Washington, DC -(AmmoLand.com)- During the recent F.A.I.R. Trade Group/NSSF Import/Export Conference held in Washington, D.C. on August 2-3, 2016, officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) advised industry members that the “law letter” required to import and transfer machineguns as dealer sales samples is valid only for a period of six months.
Accordingly, ATF will not approve a Form 6 application seeking authorization to import a machinegun if the letter of interest from a government agency is more than six months old. ATF will also not approve an application to transfer a machinegun to a licensed dealer if the letter from the government agency is more than six months old.
Section 922(o) of the Gun Control Act (GCA) prohibits the transfer and possession of machineguns. Exceptions are provided for transfers to or by, or possession by or under the authority of a federal, state, or local government agency. Implementing ATF regulations in 27 C.F.R. § 479.105(d) authorize the transfer of machineguns as dealer sales samples if the dealer seeking to acquire the machineguns submits with the transfer application a letter from a federal, state, or local government agency expressing a desire for a demonstration of the particular make, model, and caliber of machinegun. Regulations in 27 C.F.R. § 478.112 require licensed importers to submit information with the Form 6 import application, including the specific purpose of importation. In the case of a machinegun being imported as a sales sample, the letter required by section 479.105(d) must be included with the Form 6 application.
Published ATF Guidance:
ATF’s National Firearms Act Handbook (e-publication 5320.8), addresses the importation of NFA firearms, including machineguns, as sales samples. Section 8.3.6 of the handbook provides that applications to import machineguns as sales samples must be submitted with information concerning the purpose of importation, including letters from government agencies expressing interest in seeing a demonstration of a particular firearm. Appendix D of the handbook contains a sample letter to be used as a template in acquiring imported sales samples.
Neither the law, the regulations, nor the NFA Handbook specify a period of validity for the law enforcement letter. Indeed, prior to the 2016 Import/Export conference, the general understanding in the firearms industry has been that law letters are valid for one year.
ATF’s policy that law letters are valid for only 6 months imposes a significant hardship on industry. At the retail level, sales sample requests are often generated when police departments and other law enforcement agencies request a demonstration of a machinegun the retailer does not have in inventory. The retailer then submits the request either through a wholesale distributor or directly to the manufacturer or importer. By the time the request reaches the manufacturer or importer, the date of the law letter may be several months in the past. In addition, 6 months will likely be an impossible time frame for any manufacturer who builds to order.
The 6-month limitation is no less a challenge for importers. In addition to the delays commonly faced with foreign manufacturing or sourcing, the importer also has unavoidable delays caused by the Form 6 permit process, which generally take 6 weeks or longer and NFA prior approval requirements for the import permit and the registration and domestic transfers of the machineguns. Even if that process is completed before the law letter expires, the transfer process will also take at least 2 months because of ATF processing.
Industry members facing expiration of the supporting law letter will have to go back to their law enforcement customers for new freshly dated letters in order to obtain ATF transfer approval.
To avoid this seemingly needless exercise, F.A.I.R. Trade calls upon ATF to revert to its previous policy of accepting law letters up to one year.
About the F.A.I.R. Trade Group:
The F.A.I.R. Trade Group is a 501(c) (6) organization dedicated since 1994 to protecting the interests of the firearms and ammunition import and export community. F.A.I.R. operates entirely on the funds derived from our dues-paying membership. If you are interested in becoming a member or contributing to the organization, please visit our website at: www.fairtradegroup.org.
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