The third in a series of articles by Todd Martin, Division Counsel for ATF.
B. Todd Martin, Division Counsel
Nashville Field Office
The Gun Control Act of 1968, as amended (GCA) controls application, issuance, operation, and regulation of a Federal Firearms License (FFL). A State or local government agency may obtain an FFL, but must comply with the relevant provisions of the GCA and Title 27, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 478, related to operations, and Title 28, C.F.R., Part 25, related to background checks. The applying agency will file an ATF Form 7, application for an FFL, which requires hours of operation, signage, responsible persons, ATF inspections, etc.
Certain activities for firearms and ammunition imported for, sold or shipped to, or issued for the use of, a government agency are exempt from the GCA. These are: 1) transportation, 2) shipment, 3) receipt, 4) possession, and 5) importation. Although most prohibited categories (felons, unlawful drug users, etc.) get an exemption, Misdemeanor Crimes of Domestic Violence (MCDV) convictions are not exempt.
Sales to Law Enforcement
A law enforcement officer (LEO) may purchase a firearm for official use by providing a licensee with a certification, on agency letterhead, and signed by a person of authority, that states the LEO will use the firearm in official duties and that a records check reveals the LEO does not have an MCDV conviction.
ATF considers the following as persons having authority to certify that LEOs purchasing firearms will use the firearms in performance of official duties:
1) in a police department – Chief or equivalent,
2) in a sheriff’s office, the sheriff,
3) in a State police or highway patrol department, the superintendent or the supervisor in charge of the office to which the State officer or employee is assigned, or
4) someone signing on behalf of a person in authority, provided there is a proper delegation of authority and overall responsibility has not changed in any way.
If the purchasing officer is a supervisory officer, the certification must be made by the supervising, purchasing officer’s supervisor. In other words, the purchasing officer and the certifying officer may not be the same person.
Although an ATF Form 4473 and a background check is not required for official use firearms, the licensee may require one; ATF cannot intervene. Personal firearm purchases require an ATF Form 4473 and background check.
Sales and deliveries of firearms to out-of-State police and sheriff departments are not prohibited by the GCA. A dealer may also sell or ship firearms, other than NFA firearms, to an individual LEO, regardless of age, if the dealer has a proper certification on official duty use.
Handguns (pistols, revolvers, and other firearms capable of being concealed on the person) for use in official duties may be mailed through the U.S. Postal Service to any officer whose official duty is to serve warrants of arrest or commitments. 18 U.S.C. § 1715. You must follow postal service regulations.
National Firearms Act (NFA)
All non-US possessed/controlled NFA firearms manufactured, imported, made, or transferred must be registered in the National Firearms Act Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR), which must have the identification of the firearm, date of registration, and identification and address of the person/agency entitled to possess the firearm.
|Form 1||Application to make|
|Form 2||Notice of making/importation|
|Form 3||SOT to SOT transfer|
|Form 4||Tax-paid transfers|
|Form 5||Tax-exempt transfers|
|Form 9||Permanent export|
|Form 10||Registration by LE agency|
|Form 4||Form 5||Form 10|
|Transfers to a non-government entity, such as an employee or an SOT (except for repairs of an unserviceable firearm).
|Receipt from a manufacturer, importer, or individual. Making an NFA firearm.
Transfers to another State or local agency, or back to DOD/DLA’s
Disposition Services LESO.
ATF recommends Form 5 when transferring to a gunsmith.
|Possession of an NFA firearm acquired for official use that is: 1) a court-ordered forfeiture to the agency, or 2) abandoned to the agency.
Receipts DOD’s LESO.
Future transfers are limited to LE-type agencies.
Dealer Sales to agencies
NFA dealers can’t receive a machinegun manufactured after 5/19/86 unless they have a letter from an expected governmental customer requiring demonstration of the weapon, information as to the availability of the machinegun to fill subsequent orders, and letters from governmental entities expressing a need for a particular model or interest in seeing a demonstration of a particular weapon. The agency must provide the letter to the dealer, who will complete any remaining requirements. A demonstration request form letter is available in ATF’s NFA Handbook.
Processing Individuals/Trusts ATF Forms 4 or 5
ATF now requires only that the applicant of an NFA transfer provide a copy of the ATF Form 4 or 5 to the Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) of their jurisdiction (Chief of Police, Sheriff, District Attorney, State Police Director, etc., or a properly, authorized delegate). A CLEO is encouraged to notify ATF of any reason the person should not receive the firearm.
The NFA is a tax provision. Title 26, U.S.C., § 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code prohibits the release of tax information. As a result, ATF is prohibited from disclosing tax information. That includes the existence or non-existence of the registration, or other information.
The law allows disclosure of the information to Federal agencies involved in criminal investigations, to fight terrorism, and to prevent fugitives from escaping. Additionally, if circumstances involve imminent danger of death or physical injury to any individual, ATF may disclose taxpayer information to the extent necessary to apprise appropriate officers or employees of any Federal or State law enforcement agency of such circumstances. Although there are other exemptions, none likely apply to routine encounters by law enforcement. Unless one of the statutory exemptions exists, ATF will not release the registration or non-registration of an NFA firearm.
*Views expressed are not necessarily the views of ATF.