Gun makers baffled by ATF criteria

by
January 3, 2012

By Chuck Neubauer-The Washington Times

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is in charge of determining whether a gun model is legal, but the agency won’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 “letter rulings,” results in various findingsabout what makes a weapon. Program critics, including the ATF’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 agency’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.

‘Definitely contradictory’

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 “definitely contradictory and inconsistent,” but are necessary because the regulations being applied are ill-defined.

“It is hard to tell what ATF wants you to do without submitting your product and asking for a letter ruling,” he said. “You can’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?”

Mr. Sanders also serves as one of 75 members of the National Rifle Association’s board of directors.

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jan/2/gun-makers-baffled-by-atf-criteria/

1 Comment - what are your thoughts?

  • Rattlerjake says:

    Just another instance of a government agency run-a-muck. How can an agency be allowed to operate like this? It is simply another way for the government to put control on guns.

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