Fresh off the heels of ATF 41P/41F (Trust “loophole”), a new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE or ATF) proposal is set to hit the Federal Register tomorrow. In what is surely to be dubbed ‘ATF 29P’, the agency is proposing a change to current rules to clarify suppressor markings. Currently, as the rules stand, suppressors must be marked with certain identifying manufacturer information, but there aren’t any specifics on the locations on of those markings on the silencer itself.
SUMMARY: The Department of Justice is considering amending the regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to require licensed manufacturers, licensed importers, and nonlicensed makers to place identification markings on the outer tube of firearm silencers and firearm mufflers. The Department wishes to gather information and comments from the public and industry concerning whether or not the regulations should be amended.
Apparently in April of 2008, the National Firearms Act Trade and Collectors Association (NFATCA) petitioned the ATF to clarify that only the outer tube should be marked:
There has been an overwhelmingly negative response from the members of our trade to this particular guidance. . . . there is strong policy agreement between ATF and our trade that only the silencer [outer] tube should be marked in accordance with the marking requirements of Parts 478 and 479 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations. . . . Allowing end caps to be the possible marking 6 location for silencers does constitute a serious public safety issue in the areas of diversion, tracing, and evasion of other NFA rules.
This petition came after the ATF stated that markings could be made on silencer tubes OR endcaps:
Although in its April 2008 guidance ATF recommended that manufacturers place all required markings on the outer tube of the silencer, it stated that the required markings could also be placed on any external part of the silencer, including the end cap, provided the required markings are conspicuous and legible.
The ATF agreed with the NFATCA’s stance that the marking locations needed clarification or otherwise could ‘constitute a serious public safety issue’ and continued:
Accordingly, the petitioner requested that the relevant regulations be amended to require that a silencer be marked on the outer tube (as opposed to other locations), unless a variance is granted by the Director on a case-by-case basis for good cause. ATF finds that the petitioner has raised valid concerns and it believes that an amendment of the regulations is warranted. Therefore, based upon the statutory language and the facts as outlined below, ATF seeks to address the marking requirements of silencers to ensure that the serial numbers are placed on the part of the silencer that is least likely to be destroyed or removed, and therefore most likely to ensure that law enforcement are able to identify and trace a particular firearm silencer or firearm muffler.
It is unclear why the NFATCA petioned the ATF for a rule change in 2008 and why the ATF is just now following up eight years later.
As with any other proposed rule-making, the ATF is soliciting comments from both industry and consumers:
Although ATF is soliciting comments on the following specific questions, it is also requesting any relevant information on the subject.
1. What percentage of manufacturers mark the end cap? If an outer tube is present, why do manufacturers mark the end cap instead of the outer tube of the silencer?
2. If there is an additional cost (fixed or variable) between marking the end cap instead of the outer tube, how would ATF estimate such costs across the entire industry?
3. Are there other parts or locations where the markings may be placed and still meet the requirements? If so, where?
4. Are there silencer designs for a completed device for which marking the outer tube would be impossible? If so, what are those designs?
5. When there are multiple outer tubes that make up one complete device, how should they be marked?
Although comments can be submitted by mail or fax, electronic submissions can be made by accessing the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov.
If you decide to comment on 29P, be professional in your wording; Comments that include foul language will be dismissed from consideration.
The full document, set to be filed on May 4th, can be found here.