May 8, 2021: ATF Proposed Rule a Blatant Attack on American Gun Industry

Two weeks ago we reported on a leaked document that appeared to be a new ATF proposed rule to amend several key definitions in federal firearm regulations. On May 7thATF published a nearly identical proposed rule on its website. The rule has not yet been published in the federal register, but likely will be on Monday May 10th. That publication will trigger a 90 day comment period where gun owners and members of the firearm industry will be provided with an opportunity to provide input on the proposed rule.

The proposed rule, entitled Definition of “Frame or Receiver” and Identification of Firearms, proposes new definitions for the terms “firearm frame or receiver,” “frame or receiver,” “firearm,” “gunsmith,” “complete weapon,” “complete muffler or silencer device,” “privately made firearm,” and “readily.” In addition to these changes, ATF is seeking to create an entirely new process for licensed firearm dealers to apply serial numbers to unserialized firearms that come into their possession and to require the indefinite storage of firearm records by licensees.

These new definitions would give ATF arbitrary authority to classify firearms in a way that could make it difficult or impossible for the firearm industry to operate.

As we said in our alert on the leaked draft, “the rule would mean that many manufacturers would need to get pre-approval from ATF for new firearm designs. To put it another way, the draft takes 107 pages to say ‘we’ll know it when we see it.’” And, despite effectively requiring this pre-approval, ATF notes that “ATF’s decision whether to classify an item voluntarily submitted is entirely discretionary.”

Creating arbitrary and unlawful new standards for firearm manufacturers while claiming that ATF has no obligation to actually reply to manufacturers who attempt to comply with the new standards is the very type of “arbitrary and capricious” rulemaking that the Administrative Procedures Act was enacted to eliminate.

These new standards would give the ATF Director an incredible amount of power over the firearm industry. And, this comes at a time when President Biden has nominated anti-gun lobbyist and gun ban proponent David Chipman to head the ATF. This proposed rule is just one more reason why it’s extremely important for all gun owners to contact their Senators and ask that they vote against Chipman’s confirmation.

Once the proposed rule has been published in the federal register, we will provide more detail on the many problems with the proposed rules and give guidance to gun owners and members of the firearm industry on how to best craft persuasive comments. Please check back to www.nraila.org soon so you can help fight the Biden Administration’s anti-gun agenda.