Without rule changes, regulation amendments, politicians or legislation, a partnership between the U.S. government and a small private industry group has dramatically changed the process in which National Firearms Act (NFA) controlled items are transferred between individuals and entities. There is now a system in place within the BATFE’s NFA DIvision, that will allow nearly everyone who files a Form 4 to transfer controlled items, such as silencers, a genuine chance at receiving approved forms in a few short months. Alongside the ATF, three silencer industry stalwarts spearheaded the best modernization of the registry in 83 years: Dead Air Armament, GEMTECH and Silencer Shop.
The goal is to have wait times down to a fraction of current levels.
We have been following this story, quietly, for about eight months. And while there is obviously going to be a lot of details to discuss, I will try to keep everything short and sweet. Because, for the most part, the system itself is pretty simple.
One of the biggest aspects to remember as we walk through this process, is that the new system is free and open to everyone – all manufacturers, distributors, dealers and customers can use the new ATF process for any NFA item transferred via Form 4. Not only that, but it is completely voluntary, if you want to continue to use the old submission process, it is still available – the choice is yours.
MOdernized NFA Process Overview:
Silencer Shop, along with Dead Air and GEMTECH, has developed a bar code generation/scanning system that allows the ATF NFA Division to forego the bulk of the manual data entry associated with processing NFA forms. It is this mundane process that takes up the majority of the assistant’s time processing applications – before it even reaches an examiner’s hands.
Besides being labor intensive, there is a high potential for data entry errors (as high as 50%), slowing the process even further. Not only that, but the NFA Division has constantly shifted resources to cover the current processing ‘rush-of-the-month’ (EForms popularity, 41P/41F panic, etc); the lack of focus makes human resource consistency a challenge.
All of this used to take up the majority of the time to get a form approved. Used to.
About a year ago, Silencer Shop CEO Dave Matheny approached the ATF about updating the NFA application process to include an automated data entry system. The goal was to use basic technology to speed up the transfer approval system currently in place. At the time, no one showed significant interest.
Leveraging industry relationships, Matheny contacted the CEO of Dead Air Armament, Eric Rogers, who was able to organize a high-level meeting with the ATF NFA Division leadership. Together, Matheny, Rogers and Ron Martinez, the CEO of GEMTECH, attended the meeting where Matheny demonstrated a prototype of the automated data entry system. Key aspects of the proposal focused on three simple, yet very important facts:
- The modernization would not require a rule or regulation change
- The updates would not affect the substance of the NFA process or systems
- The cost of the new system to the government is virtually insignificant
The NFA leadership, realizing the impact the new process would have on wait times, approved a pilot program allowing Silencer Shop to create a data entry system and bar code generator for applications. Silencer Shop coded the new systems and the two leading manufacturers advised and supported it at the ATF.
“We want to thank the people at the NFA Division and the ATF who were open to working with us to develop a more efficient data transfer system. Manufacturers, Dealer, and Customers will all benefit as NFA wait times come down, and stay down, with the application of this and several other new technology-based solutions.”
– Dave Matheny, CEO Silencer Shop
For eight months, these three silencer industry leaders, met with a very receptive group of ATF leadership, and hammered out the details for a system that is simple, free and available to anyone who is filing an NFA form, no matter which manufacturer, distributor or dealer is handling the transfer.
Enough of the background, let’s talk about the process.
How it works:
Buy a silencer, any silencer from anywhere (or any NFA item):
When it comes time for your local dealer to transfer your NFA item(s) to you or your legal entity, they head over to one of the three websites setup to generate barcode enabled NFA forms: available now at Silencer Shop and coming soon to Dead Air Armament, GEMTECH and silencer wholesalers. There are no costs or fees for either the consumer or the dealer.
After your dealer completes the Form 4, they print out all the copies with the barcode imprinted on the top (if you are buying through Silencer Shop, the bar code process occurs entirely behind the scenes):
Obviously, then you mail your forms to ATF Atlanta for payment and processing. Once they hit West Virginia, however, instead of waiting in stacks of boxes for an assistant to manually enter all of your information, your barcode is scanned and the form is all ready for the background check portion of the application phase.
“Working together as a team, the cooperation between industry and government has resulted in a streamlining of the NFA application process and dramatically reduced wait times for all of our customers.”
– Eric Rogers, CEO, Dead Air Armament
Here’s where the only caveat comes in – the background check for NFA forms usually takes three weeks for the FBI to complete. In a small amount of applicant submissions, the background check can take longer, depending on some unknown variables. (Don’t ask, I don’t know. And yes, I know we have an instant NICS system for Title I guns and, no, I don’t know why it can’t get used for NFA).
If you are lucky, your background check is done in about three weeks, your form is approved and everything, including your minty fresh stamp, is mailed back to your dealer so the transfer can proceed as planned. Again, the goal is ultra-fast approvals. It may take a little time for everyone involved to get used to the new data entry process, but everyone involved agrees that wait times will drop dramatically.
The way forward:
Boom, there it is. A simple system with basic technology has now upgraded the NFA application and approval process as well as reduced wait times. Besides Silencer Shop, who developed the bar code system and Dead Air and GEMTECH who harnessed their decades of experience and industry relations, much of the credit should be given to the ATF. It would have been easy enough for the NFA Division to politely decline outside industry assistance and maintain the status quo. On behalf of NFA aficionados everywhere, thank you BATFE for making this possible.
“We are excited that the public sector (ATF) and the private sector can work together to achieve a significant reduction in wait time for our customers”
– Ron Martinez, CEO, Gemtech
Want some more good news? Starting on July 11, 2017, all Form 4s from Silencer Shop were imprinted with the new barcode, meaning if you purchased a silencer in the last 30 days, chances are your forms have been “upgraded” and are in line for expedited processing as we speak.
SILENCER SHOP PROVIDES ENHANCEMENTS TO ATF NFA PROCESSING
Silencer Shop partners with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to expedite the Form 4 process.
Austin, Texas – Silencer Shop, through collaboration with Gemtech, and Dead Air Silencers, has partnered with the ATF in the development and implementation of a brand-new process that makes Form 4 submissions more streamlined and convenient.
With a recent surge in applications due to the 2016 implementation of Rule 41F, which requires the submission of fingerprints, photographs, and a background check prior to receiving any NFA item, the wait-time has spiked to nearly a year.
“After collaborative discussions between industry leaders and the ATF, we’ve devised a new barcode system that will benefit the ATF, industry members, and consumers, without requiring time-consuming process changes or system upgrades.” said Dave Matheny, Founder, and Owner of SilencerShop.com. “With this new system, the ATF will be using 2D barcode scanners that read forms submitted by Powered By Silencer Shop dealers – or any other dealers that choose to use the free Form 4 generator.”
The new solution consists of a form generator which encodes information in a 2D barcode on the ATF Copy of the generated forms. The generator will be free to any dealer or individual, and hosted on the Silencer Shop, Gemtech, and Dead Air Silencer websites. Powered By Silencer Shop dealers will automatically have the barcode added to any forms processed by Silencer Shop – and nearly 3,000 barcoded Form 4s have already been submitted as of today.
Using these forms, the data entry staff at the NFA Division can simply scan a barcoded form to enter data, error free, in seconds. This frees up Division resources to work on other tasks, and virtually eliminates a time-consuming and error-prone process.
“This solution will help reduce NFA wait times and will benefit both customers and industry members” adds Matheny. “We would like to extend our thanks to the ATF for working with industry members to make the NFA process more efficient.”
With the integration of barcode technology, and other changes, consumers could be looking at 30-60 day wait-times.
About Silencer Shop
Silencer Shop is a full-service suppressor distributor that carries a variety of silencers, accessories, and other types of firearm equipment.
Passionate about providing consumers with the simplest buying experience possible for suppressors, Silencer Shop works round the clock with regulatory bodies to make registration as streamlined as possible.
For more information, visit: SilencerShop.com
13729 Research Blvd STE 630
Austin, TX 78750
Everyone is hoping for the deregulation of silencers via legislation, but in the current political climate, bills like the HPA and SHUSH are unlikely to see enough widespread support to become law in the immediate future. And even if we are blessed with an NFA miracle and silencers are removed from the NFA, no one, not the government, industry or the consumer has lost anything due to the modernization of the application process.
Yes, the entire NFA is outdated and should be abolished, but the reality is that silencer, SBR, SBS, AOW and even machine gun owners are a minuscule part of the pro-firearms constituency. Until that changes, we are likely stuck with the laws currently on the books.
No one involved in this new process is making any promises, but if everything works as planned, sub two month approvals should be easily attainable. So, if wait times have prevented you from joining in the silencer party, your ticket has arrived.
[AUTHOR’S NOTE]: I’m planning a series of articles focused on the new submission process, wait times, additional background and future possibilities in the coming weeks.