The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosivesí National Firearms
Registration and Transfer Record

Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2007-006
June 2007
Office of the Inspector General


Appendix III
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms and Explosivesí Response
  U. S. Department of Justice
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Office of the Director

JUN 13 2007

Washington, DC 20226


MEMORANDUM TO: Assistant Inspector General for Evaluation and Inspections

FROM: Acting Director

SUBJECT: Response to the Draft Report-Review of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, Assignment Number A-2006-002

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has reviewed the Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General 's draft report on the above-cited subject. We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments on the report and its recommendations.

EXECUTIVE DIGEST
Page i

In the first paragraph, line 9, the word "ownership" should be changed to "possession." Ownership of firearms registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR) is irrelevant. The registry reflects the person or persons legally entitled to possess the weapon---that person may or may not have an ownership interest in the registered weapon.

In the second paragraph, line 4, the words "single shot" should be replaced with the word "semiautomatic," In the fifth line, we recommend that the word "press" be changed to "function," as this more closely tracks the statutory definition of a machinegun.

Also in the second paragraph, line6, the phrase "smooth bore, short-barreled handguns" should be replaced with the phrase "other concealable weapons." The drafter is correct that certain smooth bore shot pistols are included in the definition of "any other weapon," but there are many other firearms that fit within this category of "firearm." In the next sentence, beginning, "The GCA restricts...," we recommend that the word "new" be deleted. Registrations of all weapons, whether they are new or old, are restricted to makers, manufacturers, and importers.

Page ii

In the second full paragraph, line 2, the word "ownership" should be changed to "possession," and the parenthetical should be revised to read "(through sale, rental, gift, or bequest)."

BACKGROUND
Page 1

The last sentence in the first full paragraph in this section suggests that the central registry of all NFA weapons is an electronic database called the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR). First, the reference to "ownership" records in this sentence should be changed to "possession." In addition, it is inaccurate to state that the electronic database is the NFRTR. The NFRTR consists of the database AND all the registration documents and attachments associated with those documents. The electronic database is merely an automated means of searching the entire NFRTR. We recommend that the last sentence be revised to read as follows:

"The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) collects the taxes and maintains NFA firearm registration records in a central registry. The central registry consists of all the registration documents and attachments to those documents, as well all an electronic database that incorporates many of the documents and that enables computerized searches of the registry."

The second paragraph makes reference to the 1968 amendments to the NFA and refers to "frames and receivers that can convert a single shot weapon into an automatic weapon." Frames and receivers cannot convert any weapon into a machinegun, and the drafters apparently misunderstand the amendments made in 1968. The amendments added machinegun frames or receivers and machinegun conversion kits to the definition of "machinegun." In addition, this sentence indicates that certain smooth bore, short-barreled handguns were added to the NFA in 1968. These weapons, regulated as "any other weapons," were regulated under the NFA beginning in 1934. Accordingly, the first sentence of the second paragraph should be revised to read as follows:

“Congress expanded the scope of the NFA through the Gun Control Act of 1968 ' (GCA) to include destructive devices (explosive and incendiary bombs, grenades, missiles, rockets, mines, and weapons with a bore of more than W' in diameter), machinegun frames or receivers, and conversion kits for machineguns.”

In footnote 13 at the bottom of the page 1, the word "reclassified" should be changed to "defined," The word "reclassified" makes it sound as if Congress or ATF changed its mind about how the term "firearm" should be defined. Antique firearms were excluded from the definition from the date of enactment of the GCA -there was no "reclassification."

Page 2

The first full paragraph on page 2 refers to registration of NFA weapons and their owners. Only weapons must be registered-neither owners nor possessors are registered per se. We recommend that the first sentence be revised to read as follows:

“NFA weapons must be registered in the NFRTR and whenever the weapon is transferred (through sale, gift, rental, or bequest), the transfer must be approved in advance by ATF."
In the second sentence of the first full paragraph, "An owner" should be changed to "A registrant."

Page 3 and 4

The second paragraph on page 3 refers to the penalties imposed for violations of the NFA and states that they ere punishable by a $10,000 fine and 10 years imprisonment. Footnote 18 cites 26 U.S.C. § 5871 as authority for these penalties. The reference to a fine of $10,000 should be changed to $250,000, and the footnote should refer to 18 U.S.C. § 3571, in addition to 26 U.S.C. § 5871. Terms of imprisonment for all Federal offenses are governed by Chapter 227, Title 18 U.S.C. Section 3571 provides that the fine for Federal felonies committed by an individual is not more than $250,000.

The second sentence in the second paragraph on page 3 correctly refers to asset forfeiture for weapons involved in violations of the NFA, then goes on to refer to the fact that a person convicted of a felony loses the right to receive and possess firearms. We assume this is a reference to the prohibited persons' provisions of the GCA and recommend that this sentence be revised to read as follows:

"The NFA firearm is subject to forfeiture, and if the possessor is convicted of a criminal violation of the NFA, he or she will be prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms."

Page 4

Footnote 19 at the bottom of the page 4, should be revised to cite "18 U.S.C. § 922(g) (1)," in addition to "26 U.S.C. § 5872."

On page 4, the sentence at the top beginning "In addition," should be deleted. This sentence refers to the general tax evasion statute of the Internal Revenue Code, but then refers to the fine provision of Title 18. As the fine applicable to NFA violations was explained previously, there is no need to mention it again, and we do not understand the reference to the general tax evasion statute.

Page 6

The first full paragraph, second sentence, beginning "Only licensed manufacturers," should be revised to read as follows:

"Only licensed manufacturers, licensed importers, and makers of NFA weapons may register NFA weapons."

The reference to "applying" to register NFA weapons is not correct as to licensed manufacturers and licensed importers, as they do not "apply" to register-they notify ATF of firearms they have manufactured or imported within a specified period after manufacturing or importing the firearm, as the case may be. 27 C.F.R §§ 479,103,479,112.

Page 31

The first full paragraph on page 31, beginning “We did not find evidence….” has an incorrect citation to the National Firearms Act. The third sentence of this paragraph should be revised to read as follows:

"Between 2000 and 2006, only 15 licensees were charged with violating 26 U.S.C. Chapter 53, the Chapter of the Internal Revenue Code that includes the NFA."

Concurrence or Nonconcurrence on the Eight Recommendations

Page 44

  1. Improve the ATF website by making it easier for the public to find NFA information, such as frequently asked questions, application forms and instructions, NFA Branch contact information, and the NFA handbook. We concur.
  2. Develop and disseminate to all NFA Branch staff a comprehensive standard operating procedures manual that include s all NFA weapons application processes, NFRTR processes, and data entry codes and abbreviations. We concur.
  3. Develop uniform and structured training for new staff members that includes standard operating procedures and hands-on experience with the NFRTR. Ensure that all NFA Branch staff members attend the training and that the staff trainers are themselves properly trained. Provide training for the Section Chiefs on supervisory techniques. We concur.
  4. Establish regular and recurring methods of communication to NFA Branch staff. We concur.
  5. Resolve discrepancies between the NFRTR and inventories of federal firearms licensees in a timely manner. We concur.
  6. Develop and implement an action plan to fix technical programming flaws and errors in the NFRTR. We concur.
  7. Develop and implement an action plan for eliminating the backlog of imaging and indexing forms for the imaging database. We concur.
  8. Develop and implement an action plan for completing the e-Forms project.

Should you have any questions regarding this response, please contact Richard E. Chase, Assistant Director, Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations/(CSO), at (202) 927-7800.

(signature)
Michael J. Sullivan



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