The 4th annual ATF and the Imports Community Regulatory Briefing
By Robert M. Hausman

State Breakdown of NFA Registered Arms Disclosed

A state-by-state breakdown of NFA registered arms was revealed to importers and exporters attending the fourth annual “ATF and the Imports Community” regulatory briefing held at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C. August 7 - 8, 2006.

Breakdown of NFA Arms

Kenneth E. Houchens, National Firearms Act Branch Chief, gave a detailed presentation on the numbers of NFA registered arms (excluding destructive devices) held in each state. As of December 31, 2005, Houchens revealed that the vast majority of such arms, 55%, are machine guns, which number 366,018. Silencers are in second place at 20% with 135,445 being registered. Short barreled shotguns are next in line at 14% with a total of 92,522. Any Other Weapons numbered 44,663 or 7% of the total, while short barreled rifles stood at 4% of the total comprising 28,931.

NFA Form Processing Times

Houchens also detailed that ATF’s NFA forms processing times have shortened. In the year 2002, an average of 40 days was spent in processing NFA forms. This time dropped to 35 days in 2003, but grew to about 38 days in 2004. During 2005, the average forms processing time declined to about 25 days and dropped again the next year to about 12 days in 2006.

In a breakdown of specific form processing times, Houchens said Form 1 processing took about 65 days in 2002 and about 68 days in 2003. In the year 2004, Form 1 processing time increased to about 95 days, but declined the next year to about 70 days in 2005. Significant improvements in this form’s processing time were achieved during 2006 and it now takes an average of about 38 days for ATF to process Form 1 applications.

For Form 2, it took ATF an average of 13 days to process these forms in 2002, a time period which grew to about 17 days the next year in 2003. During 2004, when the NFA Branch started moving to its new location in West Virginia, its Form 2 processing time grew to about 23 days. In 2005, the processing time dropped to about 17 days and declined to 10 days in 2006.

Form 3 has seen the most dramatic changes in processing time. During the years 2002 and 2003, the average timeline was 30 days. However, in 2004, the processing time doubled to at least 60 days. During 2005, Form 3 processing time dropped significantly to about 22 days and to under 6 days during 2006.

The processing timeline for Form 4 has seen a steady decrease over the last five years. It went from a high of about 265 days in 2002, to about 140 days in 2003, and to about 80 days in 2004. During 2005, it dropped further to about 65 days and to about 40 days in 2006.

Form 5 processing timeline stood at about 27 days in 2002 and declined to about 25 days in 2003. During the year of the beginning of the move to West Virginia (2004) the processing time grew to 29 days. In 2005, the processing time dropped to 18 days and in 2006 it has been about 7 days.

Form 5320.20’s processing time was about 13 days in 2002 and grew to 27 days in 2003. In 2004, it declined slightly to 24 days and in 2005 dropped to 21 days. In 2006, the processing time for this form declined to only about 7 days.

Form 9 processing time has formed a loop on the pie chart. In 2002 it stood at 3 days, grew to 8 days in 2003, dropped to 7 days the next year and declined again to 4 days in 2005. During 2006 it dropped to about 2-1/2 days.

The Form 10 processing time stood at a high of about 70 days in 2002 and declined to about 55 days in 2003. In 2004 it dropped to about 38 days but grew to about 45 days in 2005. In 2006 it dropped to about 18 days.

Houchens also detailed the total number of NFA firearms registered (including destructive devices and distraction devices such as “flash bang” grenades). Note: automatic arms held by government agencies, such as police departments, have to be registered as well as those held by civilians.

In 1990 the total stood at just over 400,000. In 1991 it grew to close to 500,000 and in 1992 it approached 600,000. The total increased by about 100,000 registered items per year through 2005 when the total stood at 1,800,000.

NFA Certifications & Record Checks

NFA record checks stood at just over 8,000 per year during the years 1990 and 1991 and grew to a high of 10,000 in 1992. The total declined to just over 8,000 in 1993 and declined steadily in each succeeding year though 1998 when the total stood at just over 4,000. In successive years it grew steadily to a total of about 7,000 in 2003. The total declined to just over 6,000 in 2004 but grew to about 7,000 in 2005.

Records checks of NFA arms have remained fairly flat during the years 1990 through 2005, running about 500 per year with the exception of the year 1992 when it jumped to a total of about 1,800

Import Permit Processing

A briefing on Import Permit Processing was conducted by Larry White, Industry Liaison, ATF F&E Services Division.

White detailed the process for hard copy import permit applications and works as follows: Application specifics are entered by data entry personnel. The application is then sent to the examiner section and a permit control number is assigned. The application is then delivered to an assigned examiner.

In the case of e-Form 6 import permit applications, once the applicant sends the application specifics electronically, an examiner is then assigned and a permit control number is given. The applicant is then e-mailed a confirming receipt and the permit control number. The application is then electronically delivered to an examiner.

When processing the application, an examiner looks at four critical areas:
  • What is being imported?
  • Where is the country of export / manufacture?
  • Who is importing?
  • Why are goods being imported?

During the processing, the “What?” question is the single most important element of the examiner’s review, White disclosed. “What” dictates: WHO may import goods, WHERE goods may originate, WHY goods may be imported, and HOW goods may be imported (permit vs. no permit).

The examiner will also look at whether or not an FFL is required to import the goods; is an AECA registration for the importer of the goods required; and if Form 6 Part 1/Part II is properly filled out and provided.

For example, based on the goods being imported, if a Form 6 is needed, is the country of export and/or manufacture proscribed or embargoed by the Dept. of State? The examiner will also look at if the goods can be imported for the specific purpose of importation specified by the applicant and if the required supporting documentation is attached to the application.

In making determinations, examiners have the following resources available to them:
  • import specialists
  • a technical advisor
  • the ATF Firearms Technology Branch
  • ATF counsel
  • branch management
  • and Larry White himself, who is widely respected both by ATF and the industry for his technical expertise

When an application is approved, it is done so by the application of rubber stamps. Any applicable restrictions are marked in red ink. The approved application will also bear signature and date stamps.

On applications partially approved by ATF, deletions will be made by ATF. Denied items will be “redlined” and a letter of explanation will be generated. In the case of deletions that are made at the applicant’s request, a restriction stamp will be used.

On Conditional Approvals, an ATF letter will be generated. Examples are: a conditional approval for importation pending an examination of the item(s) by the ATF Firearms Technology Branch; an approval for importation based on the condition that the goods will be placed into a Custom Bonded Warehouse or Foreign Trade Zone; and, items conditionally approved for importation on the condition they be used for testing and research.

In the case of denied applications, a letter of explanation for the denial will be generated by ATF and the Form will be stamped “VOID”.

For further information, the ATF Imports Branch may be reached at: (304) 616-4550. Larry White may be reached at (202) 927-8475. You can reach him using his e-mail at: lawrence.white@atf.gov

Licensee Statistics

As of June 2006, there were 52,230 Type 01 (Dealer) licensees; 7,575 Type 02 (Pawnbroker) licensees; 43,166 holders of Type 03 (Collector) FFLs and 459 Type 06 Ammunition Manufacturers. As of the same date, there were 373 Type 07 (Firearms Manufacturer) licensees; 698 holders of Type 08 (Importer) licenses; some 16 holders of Type 09 Dealer in Destructive Devices licenses; just ten Type 10 Destructive Device Manufacturers; and 99 (Type 11) Importers of Destructive Device licensees.

E-Form 6

An update on the Electronic Form 6 Filing System (e-Form 6) was provided by Audrey Stucko, Deputy Assistant Director, ATF Office of Enforcement, Programs & Services. The e-Form 6 is actually part of the E-Gov Act of 2002 with the goal of converting the mountains of paper the government was handling into an electronic process. Those who qualify to use e-Form 6 are: Type 08 Importers of Firearms other than destructive devices or ammunition; Type 11 FFL holders (importers of destructive devices); both of whom must be registered under the Arms Export Control Act as importers of articles enumerated on the U.S. Munitions Import List.

To apply for e-Form 6 submission, submit ATF Form 5013.3 e-Form 6 Access Request via the U.S. Mail or by FAX (304) 616-4551. A confirmation e-mail receipt from the Firearms and Explosives Imports Branch will be sent immediately after submission. Users can begin using the e-Form 6 system quickly after application, usually within 48 hours. After submission of the access request form, a receipt of the user ID and password should be received by the applicant within 24-48 hours after receipt of the completed Form 5013.3. The system administrator (Wonjiri Ridley) should be contacted if the User ID and password have not been received within 48 hours.

Common e-Form 6 issues that occur are: password resets which require a phone call to correct to the ESA Held Desk (877) 875-3723; the applicant not listing the manufacturers of the goods seeking to be imported; firearm models not being listed; and the user’s AECA registration number not being included in the user’s profile. Contact Wonjiri Ridley, Tel: (304) 616-4578, or you may FAX: (304) 616-4551 or wonjiri.ridley@atf.gov for help with these issues.

To aid industry in reaching the proper responsible person in dealings with the Bureau, a partial organizational chart was presented on the ATF Firearms & Explosives Services Division, (the unit within ATF that provides services to licensees). While the position of the Division Chief was vacant, B. Scott Mendoza is the Deputy Division Chief and Acting Division Chief of the Services Division, Michael J. Cooney is the Division’s Firearms Enforcement Officer and the well-known Lawrence G. White is the Industry Analyst. Kevin L. Boydston is the Branch Chief of the ATF Imports Branch, Kenneth E. Houchens is the National Firearms Act (NFA) Branch Chief, Patricia Power is Assistant Branch Chief and Acting Branch Chief of the Federal Firearms Licensing Center and Christopher R. Reeves is the Branch Chief of the Federal Explosives Licensing Center.

ATF Contact Information
Firearms & Explosives Service Division Tel: (304) 616-4590, FAX: (304) 616-4591
Firearms & Explosives Import Branch Tel: (304) 616-4550, FAX: (304) 616-4551
National Firearms Act Branch Tel: (304) 616-4500, FAX: (304) 616-4501
Federal Firearms Licensing Center Tel: (404) 417-2750, FAX: (404) 417-2751

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


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