Why did ATF suddenly redefine firearm transfers?
Courtesy Oleg Volk, A Human Right
"ATF Reverses Interpretation of GCA; Redefines 'Transfers' of Firearms," reads the May 27 post on the National Shooting Sports Foundation's NSSF Blog.
Reversing an interpretation of the Gun Control Act that has been on the books for more than four decades, ATF today posted a ruling declaring any shipment of a firearm by a manufacturer (FFL) to any agent or business (e.g., an engineering-design firm, patent lawyer, testing lab, gun writer, etc.) for a bona fide business purpose to be a "transfer" under the Gun Control Act of 1968.
As NSSF observes:
In many instances, these requirements will force shipments to a third party, thereby lengthening the process and the time that the firearm is in transit.
The thing is, ATF has been operating under a completely different interpretation without incident:
There is simply nothing in the Brady Act or is there any other legal reason that compels ATF to now reject 40 years of precedent...
ATF is unable to identify a single instance during the past 40 years where a single firearm shipped in reliance upon ATF's rulings was used in a crime.
Here's the May 20 ruling, issued under "authority" of Deputy Director Kenneth E. Melson:
Atf Ruling 2010 1 | Scribd
It seems to me strict interpretation of this clause could cause problems not just for shipping firearms to contractors or evaluators, but also within a store:
Temporary firearms assignments to employees are different from temporary firearms assignments to non-employee contractors, agents, and representatives because the FFL exerts a higher level of control over its employees than its contractors or agents.
Would that not eliminate the ability of a store to retain staff via a temporary agency?
And here are a couple sections that stand out for me:
Neither the GCA nor its implementing regulations define the term “transfer"..A “transfer” includes any change in dominion or control of a firearm, whether temporary or permanent, commercial or noncommercial.
[T]he temporary assignment of a firearm by an FFL to its unlicensed agents, contractors, volunteers, or any other person who is not an employee of the FFL, even for bona fide business purposes, is a transfer or disposition for purposes of the Gun Control Act, as amended, and, accordingly, the FFL must contact NICS for a background check, record a disposition entry, and complete an ATF Form 4473. [Emphasis added-DC]
I know the perceived intent here involves shipping guns to contractors, evaluators and the like, but if I just read these words on their own as written, I can see it being interpreted that such transfers could even include renting guns at shooting ranges. I find the timing curious, because the antis have recently begun referring to this as a "federal loophole" and using anecdotes to stir up the hysteria to close it.
It's not like we haven't seen arbitrary rulings and reversals before. Can anyone say for certain they know how ATF will treat past accepted practices under this new ruling, and if the interpretation will be the same a week, a month, a year from now...?
And what concerns should we have that bureau rulings are issued by administrative edict under signature of an unelected acting official, without opportunity for public comment and apparently outside the scope of Federal Register rule development protocols and protections?
How did Clinton aide Paul Begala put it?
Stroke of the pen, law of the land. Kinda cool!