviewed by one of the agency’s 25-35 “examiners,” and with between 180,000 to 200,000 NFA forms to wade through each year, approval times have only gotten slower.

EForms will speed up this process by reducing submission times, eliminating weeks of delays in data processing, and helping to eliminate data entry errors. It’s unclear exactly how much this new system will reduce wait times, but Knox Williams, the president and executive director of the ASA, told us the ATF wants to get approvals within 90 days.

“Honestly, nobody really knows. It has the potential to decrease time significantly. ATF told us they want to get wait times below 90 days. Whether that’s reasonable or not remains to be seen,” he said.

SEE ALSO: GOP Lawmakers Send Letter to ATF to Prevent Backdoor Gun Registry 

There is one potential downside: if the ATF’s new system works as promised (a big “if”), the demand for suppressors will likely increase—and prices may follow.

Gun owners who have hesitated to purchase a suppressor may get into the game if wait times decrease. Faster processing times will undoubtedly result in more applications, but it’s unclear whether this surge will be enough to cause a shortage or increase prices. We’ve reached out to Silencer Shop and SilencerCo for more information and will update this article when we receive a response.

Some gun owners also worry that submitting their Form 4 via the new system will make their purchases easier to track by the ATF. Williams told us that whether an applicant submits a paper or electronic form, all that information ends up in the same database.

“It’s all going to the exact same registry. The National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record is the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. It doesn’t matter how you get in it. It’s just a matter of whether you want it to take longer or not,” he said.

SEE ALSO: First Look – SilencerCo’s NEW Do-It-All Hybrid 46M Suppressor

For those who are currently waiting for a paper form to be approved, the ASA warns against pulling it out to submit via the eForm system.

ATF agents won’t comb through stacks of paper applications to pull out a single form. Instead, they’ll wait until the form crosses an agent’s desk to process the withdrawal. Then, they’ll release the serial number, and the applicant won’t be able to submit via eForm until the ATF acknowledges the withdrawal and puts it back in the dealer’s inventory.

“Thus, withdrawing and re-submitting electronically will add months to your overall application process,” the ASA says.

The ATF briefly opened their current eForm system to Form 4 applications between 2013 and 2014, but that system was abandoned so the agency could implement modifications to “enhance its functionality and improve its performance; as well as incorporate the regulatory requirements imposed by 41F,” according to the ATF.

Eight years later, they’ve finally (hopefully) completed those changes.

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  • paul I'll call you what I want/1st Amendment December 12, 2021, 5:50 pm

    Take them off the nfa list that will speed things up!!!

  • Leigh December 10, 2021, 5:47 am

    Just in time for us to register all the semiauto rifles and pistols????????

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