Since August 2011 BATFE has required Federal Firearm Licensees in states bordering Mexico to fill out special reports whenever two or more of certain types of rifles are sold to the same buyer in the same transaction or within a five-day period. Because these records are not subject to the same destruction requirements as most records of approved transfers, they can be retained indefinitely, effectively creating a partial federal firearms registry. NRA opposes these multiple sales reports because BATFE lacks the statutory authority to require them, they unnecessarily burden FFLs with more federal paperwork, and they only affect law-abiding gun owners because straw purchasers can easily avoid them by going to different shops to make multiple purchases.
We have reported on the multiple sales report requirement numerous times since it was first proposed by the Department of Justice's Inspector General. Shortly after the requirement was approved by the Obama administration, NRA supported and funded multiple lawsuits challenging the illegal mandate. These lawsuits have so far ended unfavorably, but there is now another opportunity to oppose this ineffective and burdensome requirement.
BATFE's authorization to require these reports ends in August, unless it is extended, and BATFE has published a notice in the federal register soliciting comments on the proposed extension of the reporting requirement. The reason for the notice is to comply with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, but BATFE is grossly underestimating the increased paperwork and time burdens that the requirement will impose on the public.
In the notice, BATFE indicates that "[a]n estimated 2,509 respondents will take 12 minutes to complete the form" and "[t]he estimated annual public burden associated with this collection is 3,615 hours." These estimates seem to be based only on the time taken to complete the reporting form itself, but they exclude what is actually the greatest burden created by the reporting requirement.
Since the form is required whenever the same buyer purchases two or more rifles of certain types within a five-day period, FFLs must come up with a system (which is neither required nor authorized by the federal Gun Control Act) of tracking who purchases these rifles, and this system must track the purchases for at least five days. Without such a system, an FFL employee (especially of a large retailer with multiple salespersons) would not necessarily know if a buyer purchasing a qualified rifle had purchased another such rifle within the prior four days. To comply with the reporting requirement, FFLs in the border states must track every sale of qualifying rifles because the same buyer could potentially return in the four days following the sale to purchase another qualifying rifle. Since BATFE is excluding the necessity of this additional record keeping system from its burden estimation, the burden estimation in the notice is significantly lower than the true public cost associated with the requirement.
The comments that BATFE are seeking with this notice are comments "on the estimated public burden or associated response time." We therefore encourage FFLs -- especially FFLs in the affected states of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas -- to submit comments describing how BATFE has underestimated the burden associated with the reporting requirement. While BATFE is specifically seeking comments on the public burden and response time, all thoughtful and respectful comments may be helpful in illustrating to BATFE the true cost of the reporting requirement to honest, law-abiding businesses.
Comments should be submitted to Natisha Taylor at email@example.com, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Firearms Industry Programs Branch, Washington, DC 20226. Comments will be accepted until June 16, 2014.