By John Brown
Early in the spring of this year I stood in front of a good sized crowd at Knob Creek and spoke of the NFATCA and gave updates on many of the things that we are working on and their status. We also introduced the new NFA Branch Chief, Steven Albro, and John Spencer, the Firearms Technology Branch Chief. Both presented detailed discussions on the efforts of both branches. Later on that afternoon, Ernie Litner, from the NFA Branch, spoke in detail about forms processing and why we are all experiencing such a long delay in our Form 4s. After all four of us spoke, just before we wrapped up the formal part of our presentation that day, I heard a gentleman almost directly in front of me say, “This was a total waste of my time.” To be honest, I was in shock as to how, after listening to what the NFATCA prepared, anyone could feel that way about what is happening with our efforts. Well, my wise father once told me, “Always listen to the silent ones. They generally can give you some good feedback on your results.” Given that advice I will try to explain a few things that are important to understand about how the NFATCA board works and what we do to make things happen on your behalf.
Every year the board develops a list of priorities that we want to work, on major areas where we want to concentrate our efforts. Many of the ideas come directly from working with ATF and the frustrations that they have in working the thousands of issues that face them every day. The board meets early in the year and we develop a list and prioritize the list in terms of the things that will have the greatest advantage to the largest groups in our community. Here is where the problem starts and why I think this particular gentleman felt that our meeting was a waste of his time. Most of the issues that we work have to remain confidential until we know exactly where we are going with the effort. Many have heard me say that we have nine tasks that we are working on this year, not counting major undertakings like the Firearms Technology Handbook.
This year we will “let the cat out of the bag” on each and every item when, and only when, we have a plan to resolve the issue. Most of the investigations to get to closure on most issues involve working closely with ATF to ascertain anything that may affect the outcome of our efforts. Aside from the confidentiality of much of the information, letting the cat out to soon would bring more trouble than most of us can imagine. God help us all if the “Internet cowboys” get their hands on half information and then publicly declare on one of the boards that “this,” whatever that may mean from this particular expert, is the way it has to handle this! The NFATCA adheres to the following maxim: “Too many chefs spoil the stew.” So we work diligently and silently with experts from the industry and experts from ATF to collect all of the information concerning a subject, long before we try and work any clarification or resolution with ATF. Let’s look at one specific example that the NFATCA is undertaking with ATF that we can discuss at this time in detail.
There has been a long dispute over the Maxim and which side plate on the gun is the legally acceptable registered portion of the weapon. This is one of the issues that we have worked closely with the Firearms Technology Branch to achieve clear resolution. Because there is contradicting information in the industry, ATF and the NFATCA decided that we would tackle this issue and see if we could alleviate some of the confusion. To resolve this issue, we held several meetings and invited experts to the table to discuss the side plate issue. Based on information that we all gathered, the NFATCA wrote a clear and concise letter to ATF, from the industry, asking for complete and accurate clarification on the side plate issue. If you are a member of the NFATCA, you could have read about this information as we worked with ATF to come to agreement on how to clear up all of the confusion on the Maxim issue. That single issue, although somewhat minor to many of the others we are tackling in 2009, took months to prepare for and reach a final consensus on how to handle. By the time you are reading this article, the ATF Maxim letter will have already been issued and many of you will have read the decisions made.
During the year we will work closely with ATF on the remaining issues until we reach a satisfactorily result for all concerned. For the first time in history, ATF and the Industry pick the issues together, investigate the issues together, and work to satisfactory resolution. Rest assured we use the most desirable talent available in working to resolution. If we don’t bring the right people to the table then the odds are not good that we will reach the best decision in the process. It is exactly because of this process that I am constantly reminded of our own motto “Power Through Experience.”
Please understand that our entire agenda will be before you as the year progresses and we complete steps along the way. But the confidentiality of our efforts is critical until we are ready to launch. If you want to catch an early glimpse on anything then join us on our web site and catch the early updates before anyone else. The NFATCA web site is a powerful place to keep informed and know what is happening in the NFA world. To really get an inside track, join our efforts and join the NFATCA today. The more experience we have in our ranks, the smarter the decisions are for all of us in the NFA community. Visit us today at www.NFATCA.org.
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