ATF

Sample Block


Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms

27 CFR Parts 55, 72, 178 and 179

[T.D. ATF-396; Ref: T.D. ATF-363 and Notice No. 807; T.D. ATF-383 and 
Notice No. 833]
RIN 1512-AB35

 
Implementation of Public Law 103-322, the Violent Crime Control 
and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (94F-022P)

AGENCY: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Treasury.

ACTION: Final rule, Treasury decision.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: These final regulations implement the provisions of Public Law 
103-322, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. 
This Treasury decision adopts the regulations substantially as proposed 
in Notice No. 807, as amended by Notice No. 833.
    The temporary regulations published in the Federal Register on 
April 6, 1995

[[Page 12644]]

(T.D. ATF-363) and July 29, 1996 (T.D. ATF-383), are adopted as final 
upon the effective date of this final rule.

EFFECTIVE DATE: This rule is effective on May 15, 1998.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: James P. Ficaretta, Regulations 
Branch, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 650 Massachusetts 
Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20226 (202-927-8230).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    On September 13, 1994, Public Law 103-322 (108 Stat. 1796) was 
enacted, amending the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), as amended (18 
U.S.C. Chapter 44), and Title XI of the Organized Crime Control Act of 
1970, as amended (18 U.S.C. Chapter 40). The provisions of Pub. L. 103-
322, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 
(hereafter, ``the Act''), became effective upon the date of enactment.

Temporary Rule (T.D. ATF-363) and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

    On April 6, 1995, ATF published in the Federal Register a temporary 
rule implementing the provisions of the Act (T.D. ATF-363, 60 FR 
17446). The temporary regulations implemented the law by restricting 
the manufacture, transfer, and possession of certain semiautomatic 
assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices, with 
certain exceptions. Regulations were also prescribed with regard to 
reports of theft or loss of firearms from a licensee's inventory or 
collection, new requirements for Federal firearms licensing, responses 
by firearms licensees to requests for gun trace information, and 
possession of firearms by persons subject to restraining orders. Except 
as otherwise provided, the temporary regulations became effective upon 
the date of publication in the Federal Register.
    On April 6, 1995, the Bureau also published a notice of proposed 
rulemaking cross-referenced to the temporary regulations (Notice No. 
807, 60 FR 17494). The comment period for Notice No. 807 closed on July 
5, 1995.

Temporary Rule (T.D. ATF-383) and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

    ATF received 129 comments in response to Notice No. 807. Fifty-two 
commenters, representing 40 percent of the total comments received, 
objected to ATF's interpretation of the law as restricting the 
importation of large capacity ammunition feeding devices after the date 
of enactment regardless of the date of manufacture of such devices. 
They also contended that the marking requirements prescribed in the 
regulations pursuant to T.D. ATF-363 (Sec. 178.92(c)) only apply to 
large capacity ammunition feeding devices manufactured after the 
effective date of the statute. Similar objections and arguments were 
raised in litigation challenging ATF's interpretation of the law.
    After analyzing the comments received and in light of the above-
mentioned litigation, ATF re-examined the Act and determined that 
feeding devices with a capacity of more than 10 rounds manufactured on 
or before September 13, 1994, are not subject to the restrictions of 
the law. Consequently, on July 29, 1996, ATF published in the Federal 
Register another temporary rule reflecting this position (T.D. ATF-383, 
61 FR 39320). The temporary rule also provided guidance to importers on 
acceptable evidence that magazines sought to be imported were 
manufactured on or before September 13, 1994.
    On July 29, 1996, the Bureau also published a notice of proposed 
rulemaking cross-referenced to the temporary regulations (Notice No. 
833, 61 FR 39372). The comment period for Notice No. 833 closed on 
October 28, 1996.

Analysis of Comments--Notice No. 807

    ATF received 129 comments in response to Notice No. 807. Fifty-
seven comments, representing 44 percent of the comments received, 
expressed general support for the temporary regulations. However, these 
commenters requested that the final rule include a number of changes.
    One commenter recommended that the term ``pistol grip'' be defined 
so that it includes so-called thumbhole stocks. The term 
``semiautomatic assault weapon'' is defined in the Act as including 
semiautomatic rifles and semiautomatic shotguns which have 2 or more of 
the features specified in the law. One of the features specified is a 
``pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the 
weapon.'' The commenter stated that thumbhole stocks function in the 
same manner as pistol grips and, therefore, should be included within 
the definition of this term.
    ATF agrees with the commenter that replacing a separate pistol grip 
with a thumbhole stock does not remove the pistol grip as a feature. A 
semiautomatic rifle or semiautomatic shotgun with a thumbhole stock and 
one or more of the other features specified in the law would be a 
``semiautomatic assault weapon'' as defined. However, ATF does not 
believe it is necessary to provide a separate definition of ``pistol 
grip'' or any of the other features listed in the statute.
    Several commenters recommended that Federal firearms licensees be 
required to swear under penalties of perjury that semiautomatic assault 
weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices will be 
transferred only to lawful recipients. The regulations in 27 CFR 178.40 
and 178.40a provide that manufacturers and dealers may manufacture and 
deal in semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity ammunition 
feeding devices manufactured after September 13, 1994, upon obtaining 
evidence that the weapons and devices will only be disposed of to law 
enforcement agencies and law enforcement officers.
    ATF does not believe that imposing such a requirement on licensees 
is necessary. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Sec. 922(m), it is unlawful for any 
licensee to make a false entry in any required record. A violation of 
this section can result in revocation of the license or in criminal 
prosecution. ATF believes these sanctions are adequate to deter most 
licensees from falsifying documents. Accordingly, ATF is not adopting 
the changes recommended by the commenters.
    ATF also received comments concerning the wording of the export 
marking requirement for semiautomatic assault weapons and large 
capacity ammunition feeding devices. The commenters recommended that 
the wording of the present regulatory requirement, ``FOR EXPORT ONLY,'' 
be changed to read ``DOMESTIC SALE UNLAWFUL, FOR EXPORT ONLY.'' The 
commenters stated their belief that this language more adequately 
conveys the fact that such weapons and devices are highly restricted 
and are illegal for domestic sale.
    ATF believes that the wording of the current export marking 
requirement provides sufficient notice that these weapons and devices 
are not intended for domestic sale. Furthermore, to ATF's knowledge, 
the current marking requirement has not resulted in any confusion among 
the general public. Accordingly, the Bureau has determined that the 
proposed amendment is unwarranted and would impose an unnecessary 
burden on the industry.
    Several commenters stated that variances from the marking 
requirements imposed on semiautomatic assault weapons and large 
capacity ammunition feeding devices should not be allowed. Current 
regulations provide that the Director may authorize other means of

[[Page 12645]]

identifying assault weapons and feeding devices when such other 
identification is reasonable and will not hinder the effective 
administration of the regulations. The commenters contend that marking 
variances could be used by manufacturers to create confusion as to the 
legal status of post-ban weapons and feeding devices.
    ATF is not adopting the commenters' suggestion. The decision to 
allow marking variances for semiautomatic assault weapons and large 
capacity ammunition feeding devices is consistent with that for other 
firearms. In the case of such weapons and devices, ATF has authorized 
variances from the marking requirements only for law enforcement and 
military purposes where there is a demonstrated need for such a 
variance.
    One commenter states that the current regulations requiring that 
assault weapons be marked ``RESTRICTED LAW ENFORCEMENT/GOVERNMENT USE 
ONLY'' raises concerns in the case of weapons that are reconfigured so 
that they no longer meet the definition of ``semiautomatic assault 
weapon.'' The commenter raised the case of an assault weapon 
transferred to a law enforcement officer upon retirement, which is 
permissible under the law. If the retiree subsequently decides to 
remove features from the weapon so that it is no longer subject to the 
restrictions of the law, he may have difficulty selling it, due to the 
restrictive marking. To address this potential problem, the commenter 
recommends that ATF amend the regulations to require only that the date 
of manufacture be marked on the weapon.
    ATF maintains that the restrictive language required in the current 
regulations clearly provides notice to law enforcement officers and the 
general public that semiautomatic assault weapons may be lawfully 
possessed only by Government agencies and law enforcement personnel. 
ATF does not believe that placing the date of manufacture on the 
weapons provides this information. Accordingly, ATF is not adopting 
this comment.
    To address the commenter's concern about reconfiguration of an 
assault weapon, if the weapon has been modified so it no longer meets 
the definition of ``semiautomatic assault weapon,'' it is not subject 
to the restrictions of the law. However, ATF would caution that a 
dealer obtaining assault weapons by falsely representing that the 
weapons are for resale to law enforcement, but who actually intends to 
reconfigure the weapons so they no longer meet the definition of 
assault weapon, would possess the weapons in violation of 18 U.S.C. 
Sec. 922(v). The Federal firearms licenses of such dealers would also 
be subject to revocation.
    The same commenter concerned about reconfiguration also had 
recommendations concerning the documentation required for law 
enforcement officers to acquire assault weapons for official use. The 
regulations at 27 CFR 178.132 require licensees to obtain written 
statements, under penalty of perjury, from the purchasing officer and a 
supervisory officer, stating that the weapon is for use in performing 
official duties and is not being acquired for personal use or for 
purposes of transfer or resale. The commenter requests that ATF amend 
the regulations to permit officers to obtain semiautomatic assault 
weapons for purposes of familiarization, marksmanship, and training. 
The commenter also contends that the regulation appears to prevent the 
officer from reselling the weapon, even if reconfigured so that it no 
longer meets the definition of ``semiautomatic assault weapon.''
    It is unnecessary to amend section 178.132 to include 
familiarization, marksmanship, and training as valid purposes for law 
enforcement officers obtaining semiautomatic assault weapons. If these 
activities are part of a law enforcement officer's official duties and 
a supervisor is willing to submit a statement certifying to such 
duties, the weapon may be lawfully acquired for such purposes. ATF does 
not believe it is necessary to spell out every possible official use in 
the regulation.
    As for the comment concerning resale, neither the law nor the 
regulation prevents future resale of the weapon by the purchasing 
officer. The regulation merely requires the officer to state, under 
penalty of perjury, that the weapon is not being acquired for purposes 
of transfer or resale. The regulation merely requires that the officer 
acquire the weapon for official use and not for purposes of transfer or 
resale. The issue concerning reconfiguration is discussed above.
    Several clarifying amendments have been made to Sec. 178.132. The 
regulation is being amended to provide that the written statement 
prepared by the purchaser's supervisor must be on agency letterhead. 
The regulation is also being revised to provide that this section 
applies to the transfer of assault weapons and large capacity 
ammunition feeding devices to employees or contractors of nuclear 
facilities.

Analysis of Comments--Notice No. 833

    ATF received one comment in response to Notice No. 833. This 
commenter objected to ATF requiring an import permit for ammunition 
feeding devices manufactured on or before September 13, 1994, as 
specified in Sec. 178.119.
    In order to ensure compliance with the provisions of the law and to 
enforce the marking requirements of the statute, ATF has determined 
that it is necessary to require importers to obtain import permits for 
feeding devices manufactured on or before September 13, 1994. ATF 
maintains that this requirement is necessary in order to determine 
whether the devices are subject to the restrictions of the law. Since 
import permits for such devices are already required pursuant to the 
Arms Export Control Act, 22 U.S.C. Sec. 2778, and implementing 
regulations in 27 CFR Part 47, the burden imposed by this requirement 
is minimal. Accordingly, the Bureau is adopting the regulation as 
proposed in Notice No. 833.

Miscellaneous Amendments to Regulations

    Section 923(g)(7) of the GCA and its implementing regulation in 27 
CFR 178.25a require Federal firearms licensees to respond to requests 
for firearms trace information within 24 hours after receipt of the 
request. Personnel at the National Tracing Center have had problems 
with licensees providing the requested trace information on crime guns 
within the required 24-hour period. A question has arisen whether the 
licensee must provide the requested trace information within the 24-
hour period or whether licensees would comply with the requirement by 
simply acknowledging the request and providing the requested 
information at a later time. The statute and regulation require 
licensees to provide the requested trace information within the 24-hour 
period. To ``respond'' to a trace request within the meaning of the 
statute and regulation means to provide the information. Interpreting 
the statute otherwise gives the statute no meaning and defeats its 
purpose, to enable ATF to obtain trace information quickly by 
telephone. Accordingly, Sec. 178.25a is being amended to clarify that 
licensees must provide the requested trace information within the 24-
hour period. A technical amendment is also being made at the end of 
this section to include the control number assigned by the Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB).
    A technical amendment is also being made to the marking 
requirements in 27 CFR 178.92. Language has been added to 
Sec. 178.92(c)(1)(iii), relating to markings for large capacity 
ammunition

[[Page 12646]]

feeding devices, to make it clear that importers who import such 
devices for purposes of export shall mark them ``FOR EXPORT ONLY.''
    Finally, ATF is making a technical amendment to the definition of 
``firearm'' in 27 CFR 179.11 with respect to the sentence describing 
barrel length measurement. The amendment makes it clear that 
measurements do not apply to revolvers. It also clarifies that the 
method specified does not apply to revolving cylinder shotguns.

Executive Order 12866

    It has been determined that this final rule is not a significant 
regulatory action as defined in E.O. 12866, because the economic 
effects flow directly from the underlying statute and not from this 
final rule. Accordingly, this final rule is not subject to the analysis 
required by this Executive order.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The provisions of the Regulatory Flexibility Act relating to an 
initial and final regulatory flexibility analysis (5 U.S.C. 604) are 
not applicable to this final rule because the agency was not required 
to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking under 5 U.S.C. 553 or any 
other law.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    The collections of information contained in this final regulation 
have been reviewed and approved by the Office of Management and Budget 
in accordance with the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 
U.S.C. 3507(d)) under control numbers 1512-0017, 1512-0018, 1512-0019, 
1512-0526, and 1512-0387. Other collections of information contained in 
this final rule have been approved under control numbers: 1512-0522 and 
1512-0523 (Sec. 178.47); 1512-0524 (Sec. 178.39a); and 1512-0525 
(Sec. 178.52). An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is 
not required to respond to, a collection of information unless it 
displays a valid control number assigned by the Office of Management 
and Budget.
    The collections of information in this final regulation are in 27 
CFR 178.25a, 178.40(c), 178.40a(c), 178.119, 178.129(e), 178.132, and 
178.133. This information is required by ATF to ensure compliance with 
the provisions of Pub. L. 103-322 (108 Stat. 1796). The likely 
respondents and recordkeepers are individuals and businesses. The 
estimated average annual burden associated with the collections of 
information in this regulation is 6 minutes per respondent for control 
numbers 1512-0017, 1512-0018, and 1512-0019, and 2.52 hours per 
respondent or recordkeeper for control number 1512-0526.
    Comments concerning the accuracy of this burden estimate and 
suggestions for reducing this burden should be directed to the Chief, 
Document Services Branch, Room 3450, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and 
Firearms, 650 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20226, and to 
the Office of Management and Budget, Attention: Desk Officer for the 
Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Washington, DC 20503.

Disclosure

    Copies of the temporary rules, the notices of proposed rulemaking, 
all written comments, and this final rule will be available for public 
inspection during normal business hours at: ATF Public Reading Room, 
Room 6480, 650 Massachusetts Avenue, NW., Washington, DC.

Drafting Information

    The author of this document is James P. Ficaretta, Regulations 
Branch, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

List of Subjects

27 CFR Part 178

    Administrative practice and procedure, Arms and ammunition, 
Authority delegations, Customs duties and inspection, Exports, Imports, 
Military personnel, Penalties, Reporting requirements, Research, 
Seizures and forfeitures, and Transportation.

27 CFR Part 179

    Administrative practice and procedure, Arms and munitions, 
Authority delegations, Customs duties and inspection, Exports, Imports, 
Military personnel, Penalties, Reporting requirements, Research, 
Seizures and forfeitures, and Transportation.

Authority and Issuance

    Accordingly, 27 CFR Parts 55, 72, 178 and 179 are amended as 
follows:
    Paragraph 1. The temporary rule published April 6, 1995 (60 FR 
17446), amended July 29, 1996 (61 FR 39320) and further amended 
February 25, 1997 (62 FR 8374) is adopted as final.
    Paragraph 1a. The temporary rule published July 29, 1996 (61 FR 
39320) is adopted as final.

PART 178--COMMERCE IN FIREARMS AND AMMUNITION

    Paragraph 1b. The authority citation for 27 CFR Part 178 continues 
to read as follows:

    Authority: 5 U.S.C. 552(a); 18 U.S.C. 847, 921-930; 44 U.S.C. 
3504(h).

    Par. 2. Section 178.25a is amended by revising the second sentence 
and by adding a parenthetical text at the end of the section to read as 
follows:


Sec. 178.25a  Responses to requests for information.

    * * * The requested information shall be provided orally to the ATF 
officer within the 24-hour period. * * *

(Approved by the Office of Management and Budget under control 
number 1512-0387)


Sec. 178.92  [Amended]

    Par. 3. Section 178.92(c)(1)(iii) is amended by adding the words 
``or imported'' after the words ``in the case of devices 
manufactured''.

Par. 4. Section 178.132 is revised to read as follows:


Sec. 178.132  Dispositions of semiautomatic assault weapons and large 
capacity ammunition feeding devices to law enforcement officers for 
official use and to employees or contractors of nuclear facilities.

    Licensed manufacturers, licensed importers, and licensed dealers in 
semiautomatic assault weapons, as well as persons who manufacture, 
import, or deal in large capacity ammunition feeding devices, may 
transfer such weapons and devices manufactured after September 13, 
1994, to law enforcement officers and to employees or contractors of 
nuclear facilities with the following documentation:
    (a) Law enforcement officers. (1) A written statement from the 
purchasing officer, under penalty of perjury, stating that the weapon 
or device is being purchased for use in performing official duties and 
that the weapon or device is not being acquired for personal use or for 
purposes of transfer or resale; and
    (2) A written statement from a supervisor of the purchasing 
officer, on agency letterhead, under penalty of perjury, stating that 
the purchasing officer is acquiring the weapon or device for use in 
official duties, that the firearm is suitable for use in performing 
official duties, and that the weapon or device is not being acquired 
for personal use or for purposes of transfer or resale.
    (b) Employees or contractors of nuclear facilities. (1) Evidence 
that the employee is employed by a nuclear facility licensed pursuant 
to 42 U.S.C. 2133 or evidence that the contractor has a valid contract 
with such a facility.
    (2) A written statement from the purchasing employee or contractor 
under penalty of perjury, stating that the weapon or device is being 
purchased for one of the purposes authorized in

[[Page 12647]]

Sec. Sec. 178.40(b)(7) and 178.40a(b)(3), i.e., on-site physical 
protection, on-site or off-site training, or off-site transportation of 
nuclear materials.
    (3) A written statement from a supervisor of the purchasing 
employee or contractor, on agency or company letterhead, under penalty 
of perjury, stating that the purchasing employee or contractor is 
acquiring the weapon or device for use in official duties, and that the 
weapon or device is not being acquired for personal use or for purposes 
of transfer or resale.

(Approved by the Office of Management and Budget under control 
number 1512-0526)

PART 179--MACHINE GUNS, DESTRUCTIVE DEVICES, AND CERTAIN OTHER 
FIREARMS

    Par. 5.  authority citation for 27 CFR Part 179 continues to read 
as follows:

    Authority: 26 U.S.C. 7805.

    Par. 6. Section 179.11 is amended by revising the third sentence in 
the definition of ``Firearm'' to read as follows:


Sec. 179.11  Meaning of terms.

* * * * *
    Firearm. * * * For purposes of this definition, the length of the 
barrel having an integral chamber(s) on a shotgun or rifle shall be 
determined by measuring the distance between the muzzle and the face of 
the bolt, breech, or breech block when closed and when the shotgun or 
rifle is cocked. * * *
* * * * *
    Signed: July 25, 1997.
John W. Magaw,
Director.

    Approved: August 11, 1997.
John P. Simpson,
Deputy Assistant Secretary (Regulatory, Tariff and Trade Enforcement)

    Editorial note: This document was received at the Office of the 
Federal Register on March 10, 1998.
[FR Doc. 98-6591 Filed 3-13-98; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4810-31-P