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Industry News: ATF to Approve Importation of “Dual Use” Barrels
By Robert M. Hausman

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives now recognizes that certain firearm barrels can be used to assemble both importable and non-importable firearms.

Form 6 applications to import firearm barrels that can be used to assemble either an importable or a non-importable firearm will now be approved by the ATF. However, ATF will continue to deny applications to import barrels, frames and receivers of non-importable firearms.

The change in position, which was announced by way of a November 22, 2005 open letter to industry signed by Audrey Stucko, Deputy Assistant Director (Enforcement Programs and Services) at ATF’s Imports Branch, brings an end to a point of contention which was loudly voiced by importers at last July’s annual Importers Conference in Washington, D.C. hosted by ATF. Attendance at this meeting was limited to licensed importers.

ATF has now publicly stated that it believes that such “dual use” barrels would be eligible for importation into the United States under section 925(d)(3) for commercial purposes, provided prospective importers of such barrels make representations indicating that neither the importer, nor subsequent purchasers of the barrels, will use the barrels to assemble non-importable firearms.

Importers of such barrels will have to provide “sufficient information,” e.g., specific model designation(s) of the firearm(s) that the barrels will be used to assemble, in the “Specific Purpose of Importation” section of the ATF Form 6 that would enable ATF personnel to establish that the barrels sought for importation are being imported for assembly into importable firearms.

If the dual use barrels are being imported for resale to third parties, the importer must state in the “Specific Purpose of Importation” section of the ATF Form 6 that purchasers have been or will be advised that the barrels may only be used for assembly into certain importable models and must list the specific models for which the barrels will be sold. Inclusion of a model not known to be sporting may require the submission of a sample for evaluation to determine if importation of the barrels will be approved.

Background

The issue of the non-importability of certain barrels first arose by way of a July 13, 2005 open letter to industry from ATF which advised that the provisions of 18 U.S.C. section 925(d)(3) established the standards for the importation of firearms and ammunition into the United States. In particular, ATF advised section 925(d)(3) provides that the Attorney General shall authorize a firearm to be imported if it meets several conditions: (1) it is not defined as a firearm under the National Firearms Act; (2) it is generally recognized to be particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes; and (3) it is not a surplus military firearm. However, the subsection further provides that “in any case where the Attorney General has not authorized the importation of the firearm pursuant to this paragraph, it shall be unlawful to import any frame, receiver, or barrel of such firearm which would be prohibited if assembled.”

Importers were further advised that ATF had determined that the language of section 925(d)(3) permits no exceptions that would allow the frames, receivers, or barrels for otherwise non-importable firearms to be imported into the United States. As a result, ATF would no longer approve ATF Form 6 import permit applications for importation of any frames, receivers, or barrels for firearms that would be prohibited from importation if assembled. No exceptions to the statutory language, for example for the repair or replacement of existing firearms, were permitted.

A Mixed Blessing

The industry has requested ATF to adopt its former position on the issue of the importation of parts for non-importable firearms since at least the time of the annual Importers Conference last summer. The dual use barrel issue was raised at that time and Ms. Stucko and other ATF personnel present at that meeting promised the industry that they would look into the matter.

Importers expressed disappointment at ATF’s apparent now final decision on the question of whether it would allow the importation of barrels, frames and receivers for otherwise un-importable firearms for the purposes of “repair or replacement” of existing firearms already in the U.S. This former stance (prior to July 2005) was widely known as the “Buckles Doctrine”, as it was the position of the Bureau under its former director, Bradley Buckles.

ATF relented on the matter (somewhat) by way of an August 12, 2005 dated Open Letter to importers in which ATF announced it had decided to extend the time period for importers to act upon previously approved import permits. ATF said the extended period would allow time for importers who had entered into binding contracts in reliance upon approved permits to bring their shipments into the U.S. for entry into commerce.

However, the F.A.I.R. Trade Group, the professional importers’ organization, has continually held that the Buckles Doctrine was a restriction on the trade of goods that could be legally used to assemble lawful firearms and thus contrary to the intent of Congress in regard to the import regulations.

Many believe that ATF’s stance in the matter is an attempt to end the marketing of machine gun kits, as the barrel ban severely affects the importation of barrels for these kits. Without the barrels, the kits become virtually unmarketable, unless the manufacture of barrels is taken up by a U.S. based firm. Such a move, however, would greatly increase the cost of the kits.

There have been allegations that ATF engaged in a “secret” decision making process before making its parts ban decision. Approved permits for the affected parts were allegedly being delayed since January 2005. This caused a situation where businesses were continuing to make purchases of the soon to be affected goods overseas with no idea that ATF planned to deny their import permits.

In a letter to ATF written last July objecting to the move, F.A.I.R.’s president Charles Steen wrote that direct questions to both examiners and to ATF management regarding the perception that permits related to the § 925(d)(3) policy were not being processed were met with either a complete denial of any policy to delay processing of these permits or assertions of ignorance-leaving the industry unaware of pending action.

ATF’s latest stance is not the end of the matter, however, as the industry continues to work for a legislative solution through the F.A.I.R. Trade Group.

Dealer Enters Guilty Plea in Parts Kit Case

During the second week of trial in federal court, the defendant entered a plea of guilty to committing mail fraud involving the illegal transfer of machine guns and giving a false statement to an ATF agent.

United States Attorney Jonathan S. Gasser, stated that Ernest Wrenn, age 56, of North Augusta, South Carolina, has pled guilty in federal court in Columbia, SC to one count of mail fraud involving the illegal transfer of machineguns, a violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1341; and one count of knowingly making a materially false statement to a federal law enforcement agent regarding a matter within the jurisdiction of the Bureau of ATF. U.S. District Judge Margaret B. Seymour accepted the plea.

Evidence presented during the trial, which started on November 7, 2005, established that on June 20, 2002 ATF Special Agent Baldwin visited Wrenn, owner of Poor Man’s Gun and Pawn Shop, at 614 Atomic Road, North Augusta, S.C., in order to pick up Maxim machine gun kits which had previously been deemed illegal by the ATF Firearms Technology Branch. At that time, the defendant provided Special Agent Baldwin with a written statement in which he falsely represented the number of items from the Maxim machine gun kits that were still in his possession.

On June 28, 2002 a federal search warrant was executed at Poor Man’s Gun & Pawn and the defendant admitted that he was in fact still in possession of the illegal Maxim machine gun parts Special Agent Baldwin had requested. ATF agents said they found two fully assembled Maxim machine guns in the defendant’s possession.

On January 29, 2004, based on new information, ATF agents executed a second search warrant at Poor Man’s Gun & Pawn. The evidence obtained during the second search confirmed that the defendant had engaged in a scheme to defraud customers of their money by falsely representing that the machine gun kits sold by the defendant were approved by ATF. During the first week of trial, the Government called about 15 witnesses from 14 states to testify about their business transactions with the defendant. The witnesses testified that they spent anywhere from $2,500 to $25,000 on the defendant’s products on the basis of the defendant’s representations that his products were legal to possess.

Gasser stated the maximum penalty Wrenn can receive as to the mail fraud count is a fine of $250,000 and imprisonment for twenty years. The maximum penalty for the false statement count is a fine of $250,000 and imprisonment for five years.

Brazilians Vote ‘No’ to Gun Ban

Two thirds of Brazil’s voters have rejected a national referendum held October 23, 2005, which would have banned the sales of most firearms and ammunition in the country.

Campaigners for gun control in Brazil and around the world expressed surprise and disappointment at the result of the referendum in which 64% of the 122 million voters said ‘No’ to banning the sale of firearms and ammunition.

“The financial and marketing power of the gun lobby and the gun industry in Brazil won in the end,” said Rebecca Peters, Director of the International Action Network on Small Arms, a major international organization working for gun control world-wide. “We are disappointed at this lost opportunity to take a dramatic stand against gun violence, but we know the country’s strict new guns laws (implemented in 2003) will continue to help save lives.”

In the 3 weeks leading up to the referendum vote, Brazil’s election law required that each side be allocated equal air-time to promote their arguments. The pro-gun lobby used that period to run a professional television educational campaign.

The referendum was one of the measures contained in a national gun law introduced in December 2003, aimed at the poor that generally made it illegal to carry guns, imposed tighter restrictions for obtaining a gun, and stiffened penalties for using or owning guns illegally. In 2004, 3,200 fewer people died from gunshot wounds, a drop of 8% and the first decrease in 13 years.

The Brazilian referendum is believed to be the first time any country has put its national gun laws to a popular vote. Brazil has the highest number of gun deaths in the world, around 38,000 a year - or more than 100 every day. This is a higher rate than in many conflict zones. It is also the second largest producer of guns in the hemisphere.

Surveys done a month before the vote had shown most people favored the ban but more recent polls swung the other way. Groups favoring the ban accused local arms manufacturers of funding a big gun rights campaign and manipulating fears. The international pro-ban proponents had hoped a successful ‘Yes’ vote would influence gun laws in other developing countries.

If the ban had passed, most sales of guns and ammunition would have been halted, although public safety officers, private security firms, judges and sport clubs would still have been able to buy them.

The number of firearms shops fell over 80 percent to about 250 in Latin America’s largest country from some 1,500 after the new law was enacted in late 2003. It calls for psychological exams, shooting and gun-handling tests, and high registration fees that must be paid periodically. Gun owners are limited to buying only 50 cartridges annually. Gun prices and fees are already prohibitive for most people in Brazil, where the average monthly wage is about $400. In addition to the cost of the gun, buyers have to pay $300 more for registration, exams and a shooting course. These requirements remain in effect, though the near total ban proposed in the referendum was defeated.

In the state of Rio Grande do Sul - home to Taurus and Rossi, Brazil’s two largest firearms manufacturers - the ban was rejected by a ratio of more than four to one.

Violence is rampant throughout Brazil, from the cities to the Amazon jungle. Drug gangs control Rio’s slums - one area is named the “Gaza Strip” because of the frequent clashes. Juvenile delinquents are often dealt with by hired hitmen called “justiceiros” and in the vast interior, land disputes and other scores are settled by hired gunmen known as “pistoleiros.”

It’s estimated there are over 17 million firearms in Brazil, nearly 60% of them illegal. Civilians hold about 4 million registered firearms.

Fiocchi/FN Partner for 5.7x28mm Ammo

Herstal, Belgium-based FN Herstal and Lecco, Italy-based Fiocchi Munizioni S.P.A. have officially signed a cooperative agreement for the manufacturing of 5.7x28mm ammunition by Fiocchi in the United States. The 5.7x28mm ammunition developed and designed by FN Herstal will be marketed under the FN brand name.

The agreement has been expanded to include the U.S. market. Fiocchi of America has begun loading SS196 SR and SS197 SR cartridges in its Ozark, Mo. manufacturing facility. The FN-designed cartridges will be sold in the U.S. by FNH USA, LLC through its distribution network.

“This agreement allows us to keep pace with consumer demand for the popular 5.7x28 mm cartridge as well as the Five seveN USG handguns and the new and upcoming PS 90 semi-automatic carbine,” said Rick DeMilt, Director of Commercial and Law Enforcement Sales and Marketing for FNH USA. “Having a U.S. supplier is a significant advantage.” Founded in 1876 by Giulio Fiocchi, Fiocchi Munizioni S.P.A. is a worldwide leader in the manufacture of small caliber ammunition.

Crimson Trace Partners with SIGARMS

Crimson Trace Corporation has entered into a co-branding bundle with SIGARMS, makers of SIG SAUER pistols. Lasergrip-equipped SIG pistols will be available on models P220 Classic Full Size, P229R Classic Compact Size, and P226R Classic Full Size, and will bear the SIG SAUER logo.

The all-black Lasergrips complement the tactical appearance of SIG SAUER pistols, and the Lasergrips will be pre-sighted at the factory, making the package ready to shoot right out of the box. According to Sig Sauer, the packages are available now through its network of “SIGnificant” dealers.

The author publishes two of the small arms industry’s most widely read trade newsletters, The International Firearms Trade which covers the world firearms scene, and The New Firearms Business which 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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