Glock-22 Suppressor / Photo by John C Bullas via Flickr

The ATF Form 1(ATF Form 5320.1) is the application to make and register a firearm, recently the ATF has denied 850 of these applications from the makers of suppressors. This form is intended for those who are not already a licensed manufacturer of NFA firearms.

These denials were made due to changes in ATF policy regarding suppressor “parts kits”. The ATF is alleging that they were denying the applications of those looking to make “parts kits” for suppressors, we say alleging because this might not actually be the case.

As brought forward by NRA-ILA: 

Under federal law, firearm suppressors, called firearm silencers or firearm mufflers in federal statute, are treated legally the same as other firearms and subject to the registration and taxation requirements of the NFA.

The recent change in policy stems from ATF’s interpretation of the definition of “firearm silencer or firearm muffler” which is “any device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a portable firearm, including any combination of parts, designed or redesigned, and intended for use in assembling or fabricating a firearm silencer or firearm muffler, and any part intended only for use in such assembly or fabrication.”

In this case, ATF is specifically concerned with a “combination of parts, designed or redesigned, and intended for use in assembling or fabricating a firearm silencer or firearm muffler . . . .” According to ATF, companies who are selling products that can be used for the assembly or fabrication of a silencer must treat those products as if they are already silencer. The company would need to be a licensed manufacturer, pay a special tax, and the product would need to be transferred on ATF’s Form 4 application, rather than being registered via a Form 1 by the person who intends to use the parts in assembling a functional silencer.

Beyond the equitable issues of denying applicants who in good faith attempted to comply with ATF’s long-time application of federal law, this new interpretation has serious logical problems. If ATF now considers any parts that are intended to be assembled into a silencer as if they are already legally a silencer, then completing a Form 1 for a silencer is now impossible. When an applicant completes a Form 1, they are evidencing an intent to assemble or fabricate a silencer. Any part used in that process would seemingly already be a silencer under ATF’s new twisted reading of the definition.

This new interpretation of “what is a suppressor” is unacceptable and may go to court in the near future. This interpretation from the ATF will result in things as simple as nuts and washers being considered suppressors. The NRA is working with some congressmen to resolve this, but considering that the Democrats run the House and Senate it might be a while before anything major happens.

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