U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- On January 18, 2023, at the SHOT Show, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) hosted a slide show on what has been happening in the National Firearms Act Division of the ATF.
This presentation did not explain the ramifications of the controversial “new rule” on stabilizing pistol braces. It was an overview of the internal happenings in the NFA division of the ATF.
This correspondent has seen many such presentations in other organizations in his career. There is useful information to be gained. Do not expect bureaucracies to air their “dirty laundry” in public. Each agency and each division is going to do its best to present itself in a positive light. They will explain any shortcomings as something outside their control. They will convincingly explain why they need more resources and explain they are doing the best they can with the limited resources they have.
Some very interesting numbers were presented, showing how the workload of the NFA division has increased in the past few years.
A Fiscal Year (FY) is a one-year period during which the agency expends its annual budget. It is not the same as a calendar year. The Fiscal Year for the ATF (and most federal agencies) is from October 1st to September 30th. FY 2020 started on October 1st, 2019, and ended on September 30th, 2020. FY 2021 started on October 1st, 2020, and ended on September 30, 2021. FY 2022 started on October 1st, 2021, and ended on September 30th, 2022.
The slides showed how many NFA applications were processed in the last three Fiscal Years up to September 30th, 2022. The FY 2019 number was taken from a previous report:
- In FY 2019, 342,860 were processed.
- In FY 2020, 512,315 were processed.
- In FY 2021, 546,224 were processed.
- In FY 2022, 709,508 were processed.
These are applications processed, which appear to be almost entirely Forms 1,3,4, and 5.
The numbers of the various forms were not shown in the slide show. Experience has shown the vast majority of these applications are Form 4 for the transfer of silencers.
The total number of silencer tax stamps in existence in the USA as of 2019 was 2,042,719. The total number of silencer tax stamps existent in the USA as of 2020 was 2,664,774. The increase was 622,055 from 2019 to 2020. The numbers do not precisely match the application numbers. The exact date the number of tax stamps for silencers was reported is not clear.
The number of legal silencers in the United States has not been updated since 2020. It is now 2023. When this correspondent asked representatives at the briefing if the numbers presented represented about a one million increase in legal silencers from 2020 to the end of 2022, they stated the number was reasonably correct.
The number of legal silencers in the United States now exceeds 3.6 million. The number is likely considerably higher but has not been directly reported.
It is difficult to argue silencers are not in common use when there are about four million legal silencers in the United States. In the Caetano case, the Supreme Court held 200,000 stun guns in the United States shows they are in common use.
Common use is a main criteria for protection under the Second Amendment, in the Heller, McDonald, Caetano, and Bruen decisions at the Supreme Court.
The presentation made a good case the NFA division of the ATF is overwhelmed with NFA applications, leading to significant wait times to process those applications.
The NFA division is experiencing considerable stress in processing NFA forms expeditiously, especially Form 4s. Those working to process the applications put in long hours trying to decrease the backlog.
The ATF does not receive the $200 tax for NFA applications. The money goes directly to the general fund. Therefore, the NFA cannot hire more people to process more forms.
A new group will be required to process the flood of Form 1s, which are expected under the new rule on stabilizing braces. The current system cannot handle an increase of several hundred thousand or a few million applications for Form 1s.
The Bruen decision said unreasonable delays in processing permits were impermissible under the Second Amendment.
Court challenges are ongoing which argue silencers are protected by the Second Amendment.
Court challenges are ongoing on the new rule for stabilizing braces. That is a subject for another article.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.