NFATCA Report: The National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR)
By John Brown

At the request of the BATFE, the NFATCA was interviewed by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Justice (DOJ) about issues surrounding the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR). Dan Shea and I participated in that interview in an attempt to help clarify and explore some of the issues the NFATCA felt could help the Department of Justice to clean up many of the problems that face both dealers and ATF examiners when dealing with the registry.

Among the critical points that we brought to the OIG was the significant lack of funding and personnel surrounding any effort to clean up the registry. We both participated in the E-Forms program, which for two years running now has not had any significant funding to complete a program that would certainly help with many of the problems in the NFRTR. Thanks to the NFA Branch, regardless of the E-Forms program, transfers are occurring at a staggering pace.

One of the major points that came about as a result of our interview is what the NFA community can do to assist in helping clean up errors in the registry. Every day the NFA community deals with a variety of forms that serve as direct input to the registry. Unfortunately, for years the forms have served as one of the major inputs for errors or omissions in the registry. Most of us in the NFA community have lived a life that dictates copying of the information that is present on the old forms so that the information is identical when transferring any NFA weapon. Unfortunately, there are already a lot of errors with the documents themselves. There isn't a dealer or manufacturer in the country today that has not seen some unusual and/or incorrect information on a form three, four or five. Most of us knew a few years back that if you questioned that information, or tried to make a change to it, you may never see the transfer approved. We lived under the guise of "don't question it, just duplicate it."

A lot has changed in the last two years and the NFA Branch is not only smarter about their work-flow process but they are smarter about the information they are working with. Virtually every Branch in ATF is taking NFA Examiners under their wing and teaching them everything they want to know about firearms, technology, and information on NFA weapons. Thus, if the odds are high that an examiner knows almost as much about what is being transferred as you do, then it would behoove you to pay strict attention to the details of the information.

Without pulling out all of the stops, freezing all transfers, and doing a nationwide compliance check, what better way is there for our community to help clean up the registry? In a recent NFATCA article, it was noted that your dealer is always the one that has the ultimate responsibility to make certain that transfers are handled properly and we recommended always letting your dealer handle your forms. We also mentioned that some 50% of the forms that are actually being handled by the NFA Branch have some problem that keeps them from being processed immediately.

The bottom line is simple. All of us have the direct responsibility to make certain that accuracy of information is critical when posting that same information to any ATF form. Just because the information isn't right then don't assume it only makes sense to make certain the error is duplicated. If the specific information that concerns the NFA weapon detail isn't correct, or doesn't seem to make sense to you, then question it. Take the time to work with your dealer so that we can all work together to correct errors.

From completing forms manually, to simple omissions, errors and transcription issues, there many problems that exist in the registry that we can all work together to help correct. This simple old information technology phrase "garbage in, garbage out" is true with our own NFA registry. Unfortunately, many of the errors that exist today are a result of bad input in the first place. Cleaning it up is simply a matter of making certain that everything matches up to your investment. From C&R weapons to post samples, there is a lot of room for correcting errors that we, the NFA community, are all ultimately responsible for - either by input or correction.

Take the time and the initiative to work together as a community to check your forms. Make certain that all of the information is correct. If you have a problem, the NFA Branch and your dealer can work closely with you to close the loop on a variety of issues. Always start with your dealer; let them make the specific inquiries to the NFA Branch for clarification or correction.

In many cases, if you are simply looking for additional information, a simple Freedom of Information Act request will give you a complete history of your weapon, aside from the specific names of the transferees. To make a FOIA request simply consult the following link for help; http://www.usdoj.gov/oip/referenceguidemay99.htm#how

If curiosity is all you seek, this is the most appropriate method of getting what you need. If it is a problem or discrepancy, see your dealer. He knows who to contact and the specific process in getting an issue between the form and the weapon corrected.

If we all work together then a significant portion of the problems we all encounter with the NFRTR can easily be corrected without some pretty serious intervention. With every form, with every transfer, take the time, the energy, and the determination to help correct the NFRTR.


This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V10N5 (February 2007)
and was posted online on December 14, 2012


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