Thursday, February 16, 2017

Pinon's Opinion on the ATF's White Paper

By now most of you may have heard and are aware of the recently released white paper that apparently was authored (but in the copy circulating is not signed) by Ron Turk, Associate Deputy Director, BATFE, on January 20, 2017.  It has been circulating around through the firearms industry and shared on a good number of blogs, with TFB being the first to bring it to light I believe.  For those of you not familiar with the purpose or intent of a white paper in the traditional sense it is a government or other authoritative report giving information or proposals on an issue.  In this case the paper is titled “Options to Reduce or Modify Firearms Regulations”. 
As you can imagine most in the industry is trying to interpret or draw conclusions from the paper.  Since the positions taken on many of the 16 key points discussed seem to support options that would align protecting second amendment rights and perhaps relooking at some “older” regulations that perhaps are not as relevant in today’s world of shooting sports it is easy to see why many of those opinions are extremely positive.  Combine this paper with the perceived change in the political landscape and many of the opinions are not only excitedly positive for change but, in my opinion, unrealistic is the amount of time that change may take. 
While we generally try and refrain from providing personal opinions on such matters based on what I’ve been reading, hearing and discussing I felt it was important to at least try and provide some additional prospective to at least discussion around one of the sixteen items (please use the link at the bottom of the page to get to the White Paper), which is item number 8, “Silencers”. 
In reading the position given on the potential to remove silencers from the NFA list, thus allowing them to be regulated the same way as most firearms it’s hard not to get excited.  Popularity of use and a realistic understanding of what silencers are has led to 42 states now allowing the use of silencers for hunting.  The white paper provides data from the AFT over the last 10 years looking at the number of felonies involving silencers averages 44 per year, and only 6 of those had prior felonies.  Combine that with the fact silencers are very rarely used in criminal shootings, excessive ATF workload, expense, time demands, and extremely low risk to public safety ATF’s conclusion is “Given the lack of criminality associated with silencers, it is reasonable to conclude that they should not be viewed as a threat to public safety necessitating NFA classification, and should be considered for reclassification under the GCA.”  But this is where the opinions often expressed are a little too positive…I feel it is highly unlikely that the Hearing Protection Act and the removal of Silencers from the NFA will occur in the quick timelines that a large number of people seem to be saying.
Here’s what is driving my opinion:  I had a lengthy conversation last week with the an executive of one of the silencer companies who’s CEO sits on the Second Amendment Coalition (as does a number of firearms industry heads), which is chaired by Donald Trump Jr., so it’s safe to assume that they may have some insight into what the second amendment priorities of this administration may be.  The Second Amendment Coalition prioritizes the national right to carry, a national reciprocity concealed carry law, as their number one agenda item for change as does the NRA. This alone will be a major feat to pursue.  The Hearing Protection Act (HPA), which would take silencers off of the NFA list, is among their top initiatives, but there is a lot for this administration to take on most likely before they get to this.
The company I spoke with remains “cautiously optimistic” that the HPA will happen but realistically do not think it has a chance of happening as quickly as some in the industry are saying (which seems to be anywhere from a few months to the end of the year). So what goes into this line of thought that I for one share with them? I don’t think most people realize that the bill was originally introduced Oct 22, 2015 and that new one submitted this January, H.R. 367 is an attempt to get H.R. 3799 that has been stuck in the House moving.  Even the number of co-sponsors, while they have grown from 73 under H.R 3799 to 97 for H.R. 367, fall short of the number needed out of 435 in the House.  With Reciprocity as the number one 2nd Amendment focus for NRA and the 2nd Amendment counsel, the opposition of anything and everything this administration is doing from the other side, and the complexity of removing an NFA Item from the NFA list (not just ATF, but IRS) it’s likely to be some time before we see a change in legislation. 
Believe us when we say we want this to happen as bad as anyone else who’s in favor of it.  The administrative nightmare we have to do, the time waiting, the tax stamp fees, etc. we would love to see go away (by the way, when/if it does pass whatever type of credit or rebate happens they are still pushing to make it retroactive from purchases October 22, 2015…but in fairness there is a long way for H.R. 367 to go so this could change). 
So, read the white paper, and form your own conclusions about this item or any of the others, but I would ask you to try and keep things in perspective and not be swayed by the (overly – in my opinion) positive positions that are out there.  It’s been a challenge getting cabinet confirmations through let alone working on some of these ATF items.  One thing we may want to keep in mind if/when it does happen is we could be trading a 8 month wait for a tax stamp for a 12 month wait for supply.  The silencer companies can’t afford to build excessive inventory “just in case” and will not see them try and increase production until there is ink on some paper for sure.  As an industry segment they’ve been in a down market since Executive Order 41-F went into effect in July, thus the Silencerco $200 online product credit to try and get things going again.  We are all dreaming if we think we will be able to walk into any store and have a broad selection of immediately available product types to choose from and walk out with.  I’m definitely with the suppressor companies on that one…if you think you want a silencer of specific make and model, start the process while you can get it now and hopefully the bill will pass and the tax stamp refunded before your Form 4 is approved but either way you’ll have THE non-NFA silencer you wanted when/if they are removed from the NFA list.

Bill Pinon  

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