A recently published “white paper” from ATF Associate Deputy Director Ronald Turk suggests National Firearms Act (NFA) regulation of suppressors is “archaic” and import bans on “assault weapons” no longer make sense.
Turk also uses the paper to make the case for removing barriers to the import of M1 Garands, military-issued 1911s and other guns that are currently being held overseas for importation approval.
The “white paper”—published by The Washington Post—said:
In the past several years, opinions about silencers have changed across the United States. Their use to reduce noise at shooting ranges and applications within the sporting and hunting industry are now well recognized. At present, 42 states generally allow silencers to be used for sporting purposes. The wide acceptance of silencers and corresponding changes in state laws have created substantial demand across the country. This surge in demand has caused ATF to have a significant backlog on silencer applications. ATF’s processing time is now approximately eight months.
Note Turk’s key points: 1. Views on suppressors have changed in recent years. 2. The use of suppressors for hunting and shooting sports is expanding. 3. Suppressors are legal in 42 states. 4. The desire for suppressors is causing a “significant” backlog at the ATF because of ongoing NFA regulation.
It is hard to imagine better arguments for the passage of the Hearing Protection Act, which was introduced last month by Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., and Rep. John Carter, R-Texas.
Breitbart News reported that the Hearing Protection Act would remove suppressors from NFA regulatory purview, thereby lessening the purchasing burden on law-abiding citizens while simultaneously reducing the workload of the ATF. By removing the registration and federal tax stamp requirements—as well as fingerprinting and photograph rules—the Hearing Protection Act would cut acquisition time from eight months to a few minutes, making the process of buying a suppressor identical to the process of buying a firearm at retail.
Turk also addressed AR-15s and AK-style rifles. He explained that the moniker of “assault weapons” has given way to “modern sporting rifles,” as the use and popularity of these firearms has grown. In fact, Turk noted that their use in “sport shooting” has grown “exponentially” and such guns “are now standard for hunting activities.” This, no doubt, comes as a shock to the myriad leftists who often argue against such guns being apropos for hunting applications.
For example, on June 12, 2016—the day of the firearm-based attack on the gun-free Orlando Pulse nightclub—Slate criticized the NRA’s focus on hunting with AR-15s, saying, “It’s odd to cite hunting and home defense as reasons to keep selling a rifle that’s not particularly well suited, and definitely not necessary, for either.”
Think about it: Slate says AR-15s are not “well suited” for hunting and intimates that the NRA is “odd” for suggesting otherwise. But the associate deputy director of the ATF says the use of AR-style rifles for hunting is so commonplace they are now “standard for hunting activities.”
Turk also addresses M1 Garands, military-issued 1911s and the like, explaining that “these items do not represent any discernable public safety concern.”
He points out that the demand for such weapons “lies with collectors of vintage military firearms” and that the process of importing them requires “licensed dealers,” which means “the lawful transfer of these firearms [would occur] through a licensee and a background check.”
Moreover, Turk explained that changing policy for importing M1s and military-issued 1911s would not be difficult:
Joint effort from the administration, State Department, and ATF could easily reverse past decisions and allow for the safe and legal importation and sale of these historical and collectible items. Many M1 Garand rifles have been approved for importation in the past, setting precedence for this to occur. The more recent denials were in part due to perceived potential that they may be used in crimes, for which there is little, if any, evidence for such a concern.
In sum, Turk’s letter displays a new favorability toward reducing regulation on suppressors and reworking importation rules governing “modern sporting rifles” and World War II era military weapons. Such reductions would be good for law-abiding citizens and law enforcement alike; easing the acquisition requirements for the former while lessening the workload of the latter.