The Industry and ATF in 2011
By John Brown

If anyone even remotely looks at the news in our community, there is a lot of press that should cause concern. You can read controversial news starting from the appointment of Andrew Traver for the new Director to some pretty disturbing news on collateral damage from Project Gunwalker. I always try and keep in mind something my father taught me growing up, "Don't believe a word you hear and only half of what you see and you will live twice as long." Well some days the evidence is just overwhelming.

It all started about two years ago when rumors of organizational changes were circulating at ATF headquarters. It was at this stage that we began to see a shift in the wind with how ATF treats the industry. The NFATCA, as many of you witnessed, had spent an inordinate amount of time working to tear down the "Berlin Wall" and establish a better relationship with all facets of ATF. Many of you remember reading our older articles where we spoke about the tremendous strides we made with the NFA Branch from our completely lost efforts when the Branch was in Washington DC. We worked closely with the NFA Branch and actually helped get a Form 3 transfer down to five days. We presented awards to the examiners and had routine meetings to work closely with everyone to bring the industry and ATF together to help make a mark on improving public safety. Of course there were always the tin-foiled hats that accused us of cavorting with the enemy and being double agents. I even had the opportunity to meet with ATF employees who were also very open about the fact that ATF was an enforcement agency and that ATF must stay at arm's length with the industry. Unfortunately what was needed to strengthen that relationship was not more tin-foil hats or badges, but a spirit of wanting to work together to make a difference on all fronts.

When ATF published the NFA Handbook, a product of the NFATCA, everyone started to sit up and pay attention to what we were doing. Our efforts were unprecedented in success and the relationship was built on the strategy that it was in everyone's best interests to work together. You didn't have to go very far to attend a meeting where we sat side by side and presented together. What had been needed for over forty years, working together, was finally happening. I knew then, as now, that there was still a major faction within ATF that felt getting close to the industry was a mistake. How wrong they were then and so today. The NFATCA has worked diligently for nearly seven years to bring to the table in helping ATF make a difference. To pull back from that relationship and to think you can make all the right decisions in a vacuum will simply not work. Every regulatory agency in the government has found that they have two missions when it comes to regulatory affairs, learning from entrepreneurs and regulating according to what questions come out of this relationship. Enforcement comes out of a natural rule making process to keep an industry on the right track.

Not long ago everyone noticed that there was a significant distance being placed between the industry and ATF. Not only were there a lot of new faces in Washington but a lot of old ones either retired or in some cases, in their words, got fed up and moved on to other opportunities in life. At the same time the NFATCA efforts with ATF begin to shift. Although still cooperative, our efforts began to take on a more formal approach. Meetings were cancelled; attendance to events withdrawn and a host of other strategies began to form that has slowly pulled ATF farther away from the industry. But remember, if you don't like something, wait along enough and it will change. It is not my intent to get everyone all excited, but it is not news that the marriage between the industry and ATF is somewhat strained today. For what reason, we have no idea. The one thing that is important for all of our members and readers to remember is that together, ATF and the Industry have made major strides in years past. That effort will continue and we will continue to move each and every issue forward that the NFATCA feels merits a little different view than what ATF has presented. This cooperative effort was initiated and grew on the fact that we all knew that working together would serve all involved. We all have also realized that we won't always agree on everything. Like any great relationship working together takes strength, stamina, and a good sense for give and take. These words mark the success of a relationship that started a long time ago and will continue to make a difference in the future.

We have worked together for seven years and the joint achievements have been spectacular. Rest assured, the NFATCA will continue to trudge forward in re-forging that relationship in the spirit of creating a safer world for the community nationwide. As we mentioned earlier, all things change with time. We will continue to move forward and make a difference at every opportunity when it comes to supporting what is best for our industry and you the membership. Always remember our motto, "United We Stand." Join us today and get in on making a difference with your efforts supporting the entire NFA community. Visit us today at www.nfatca.org.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V14N9 (June 2011)
and was posted online on November 1, 2011


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