By Chuck Neubauer-The Washington Times
TheÂ Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and ExplosivesÂ is in charge of determining whether a gun model is legal, but the agency wonâ€™t say much about its criteria.
Despite overseeing an industry that includes machine guns and other deadly weapons, ATF regulations for the manufacture of weapons are often unclear, leading to reliance on a secretive system by which firearms manufacturers cansubmit proposed weapons for testing and find out one at a time whether they comply with the law, critics say.
The ATF recommends that manufacturers voluntarily submit weapons for case-by-case determination. But those judgments are private and, it turns out, sometimescontradictory. Critics say nearly identical prototypes can be approved for one manufacturer but denied for another.
That process, known as â€œletter rulings,â€ results in various findingsabout what makes a weapon. Program critics, including the ATFâ€™s former assistant director of criminal investigations, said one determination contended that a shoestring was a machine gun.
The letters are sent only to the person submitting the weapon, making it hardfor othergun manufacturers, designers and dealers looking for guidanceto make judgments about the agencyâ€™sevolving interpretations of the federal code. That lack of publication also means that no one knows when the agency issues rulings at odds with similar cases.
Robert E. Sanders, an ATF official for 24 years who is now a North Carolina lawyer specializing in firearms matters, said letter rulings are often â€œdefinitely contradictory and inconsistent,â€ but are necessary because the regulations being applied are ill-defined.
â€œIt is hard to tell what ATF wants you to do without submitting your product and asking for a letter ruling,â€ he said. â€œYou canâ€™t tell what the agency has said in the past to others, because those letter rulings are generally secret. How could somebody know how to comply with the law?â€
To read more, visit:Â http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jan/2/gun-makers-baffled-by-atf-criteria/
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