Continued Review of ATF White Paper by Ronald Turk

This post is the second part of a two part series reviewing Mr. Ronald Turk’s ATF White Paper. To learn about the first 7 subjects of the White paper see the previous review.

8. Silencers

Silencers are regulated under the complicated NFA, and all sells must be pre-approved by the ATF. This process, due to the volume in silencer sells, has become quite lengthy. Turk acknowledges that the eight plus month weight time is a problem that the ATF cannot fix without reducing the volume of silencer sells being processed. This he views as an impossible goal because silencers are now becoming popular. As an alternative, Turk offers support for the Hearing Protection Act and suggests that Congress should remove silencers from the purview of the NFA.

As an accompanying act, Turk encourages to revise the definition of silencer to exclude mere component parts. This would make repairs of silencers and shipping replacement parts much easier.

All in all, this is a positive development for the Hearing Protection act, however the odds for this bill in the Senate remain low.

9. Interstate Sale of Firearms at Gun Shows.

Current regulations prevent FFLs from conducting business out of the state in which they are licensed. This effectively prevents dealers in one state from traveling to a gun show in another state. With many large cities barely outside of SC borders (Augusta, Charlotte, and Savannah to name a few), this prohibition affects many businesses in our state.

Turk acknowledges this situation, and proposes a regulation change that allows licensees to attend out of state gun shows as long as they comply with state law. If done, sells will still occur at a licensed dealer, and buyers will still undergo background checks.

Such a change should be healthy for competition and will bring a new dynamic to gun shows. But It will open up our local businesses to competition from out of state companies, which will come with it’s own headaches.

10. Destructive Devices.

Destructive devices generally fall into two categories. Reusable equipment, such as guns larger than a half inch in diameter, and single use explosives. Current requirements on marking Destructive Devices are not very practical for single use explosives, and the ATF commonly issues variances for these marking requirements.

Due to the limited size of this market, and with such explosives also being controlled under the Safe Explosives Act, Turk believes there is room to re-evaluate how these items are marked. He proposes continuing conversations with the industry to determine more efficient ways to mark these items.

11. Demand Letter, Guns found in Crime.

If a FFL receives more than 9 trace requests for guns used in crime, and the time from the gun being sold to use is less than 3 years, the ATF requires the FFL to submit a letter the next year documenting all of the used firearms purchased by the FFL. Earlier requirements were more than 24 trace requests.

Turk recognizes that more than 9 trace requests is over inclusive and creating a regulatory burden excessive for the perceived safety benefit. The ATF is in the process of re-evaluating the number of requests to use as a triggering mechanism, and Turk encourages increasing that number to somewhere in the vicinity of 15.

This change will only affect industry, and anything that relieves regulatory burden should be appreciated. Unfortunately, this change will be reversible under future administrations.

12. Demand Letter, Border States.

FFLs in several southwest border states are required to submit information on any purchaser who purchases more than one semi-automatic firearm with a detachable magazine. This controversial program has been criticized by the NRA, but is supported as a means to fight firearm smuggling. There has been a push to eliminate this demand letter with much focus on the fact that no statute justifies the ATF’s stance.

Turk acknowledges the push to eliminate the letter requirement, but defends it as beneficial to the “ATF’s criminal enforcement mission.” His suggestion is only one of further discussion. Here the administration will be forced to choose between continuing a controversial, and not statutorily grounded, program, or eliminating it as overreaching by the former Executive branch. Turk’s stance indicates the ATF will not be very supportive of eliminating this demand letter.

13. FFL Record Retention Time.

FFLs must retain 4473s and other records for 20 years. The ATF was in the process of expanding the time to indefinite and requiring FFLs to retain firearm records forever. However, this proposed rule should be abandoned according to the new President’s wishes and directives.

Turk observes that the number of traces failed on a yearly basis due to records destroyed for age is less than 0.5% of all records performed. With such a minuscule impact, Turk proposes abandoning the proposed rule. To support his suggestion, he notes that the firearm industry, the persons burden with the regulation, are opposed to the change.

Leaving the law as-is is a stable move that will not upset current expectations and practices.

14. Permissive Use of NICS on Employees.

NICS is the background check system that every FFL uses on every firearm purchaser. However, FFLs cannot use the system for any other background checks. Turk proposes allowing a very limited exception for FFLs to use NICS to perform a background check on potential employees. Such use would make a convenient and official system available to FFL employers to ensure new employees are not prohibited persons. Turk emphasizes the use of the system would be voluntary only.

This is another solid, but minor, proposal.

15. ATF Confirmed Director.

As noted earlier, the ATF has had only one confirmed director since 2003. Turk observes this and laments the lack of a leader for the agency. He emphasizes that a confirmed leader is necessary to “maximize the agency’s potential.”

Some say Turk is vying for this job. Others believe his statement regarding the need is just a fact or shows he doesn’t want the job. Either way, it is true that the ATF is dysfunctional and not able to move forward without a confirmed leader. However, a dysfunctional ATF was unable to implement President Obama’s anti-gun goals, and a weakened, leaderless ATF is not necessarily a negative for those who champion gun rights.

16. Regulations to Remove or Amend.

Turk ends by listing 26 regulations that need to be removed or amended from the Code of Federal Regulations. Most of these sections relate to the now expired Assault Weapons Ban. A move to clean the expired parts out of the Code of Federal Regulations would be an admission that the Assault Weapons Ban is not coming back anytime soon. This would be a positive development, and any reduction of regulations should be welcomed by the new administration.


There are many good proposals within the White Paper. There are many more minor changes that will help industry without affecting the average firearm owner. However, a few of the proposed changes can be seen as implementing failed Obama policies by trying to remove the “sting” against gun owners. Ultimately those changes will prove problematic to gun owners.

Whether or not any of these suggestions will become law, or even just the official stance of the ATF, remains to be seen.