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SITREP: February 1999

By Dan Shea

Friends, the pot is being stirred. SAR readers from around the US have been faxing, emailing and calling SAR about their problems with getting a CLEO signature on their Form 4. For those uninitiated in regard to the purchase of an NFA firearm, typically a machine gun or silencer, the CLEO is the signature of a person who qualifies as a “Chief Law Enforcement Officer” in the area that the applicant lives in. By regulation the applicant must obtain the CLEO signature on the rear of the Form 1, 4 or 5. There are a number of people who can fulfill this capacity; the police chief, the sheriff, some district attorneys, some judges, and some state police- among others. In many areas of the country, for whatever reason, there is a conspiracy to not sign the forms. The NFA Branch of ATF in Washington DC will not approve the form if there is no CLEO signature on the back.

All the CLEO is supposed to be signing for is that he “Has no information indicating that the transferee will use the firearm or device described on this application for other than lawful purposes.” And “Has no information that the receipt and/or possession of the firearm described in item 4 of this form would place the transferee in violation of State or local law.”

Pretty simple, isn’t it? If the official doesn’t have any negative information, then he should sign the form. However, several things have been happening that caused U.S. citizens a problem with obtaining their tax paid NFA firearms. First, there are some people who just plain don’t want to sign. They don’t want to do anything they might perceive as “Risky” to their careers. Others don’t want people to have guns. Still others have reportedly been asked by local ATF people to NOT sign the forms in a de facto gun-banning scheme. Still others have been advised that the federal government can not require them to do the work involved with signing (simple movement of a pen on paper, or a background check and the simple movement of a pen on paper). This last group saw their position re-iterated in the recent Brady case where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the background checks couldn’t be mandated- basically if they weren’t funded.

Several attorneys who are firearms oriented have contacted SAR about the possibility of starting a challenge to this present system. There are several points that this challenge can utilize, and we can get into the details later. For the moment, suffice it to say that SAR will be pleased to forward all interested parties to the lawyers for further planning. They will need litigants who can’t get a CLEO sign-off, and they will need donations as well. Personally, I will ante up $500 for this process. Anyone else want to step up to the plate, and see if we can get the door opened back up for U.S. citizens to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed Right? How about you Houston readers? Dade County? Alaska?

- Dan Shea


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