By Robert Hausman
Firearms importers and exporters were afforded the opportunity of raising their concerns with international regulation of the firearms industry during the recent United Nations arms conference held last summer.
The industry addressed U.N. delegates through remarks made by our Firearms Attorney, who represents the import/export community’s two main trade organizations - the National Firearms Act Trade & Collectors Association (NFATCA) and the F.A.I.R. Trade Group. The U.N.’s ‘Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects’ has raised great concern on the part of industry as an attempt by the world body to institute global controls on its activities and those of its consumers.
“Our membership is concerned with the enactment of overly broad international regulatory programs that unnecessarily and adversely impact the legal trade in small arms and light weapons instead of focusing on reducing the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons,” our Firearms Attorney said. In addressing the ‘blanket approach’ taken by the U.N. to encompass all firearms in its regulatory scheme, our Firearms Attorney added that “the definitions currently utilized by the international community when referring to small arms and light weapons do not adequately distinguish between civilian and military firearms. Any policy that is considered should generally be aimed toward fully automatic military firearms.”
Noting that he himself is a registered broker, our Firearms Attorney urged that consideration of the world body of the definition of an “arms broker” not be as stringent as that in the U.S.
“The ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations), the regulatory regime in the U.S., was recently amended,” our Firearms Attorney noted, “to change the definition of brokering activities to include one or more predicate acts. By making it clear that simply one act, such as the financing of a defense article, constitutes brokering under U.S. law, and further, by these same regulations, stating that foreign persons ‘subject to U.S. jurisdiction’ are captured by brokering, you can see that a wide variety of people and conduct can be subject to regulation.”
Our Firearms Attorney argued that such a model is not necessary at the international level nor cost effective in attempting to curtail potential core problems in the small arms trade. He recommended that future U.N. work in this area be narrowly tailored to specific problem areas.
Our Firearms Attorney also addressed another potential problem area with U.N. regulation of brokering: multi-jurisdictional overlap.
Mentioning that current U.S. law extends U.S. jurisdiction very broadly in regard to brokering, our Firearms Attorney said, “If nations extend their jurisdictions in an overbroad manner, brokers will not be able to conduct transactions due to the sheer number of countries claiming jurisdiction over the broker’s conduct. A broker should only be subject to the jurisdiction of the nation of which he is a national or the nation in which he is truly conducting brokering business.”
Our Firearms Attorney also offered the industry’s view on the topic of establishing brokering norms. Before such norms can be established, he advised, there must be effective import and export regimes established in each nation involved in the shipment, transportation and receipt of firearms.
“Currently, too many nations have weak or non-existent import and export laws,” he said. “Addressing this issue before pursuing further brokering norms is key to the success of eliminating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.”
“While some believe that brokers are the primary force behind the movement of firearms, in most cases they are merely the facilitators of sales transactions between two interested parties already governed by the laws of the sending and receiving states. Therefore, brokering norms should be focused on who is able to facilitate a transaction instead of how the firearms themselves are being moved. The movement of the firearms is typically handled by the underlying parties to the transaction and is associated with a particular state. Because of this, placing the burden on brokers through the use of brokering norms will not be effective if the underlying import and export controls of each individual state are the source of the regulatory concern.
“When the preliminary step of improving the import and export regimes in each nation is accomplished, then brokering norms may be considered,” our Firearms Attorney continued. He went on to call for “reasonable” brokering norms that do not interrupt or interfere with the legal trade. “This necessitates that the definition of a brokering transaction be narrowly tailored to ensure that a transaction is defined as an actual transaction rather than, for example, the mere discussion of a possible future transaction.”
The Group of Government Experts within the U.N. will hold a fall meeting on the subject of brokering. Our Firearms Attorney closed by asking that they first consider the issue of establishing effective import and export norms within individual states before recommending international brokering norms.
The subject of international regulation of marking and tracing of firearms was addressed in remarks prepared by Richard Patterson of the Sporting Arms & Ammunition Manufacturer’s Institute (SAAMI) as read by attorney Thomas Mason who is active in the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities.
SAAMI views the idea of marking the bullet and/or the case with a serial number (as has been advanced at the U.N.) “flawed” as it would not be possible to “ensure every number on every cartridge matched every number on every box” using the industry’s current production programs. It was added ammunition makers could not afford the capital investment required to make the idea workable.
The idea of marking cartridge headstamps with lot numbers has also been advanced. However, it was noted that ammo makers can sell parts of a lot to as many as 500 customers, each of whom break down their shipment to smaller quantities and sell to their own customers. In the end, small boxes of ammunition, though all marked with the same lot number, can be in thousands of different hands, making the marking exercise worthless as a law enforcement tool.
The UN Small Arms Conference ended after nine days on July 7th in deadlock with no formal conclusions or recommendations. In the final analysis, the complexity of the issue and the concerns of firearms owners as well as those expressed by the U.S. government representative (against a world-wide gun regulatory regime as well as the holding of future conferences on the issues of regulation) prevailed. No recommendations on ammunition, civilian possession or future UN meetings, or for that matter any other subjects, were adopted. The failure of this five-year program to impact the legitimate firearms industry, and the 2nd Amendment rights of U.S. citizens was total according to an analysis by the National Rifle Association of America. However, anti-gun non-governmental organizations as well as some governments served notice they would not give up and would present all of their issues to the UN General Assembly this fall.
Micro-Stamping Bill Advances in California
In another note on serializing, at press-time, the California Senate had approved AB 352, which, if passed by the Assembly, will require all manufacturers selling firearms in the state to micro-stamp the arm’s make, model and serial number on the firing pin’s tip.
Manufacturers argue the technology, owned exclusively by Hitachi Digital Imaging, is expensive and would add approximately $150 to the cost of every firearm sold in the state. To make matters worse, the Senate added last-minute language allowing the state to mandate serialization of all ammunition (including shotgun shells) “at a future date.”
Independent research performed by George G. Krivosta of the Suffolk County Crime Laboratory, Hauppauge, New York in the Winter 2006 edition of the AFTE Journal published by the Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners demonstrates how easy it is to remove the micro-stamp from the tip of a firing pin, using a power drill and hand-held grinding stone. Krivosta completely removed identifying numbers without removing enough material to render firing pins incapable of firing a round.
“The layman,” Krivosta writes, “believes that two bullets fired from the same gun are identical, down to the last striation. However, the trained firearms examiner knows that is far from reality.”
“The layman might also take as gospel that if you could find a way to place a number onto the tip of a firing pin, then you could certainly read it in the impression. Not until this research was performed and many test fires examined from a firing pin that had a known recognizable pattern, did it become apparent how much change could take place, and why matching firing pin impressions can be so challenging. This research has shown that implementing this technology will be much more complicated than simply burning a serial number on a few parts and dropping them into firearms being manufactured,” Krivosta noted.
“After multiple firings, the information becomes increasingly harder to read on the cartridges. The technical term for what happens is “peening” - the gradual and inevitable smoothing of raised surfaces from continued impacts. It’s the same process that flattens the heads of hammers and chisels.”
Krivosta also notes several firearms variables which would make the microstamp partially or totally illegible: Headstamping on rimfire and centerfire casings can interfere with the impression’s transfer; the hardness of centerfire cases necessary to handle their high pressures make impressions on anything other than primers difficult. Krivosta’s research says the option of tagging other areas have the same problems due to the movement of shell casings during the firing process. Tagging other areas might help identify individual firearm components, but would do nothing to tie ammunition to firearms, effectively defeating the purpose of the process.
FATS, Inc. to be Acquired by Meggitt
Firearms Training Systems, Inc. (OTCBB: FATS) executed a definitive merger agreement with Meggitt-USA, Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Meggitt PLC, on August 23, 2006.
In the merger, the holders of FATS’ Class A Common Stock will receive cash in the amount of $1.08 per share for each outstanding share owned immediately before the effective time of the merger. The merger is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter.
“A strategic merger with Meggitt significantly advances our continued strategy of expanding our worldwide customer base, leveraging our strategic partnerships, and otherwise growing beyond our historical roots as a small arms training company to lead the industry in virtual training solutions,” said Ronavan Mohling, President and Chief Executive Officer of FATS. “Combining Meggitt’s strong development and commercialization capabilities in the aerospace and defense industries with FATS’ cutting edge technology in the virtual training solutions market, creates an excellent opportunity to leverage the significant strengths of both companies.”
The Meggitt group designs and makes high performance components and systems for aerospace and defense with capabilities in sensors, engine condition monitoring, avionics, air data systems, fire-proof cabling, ignition, environmental and fluid control, brakes and wheels and anti-skid systems, aerial and ground targetry, countermeasures and ammunition-handling. The group’s specialist capability is also deployed in the medical, mainstream industrial, test-engineering and transportation markets. At the end of its 2005 fiscal year, Meggitt PLC reported revenues of approximately $1.16 billion. North America accounts for just over half of Meggitt PLC’s sales. Meggitt-USA is the U.S. subsidiary of Meggitt PLC.
Georgia CWPs Now Qualify as NICS Alternative
On July 1, 2006 Georgia’s Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP) again qualified as an alternative to a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check.
In 1998, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) sent an Open Letter to Georgia FFL-holders advising them that the Georgia CWP would qualify as an alternative to the background check required under the Brady Law. ATF’s recognition of these permits as a Brady alternative was based on the fact that Georgia met statutory and regulatory requirements for the exception permitted under the Brady Law.
In March 2004, ATF began a review of all states that had permits that qualified as NICS check alternatives to determine if they still qualified. In May 2005, ATF informed Georgia’s officials that the state no longer met the qualifications.
Georgia initially was not able to adequately address the deficiencies of the Georgia CWP in meeting the statutory and regulatory requirements for qualifying as a NICS alternative. Thus, on Oct. 17, 2005, ATF sent an Open Letter to Georgia FFLs stating that effective Oct. 19, 2005, the CWP no longer qualified as a NICS check alternative.
Georgia has since passed legislation, which took effect July 1, 2006, which addresses the CSP’s shortcomings in qualifying as a NICS alternative. Accordingly, the permit again qualifies.
Georgia retailers should note that if a firearms buyer presents a Georgia CWP, no NICS check is necessary. However, the required information about the permit must be recorded in question 23 of the ATF Form 4473, Firearms Transaction Record. For questions call ATF’s Operations Branch, Tel: (304) 616-4200.
KY Permits Qualify as NICS Alternative
Kentucky FFLs should note that effective July 12, 2006, state Carry Concealed Deadly Weapon Licenses (CCDWL) issued on or after July 12, 2006 qualify as an alternative to a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check.
In 1998, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) sent an Open Letter to all Kentucky FFLs stating Kentucky concealed weapons permits issued after Nov. 30, 1998, would not qualify as an alternative to the NICS check requirement. Kentucky recently passed a law, which took effect July 12, 2006, that changes the way CCDWLs are issued. The state asked ATF to review if the CCDWL now met the statutory and regulatory requirements for the NICS exception. ATF’s subsequent review found that based on the new law, any CCDWL issued on or after July 12, 2006, does meet the requirements.
As of July 12, 2006, when a firearms buyer presents the retailer with a Kentucky CCDWL issued on or after July 12, 2006, no NICS check is necessary. However, the required information about the license must be recorded in question 23 of the ATF Form 4473.
The author publishes two of the small arms industry’s most widely read trade newsletters. The International Firearms Trade covers the world firearms scene, and The New Firearms Business covers the domestic market. He also offers FFL-mailing lists to firms interested in direct marketing efforts to the industry. He may be reached at: FirearmsB@aol.com.
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