What’s the Story Behind ATF “Banning” 5.56mm Ammo? (. . . and what can you do about it?)

By Glenn D. Bellamy, Armorer-at-Law®
March 5, 2015

There’s been no shortage of misinformation and hyperbole about an ATF memo released on February 13th reported to “ban AR15 ammo.”  The memo describes a “framework” by which ATF proposes it would consider requests for “sporting purpose” exemptions under the federal statute banning the manufacture, importation or sale (but not possession) of “armor piercing” projectiles.  I’ve searched and research the law and the facts behind it with passion over the last two weeks. I’m tempted to write a legal brief in opposition, or at least to give it a thorough fisking.  But that would bore you and be wasted on the ATF at this point.

Instead, I’ll give you the skinny on what’s going on and the most effective thing(s) you can do about it.

The Skinny

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Today, the ATF stated that the time to process paper Form 1 and Form 4s – 6 months. Our feeling is that the backlog for paper forms is closer to 4 months when you consider that the eForms are only taking around 30 days and make up a substantial portion of the filings.

The ATF is continuing to hire more help, cross train more staff, and process more forms than they receive. In the last 11 months the ATF has reduced the backlog from 81,000 in Feb 2014 to 38,000 as of Jan 15, 2015.

There is still no update on eFiling of ATF Form 4, but hope to have it addressed by late 2015.
For those with Gun Trusts, there is a new update to the eForms 101 as of Jan 15, 2015.

The link to the update can be found here.
eFormsNews 1-15-15.pdf

In Florida, it is illegal for an individual to be on probation to own, possess, or use a firearm without permission of a Judge and his or her probation officer. While initially, this may sound reasonable because in our minds we tend to associate probation with criminals and felons, many of us do not realize that this also applies to those on probation for misdemeanor and driving offenses. Still don’t see a problem? What about a DUI or reckless driving charge? Did you know that you or your spouse could go to jail for owning, using, possessing, or having access to a firearm while on probation for a driving charge?

Most Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyers may not know to ask their clients about firearms in these circumstances and may be advising their clients incorrectly when charged with a DUI or reckless driving charge. A Gun Trust can be designed to manage your firearms without risk of loss and criminal prosecution while an individual or family member is on probation.

If you live in another state, you may check to see if the terms of probation include restrictions on ownership, transfer, possession, and use of firearms or weapons.

The best time to do this transfer is before your probation states. In most cases, it is not illegal to be in possession or transfer the firearms correctly while charged, but you should contact a Gun Trust Lawyer®, create a gun trust, and transfer your firearms into the Gun trust prior to probation.

While some may consider just lending their guns to others during probation, this will not solve your problem as you still own them and could be considered to have constructive possession over the firearms.

If you own Title II firearms, this may not be possible if you purchased them as an individual as a personal transfer can take 6 months or more to complete.

Here is the latest letter from the ATF that we received at 4:36 PM EST today regarding the SB-15 and Stabilizing braces. It seems to deal with “intent” but also introduces a new concept of “redesign” in an attempt to bolster the concept that use of a firearm can change the classification of it.

Our recommendation remains the same, for a $200 tax stamp why take the legal and financial risk.

The Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division (FATD), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has received inquiries from the public concerning the proper use of devices recently marketed as “stabilizing braces.” These devices are described as “a shooter’s aid that is designed to improve the single-handed shooting performance of buffer tube equipped pistols.” The device claims to enhance accuracy and reduce felt recoil when using an AR-style pistol.

These items are intended to improve accuracy by using the operator’s forearm to provide stable support for the AR-type pistol. ATF has previously determined that attaching the brace to a firearm does not alter the classification of the firearm or subject the firearm to National Firearms Act (NFA) control. However, this classification is based upon the use of the device as designed. When the device is redesigned for use as a shoulder stock on a handgun with a rifled barrel under 16 inches in length, the firearm is properly classified as a firearm under the NFA.

The NFA, 26 USCS § 5845, defines “firearm,” in relevant part, as “a shotgun having a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length” and “a rifle having a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length.” That section defines both “rifle” and “shotgun” as “a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder….” (Emphasis added).

Pursuant to the plain language of the statute, ATF and its predecessor agency have long held that a pistol with a barrel less than 16 inches in length and an attached shoulder stock is a NFA “firearm.” For example, inRevenue Ruling 61-45, Luger and Mauser pistols “having a barrel of less than 16 inches in length with an attachable shoulder stock affixed” were each classified as a “short barrel rifle…within the purview of the National Firearms Act.”
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Thumbnail image for sig_arm_brace_sb15.jpgWe are all familiar with the inconsistency of the ATF. The ATF has changed their position on the Sib Brace (SB-15) with a pistol. While the ATF, still states that it is legal to use the SB-15 as intended (strapped to your wrist), they have reversed their position on using the SB-15 when shouldered.

You may remember that earlier this year, ATF stated that since the SB-15 is not intended to be fired from the shoulder, the misuse of an individual would not change the classification of the firearm. See the March ATF SB-15 letter

We believe that this is the correct decision and interpretation. The problem is that someone else recently asked the same question and got a very different answer. ATF has now stated that the misuse of the SB-15 (being fired from the shoulder) does create an SBR and make the pistol subject to the NFA.

sig brace letter 01.jpg
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In 90 days, it will be legal to hunt with Suppressors in Ohio. On Friday, December 19th Gov. John Kasich signed a massive overhaul of Ohio’s Gun Law including removing the restriction for hunting with a suppressor (sometimes called a silencer). This follows the recent legalization of hunting with Suppressors in Florida. A vast majority of states now permits hunting with suppressors.

Also signed was legislation to require CLEOs to sign Form 4s and Form 1s.

The “shall certify” provision which requires a chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) to sign off on an application to transfer an item regulated by the National Firearms Act, once the application procedure and requirements are met. This provision eliminates personal bias towards NFA-related items, requiring CLEOs to sign off and process the application in the same way they do a concealed handgun license.

While many feel shall certify legislation is a good thing, the risk is that people will purchase items as an individual and not use a Gun Trust from a Gun Trust Lawyer®. There are many advantages to purchasing NFA firearms using a Gun Trust, including the ability to protect innocent spouses and others from charges of constructive possession or illegal transfers under the NFA. There are many advantages to using a Gun Trust over individual ownership. For a list of these advantages, request our free report on what is a Gun Trust and Why you should have one by completing the form on this page for more information.

North Carolina NFA Trust and Gun Trust Update:

In Dec 2014, a Gun Trust transfer of a Machine Gun was rejected by the ATF when it stated “In Accordance with NC General Statute 14-409. Please remember that your Form 4 must state a reason other than for scientific and/or experimentation or “in accordance with 14-409” to comply with The January 11, 2013 email from Dana Pickles. We are in the process of verifying this and will update this blog if anything changes.

A recent email from Dana Pickles at the US Dept. Of Justice Bureau of ATF NFA Branch stated the following changes for North Carolina
Effective January 11 2013 the ATF is handling North Carolina transfers as follows:

Machine Gun transfers from a dealer to a dealer on a Form 3 no longer require a North Carolina Sheriff permission letter to possess the Machine Gun (MG)

From a Dealer to a Gun Trust using a Form 4.
If the Form 4 states that the MG is being “acquired for scientific research and/or experimentation” or “in accordance with 14-409”, then you will still need North Carolina Sheriff permission letter to possess Machine Gun.

But, If the reason on your Form 4 states a reason OTHER than “in accordance with 14-409” or “for scientific and/or experimental use” then the North Carolina Machine Gun Letter or permission from the Sheriff is not required.

This means you should not state “in accordance with 14-409” or “for scientific and/or experimental use” on a Machine Gun transfer in the state of North Carolina
All other NFA transfers on a Form 4 – no longer require the reason to state “In accordance with 14-288.8” to approve the transfer.

Unlike most states which have changed the laws, In Florida you can hunt with Suppressors starting today.

This morning the following announcement was sent out by Marion Hammer the Executive Director of the SSF and past president of the NRA

DATE: November 21, 2014 TO: USF & NRA Member and Friends FROM: Marion P. Hammer USF Executive Director
NRA Past President
At their meeting in Key Largo, Florida, today, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to remove the ban on using silencers/suppressors on pistols and rifles for hunting deer, gray squirrels, rabbits, wild turkeys, quail and crows.

Using silencers/suppressors on pistols, rifles and shotguns for all other legal hunting was already allowed.

Following the suppressor vote, the Commission also voted to authorize an Executive Order to lift the ban immediately and allow hunting with suppressors to being at once.

Following that vote, Executive Order # EO 14-32 was signed. Using suppressor-equipped rifles, pistols and shotguns are now legal for all hunting in Florida.

I would expect a huge increase in Suppressor sales like we have seen in other states after permitting hunting with suppressors

It is expected that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will repeal the 1957 ban on hunting with a sound suppressor.

This change will remove the prohibition on the use of suppressed firearms for taking (hunting) deer, gray squirrels, rabbits, wild turkeys, quail and crows.

10 states have recently permitted hunting with suppressor and now there are 32 other states besides Florida that permit hunting of game animals with suppressors
If you are looking to purchase a suppressor in Florida, you should do so now because of what we have seen in other states as a direct result of permitting hunting with suppressors. Within the next week to ten days you may not be able to find an unsold suppressor in the state.

If you purchase a suppressor as an individual you must get a CLEO signature and fingerprints. If you use a Gun Trust, all that is required is a NICS check like with any other firearm. As many CLEOs in FL refuse to sign Form 4s, a Gun Trust is a great alternative and gives a lot of flexibility to those wanting to use TItle II firearms.

If you want to post a comment for the FWC staff about suppressors follow this LINK.

In the last few days a letter has surfaced on the Internet reportedly written to a small shotgun maker, which states that shouldering a Sig Sauer SB 15 pistol stabilizing brace could change a firearms classification to a short barrel shotgun.

The letter was written in response to Black Aces Tactical’s request related to a short-barreled shotgun that was designed to incorporate the SB 15 Brace. Black Aces Tactical submitted a sample which they say had an overall length of 27 inches. The sample had a SigTac SB15 arm brace attached as well as a vertical foregrip. The brace is intended to allow a shooter to fire and an AR pistol with one hand using a Velcro strap to attach to the arm.
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