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Comments Reveal Strong Opposition to Proposed Rule on NFA Trusts

Friday, December 13, 2013

In September, we reported on the Obama administration's ill-conceived regulatory proposal to further complicate the already burdensome process of transferring an NFA firearm.  To recap, the proposed rule would, among other things, expand the law enforcement certification (often referred to as the "CLEO sign-off") to cover applications to transfer or make an NFA firearm pertaining to legal entities such as corporations and trusts.  It would also extend the fingerprinting, photograph, and background check requirements that currently apply only in the case of individual applicants to all so-called "responsible parties" within the entity.  Comments have noted the proposal's definition of "responsible party" is so broad and vague that it conceivably could extend, for example, to infant beneficiaries of a trust.  

In early October, we encouraged  gun owners to make thoughtful and respectful comments on the proposed rule, and you did.  The online docket page for the proposed rule currently indicates that BATFE has received 9,488 comments on the proposal.  The comment period closed on Monday, but the number of comments has continued to grow (likely from mailed-in comments that are just arriving at BATFE's office), so it's possible the final count will be significantly higher.

NRA's comment focuses on the expansion of the CLEO sign-off requirement.  Specifically, it argues that the proposed rule is beyond the powers granted to BATFE by the National Firearms Act and that the expanded CLEO sign-off requirement would act as a de facto ban on the otherwise lawful acquisition of legal firearms by eligible persons.  Additionally, the comment addresses the lack of justification that BATFE has given for the costly and burdensome changes the proposed rule would make and the lack of evidence that current NFA procedures are inadequate to protect public safety. 

As those who have made comments are already aware, the Regulations.gov website gives a party who electronically submits a comment the following automated response:  "Your comment will be viewable on Regulations.gov after the agency has reviewed it, which may be an indefinite amount of time."  (Emphasis added.)  BATFE has reviewed just over half of the comments submitted, and many of these have just appeared on the website in the last few days.  NRA's comment has not yet appeared on the Regulations.gov website, and given the generous (indeed, open-ended) window of time BATFE has to "review" the comments before posting them publicly, we cannot be sure when it will appear.   

We have not managed to review every comment, but we have yet to find one that fully supports the proposed rule.  All of the examples we've read are critical of one or more aspects of the proposal.  Hopefully, the overwhelming public opposition to the proposal will force the Obama administration to reconsider this poorly conceived effort that would only serve to further burden law abiding gun owners.

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