By John Brown
Last year at this time, I was marveling over the fact that all of the concerted efforts and the tireless leadership of the NFA Branch had finally come together in Martinsburg. The examiners, the management team, combined with the leadership of Ken Houchens had broken every conceivable record at processing forms. I remember faxing in a Form 3 on a Monday morning and overnighting the NFA weapon to the receiving dealer within the same week. Ken Houchens proudly presented data to the Knob Creek crowd showing that the average time on a Form 3 was five days and the average time for handling a Form 4 was a whopping twenty two days. Who would have ever known that just three years earlier a Form 4 could have taken as long as eight months to process? Those days, although gone, will never be forgotten. What the NFA Branch proved was beyond anyone’s imagination and they have shown what can happen when efficiency takes over with the right kind of leadership and the right staff. We know now, they have what it takes.
Now, however, all of the speed and efficiency with the NFA Branch seems to be gone. Is this really the problem or what has happened? It seems like a Form 4 takes forever to process and that something drastic has happened to the speed and efficiency we used to know. After getting a dozen phone calls on the subject we decided to look into what is actually happening in Martinsburg and why the forms are taking so long to process. There is a lot of speculation as to what happened and the Internet drones will tell you it’s all politically motivated and that the new President elect is behind the whole thing. Fortunately nothing could be further from the truth but we still would like to know what is happening.
The first, and probably the most important fact, are the numbers of forms that are involved. Between October 2006 and October 2007, the NFA Branch processed an amazing 556,495 forms from our industry. Between that same time period in 2007 and 2008, that number was a staggering 973,409. We, the industry, submitted nearly a million forms in one year; nearly doubled the number of forms submitted to the NFA Branch for processing with approximately the same number of examiners. And you wonder why things have slowed down?
There are several factors that I believe that have contributed to this amazing increase.
First, more forms are being processed simply because people don’t have to wait for eight months to secure an NFA item. All of the potential buyers that would not and did not purchase NFA items previously now find that because they didn’t have to wait so long, it was time to go ahead and buy.
Secondly, more individuals are finding alternate means of getting a transfer through the quagmire of bureaucracy by utilizing other methods of transfer rather that of an individual. There have been drastic increases in NFA transfers to Living Trusts and to Corporations. These types of transfers require much more in processing time in order to validate the trust and certify that the corporation is in good standing meaning a lot of additional work for the examiners and the legal staff. At this point you might want to keep in mind that the same group of individuals that were responsible for processing over 500,00 forms, processed nearly 1,000,000 in the following year.
Thirdly, with money being a concern for all of us, buyers have moved in mass to purchasing more affordable NFA items such as suppressors and short barreled shotguns and short barreled rifles. The increase in the sales is absolutely staggering and is partially responsible for nearly doubling the forms that require processing.
So when you wonder why things are so slow look at the numbers and understand that the Martinsburg machine is still well oiled, but overloaded beyond anyone’s expectations. This overload factor coupled with the fact that ATF examiners are still fighting the same old problems with the quality of how we prepare forms and the same old problems with bad checks on transfers; we should all feel fortunate that transfers are not at the pace they were in 2005.
ATF is working diligently to resolve these issues and we support all of those at the Branch that are working to alleviate the problem. There are still vacancies that need to be filled and ATF has announced that Stephen Albro will be reporting to Martinsburg on March 1 to fill the position of NFA Branch Chief. We all welcome the new leadership and offer Stephen our best in support of his new appointment. On our side, I would only echo the plea to be vigilant in preparing forms for processing. In many cases the mistakes we make are solely responsible for a slow down in processing our paperwork. As more information comes to light we will continue to keep you informed on this issue.
Come and join the spirit of a relationship that is working for all of our benefits. Join the NFATCA, the only nationwide organization that is working tirelessly at protecting your NFA ownership. Visit us at www.NFATCA.org.
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