ATF

Sample Block


Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms

27 CFR Part 178

[T.D. ATF-402; Ref: Notice No. 855]
RIN 1512-AB68

 
Posting of Signs and Written Notification to Purchasers of 
Handguns

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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

SUMMARY: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is amending 
the firearms regulations to require that signs be posted on the 
premises of Federal firearms licensees and that written notification be 
issued with each handgun sold advising of the provisions of the Youth 
Handgun Safety Act.

EFFECTIVE DATE: September 11, 1998.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marsha D. Baker, Regulations Division, 
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Washington, DC 20226 (202-927-
8210).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Youth Handgun Safety Act (YHSA), 18 U.S.C. 922(x), generally 
makes it unlawful for a person to transfer a handgun to anyone under 18 
years of age or for anyone under 18 years of age to knowingly possess a 
handgun. Certain exceptions are set forth in the statute.
    In enacting the YHSA in 1994, Congress found that criminal misuse 
of firearms often starts with the easy availability of guns to juvenile 
gang members. In addition, Congress found that individual States and 
localities may find it difficult to control this problem by themselves. 
Therefore, Congress found it necessary and appropriate to assist the 
States in controlling violent crime by stopping the commerce in 
handguns with juveniles nationwide and allowing the possession of 
handguns by juveniles only when handguns are possessed and used under 
certain limited circumstances.
    In a memorandum to the Secretary of the Treasury dated June 11, 
1997, the President stated that a major problem in our nation is the 
ease with which young people gain illegal access to guns. The President 
observed that firearms are now responsible for 12 percent of fatalities 
among American children and teenagers.
    The President's memorandum directed the Secretary of the Treasury 
to propose regulations that would require the posting of signs and 
issuance of written notices warning handgun purchasers of the 
provisions of the YHSA.

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

    In response to the concerns raised by the President's memorandum, 
ATF published Notice No. 855 in the Federal Register (62 FR 45364) on 
August 27, 1997. To enforce the provisions of the YHSA and to ensure 
that handgun purchasers are familiar with its provisions, the Notice of 
Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposed regulations requiring that signs be 
posted on the premises of Federal firearms licensees and that written 
notification be issued by licensees to nonlicensed handgun purchasers 
warning as follows:

    (1) Federal law prohibits, except in certain limited 
circumstances, anyone under 18 years of age from knowingly 
possessing a handgun, or any person from transferring a handgun to a 
person under 18;
    (2) A violation of the prohibition against transferring a 
handgun to a person under the age of 18 is, under certain 
circumstances, punishable by up to 10 years in prison;
    (3) Handguns are a leading contributor to juvenile violence and 
fatalities; and
    (4) Safely storing and locking handguns away from children can 
help ensure compliance with Federal law.

    The proposed rule stipulated that signs provided by ATF must be 
posted by licensed importers, manufacturers and dealers on their 
licensed premises where prospective handgun purchasers can readily see 
them. In addition, the written notification to be issued to each 
handgun purchaser must be made available either by providing the 
purchaser with an ATF Publication or some other type of written 
notification that contains the same language, e.g., a manufacturer's or 
importer's instruction manual or brochure provided to the handgun 
purchaser.

Analysis of Comments

    ATF received sixty-two (62) comments during the comment period in 
response to Notice No. 855. These comments were received from fifty-
three (53) members of the public, one (1) Member of Congress, four (4) 
Federal firearms licensees (FFLs), and four (4) firearms industry 
organizations. Five (5) of the respondents were in agreement with the 
proposed regulations. Fifty-seven (57) respondents opposed certain 
provisions of the proposed regulations.

Comments in Support of the Proposed Rule

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) commented in favor of the 
proposed regulations. The AAP stated that ``Firearms play a major role 
in childhood morbidity and mortality in the United States.'' They went 
on to comment that ``the surest way to reduce the effects of firearm-
trauma on children is to remove handguns from the environments in which 
children live and play.'' The Academy also supported the inclusion of 
curios and relics in the proposed rule as well as the notification at 
the time that weapons are returned to their owners by an FFL (for 
example, when a firearm is redeemed from pawn).
    Handgun Control Inc. (HCI) also commented in support of the 
proposed regulations. They agreed that ATF had the authority to issue 
regulations necessary to implement the Gun Control Act (GCA). They 
stated that ``notification to handgun buyers at the point of purchase 
of the need to safely secure handguns away from children is certainly 
necessary to implement the provisions of the statute.''
    HCI suggested that the written notice provided to the purchasers of 
handguns not be included as part of a larger Federal form, but should 
instead be separately contained in one publication. In response to this 
comment, it should be noted that the NPRM did not specify the 
publication number of the proposed required written notice since one 
had not yet been assigned. However, the final rule clarifies that the 
written notice will appear on an ATF publication (ATF I 5300.2) that is 
separate from any existing ATF form.
    Seven (7) additional respondents agreed with the general purpose of 
the proposed regulations; to reduce the ease with which juveniles have 
access to handguns which are then used to commit crimes or which result 
in youth fatalities. However, they were opposed to the wording of the 
provisions outlined in the proposed rule. Rephrasing of the provisional 
language and certain deletions were suggested.
    For example, Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc., a manufacturer of 
firearms, commented that ``while we have no objection to reminding 
dealers of their serious responsibilities regarding sales of firearms 
to unauthorized persons, the proposed language goes far beyond that.'' 
Accordingly, they suggested several revisions of the proposed 
regulations. The suggested revisions to the language of the notice and 
sign will be discussed in detail below.

[[Page 37741]]

Comments in Opposition to the Proposed Rule

    Several commenters challenged ATF's authority under the GCA to 
require any sort of warning or notification to purchasers of handguns 
regarding the requirements of the YHSA. A comment from Rep. John 
Dingell urged ATF to withdraw the proposed rule for several reasons, 
including his view that the statutory basis for ATF's action is 
``uncertain.'' He noted that ATF has not required notices or signs to 
warn purchasers about other GCA provisions and the statutory 
prohibitions on the possession of firearms by certain categories of 
people, including felons.
    ATF does not agree that requiring licensees to inform prospective 
handgun purchasers about the requirements of the law goes beyond its 
authority to enforce the GCA. Furthermore, this type of requirement is 
not unprecedented. While ATF has not required licensees to post signs 
or hand out notices regarding other GCA provisions, many of these 
provisions are made known to purchasers through other means. For 
example, licensees are required to have unlicensed purchasers complete 
an ATF Form 4473, Firearms Transaction Record. On this form, purchasers 
certify that they do not fall within one of the categories of persons 
prohibited from purchasing a firearm. The Form 4473 contains a detailed 
explanation of various GCA provisions.
    ATF believes that it is important to advise handgun purchasers of 
the still relatively new requirements of the YHSA to ensure that adult 
purchasers who are purchasing a handgun from a licensee are made aware 
that it is unlawful to transfer handguns to juveniles. This statutory 
provision is not addressed on the Form 4473. ATF believes that the 
final rule will accomplish the goal of preventing inadvertent 
violations of the law without unduly burdening licensees or handgun 
purchasers. Furthermore, ATF's statutory authority to issue regulations 
to implement the GCA is clear. See 18 U.S.C. 926(a).

Revisions Made in Response to Comments

    After carefully considering the comments received following the 
publication of the NPRM, ATF has decided that certain revisions should 
be made to the written notification and sign required by the 
regulations. These modifications are discussed in more detail below.
    In reference to the first paragraph of the proposed notice and 
sign, forty-seven (47) commenters suggested that the language was vague 
and that the sign Federal firearms licensees would be required to post, 
as well as the written notification, should accurately explain the 
exceptions included in the YHSA that would allow the lawful transfer 
to, or possession by, an individual under the age of 18 years. For 
example, the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute 
(SAAMI) suggested that this item should ``include a thorough, accurate 
and objective explanation of these circumstances and/or include the 
language of the statute itself.'' The National Rifle Association (NRA) 
commented that ``[a]t the very least, the entire text of the law should 
be given, especially outlining the full text of these exceptions * * 
*''
    ATF recognizes that there are exceptions listed in the YHSA that 
allow persons under 18 years of age to receive and possess a handgun, 
and the proposed language referred to these limited circumstances. 
However, ATF believes that a detailed discussion of the exceptions 
would have been too long to include in the notice and sign. 
Nonetheless, ATF agrees with the respondents who suggested that the 
proposed language of the notice and sign might raise questions in the 
minds of purchasers as to when it was lawful for a juvenile to possess 
a handgun.
    Accordingly, ATF is adopting the suggestion of those commenters who 
advocated that the written notification set forth the entire language 
of the statute. The final rule provides that the required written 
notification (ATF I 5300.2) will include the complete language of the 
statutory provision appearing at 18 U.S.C. section 922(x), including 
the exceptions. Owing to the length of this statutory language, the 
sign will merely refer the purchaser to the ATF I 5300.2 for the 
complete provisions of the law. The sign will also advise the public 
that a copy of this publication may be obtained from the licensee 
posting the sign or from the ATF Distribution Center.
    In reference to the second provision of the notice and sign, forty-
three (43) of the respondents again stated that the language was vague 
and that the sign and written notification should more specifically set 
forth the exceptions included in the YHSA that would allow the lawful 
possession of a handgun by a juvenile in certain limited circumstances. 
In addition, four (4) respondents stated that the reference to the 
maximum penalty provided by law for a violation of section 922(x) was 
misleading, since the maximum penalty only applied in limited 
circumstances.
    As previously noted, the final rule provides that the written 
notification will contain the entire language of section 922(x), so 
that interested handgun purchasers may read for themselves the 
exceptions outlined in the statute. ATF has also included in the 
written notification the full text of the penalty provision set forth 
in 18 U.S.C. 924(a)(6) for violations of section 922(x). Again, the 
sign will refer the purchaser to the complete language of the law as 
outlined in the written notification. We believe that this will ensure 
that purchasers of handguns receive complete and accurate information 
as to the statutory penalties imposed on violations of section 922(x).
    The NRA noted that the proposed regulations do not mention the 
statutory restrictions on the transfer to juveniles and use by 
juveniles of ammunition that is suitable only in a handgun. As noted 
previously, the entire provisions of the law will be set forth in the 
written notification. This includes the statutory provisions regarding 
handgun ammunition.
    In reference to the third provision of the proposed regulations, 
seventeen (17) respondents opposed the inclusion of the language that 
``handguns are a leading contributor to juvenile violence and 
fatalities.'' Another fifteen (15) stated that this provision should be 
deleted entirely. Many commenters suggested that the entire statement 
offered value judgments, and argued that it was the perpetrators of the 
shooting, not the handguns used in the shooting, that contributed to 
juvenile violence and fatalities.
    The proposed language was not intended to convey the message that 
handguns alone are responsible for juvenile violence. In fact the 
language noted that handguns were a ``contributor'' to juvenile 
violence. However, ATF agrees with the commenters who suggested that 
this provision could be clarified. For example, Sturm, Ruger & Company 
suggested that the language be modified to refer to the misuse of 
illegally possessed firearms. ATF has partially adopted this comment. 
As set forth in the final rule, this provision now states that ``The 
misuse of handguns is a leading contributor to juvenile violence and 
fatalities.''
    In reference to the fourth and final provision of the proposed 
statement, fifteen (15) of the respondents believed that it was 
unnecessary to have safety warning notices for firearms. Another twelve 
(12) stated that this provision should be deleted entirely.
    Many of the commenters noted that there is no Federal law mandating 
a specific type of storage or locking requirement for handguns. For 
example,

[[Page 37742]]

the NRA commented that ``the proposed warning concerning the safe 
storage and locking of handguns is not only superfluous, but also 
implies that there is a Federal law requiring these safety measures.''
    However, some comments supported the inclusion of a generic 
statement encouraging the safe storing and securing of firearms in 
order to prevent accidents. For example, SAAMI stated that they would 
support the ``[i]nclusion of a statement that safely storing and 
securing firearms can prevent accidents.'' On the other hand, HCI 
suggested that the notice be revised to more explicitly state what is 
meant by ``safely storing and locking handguns away from children.''
    ATF does not agree that the original proposed language implied that 
there was a Federal law requiring that handguns be stored or locked in 
a particular fashion. However, in response to the comments received on 
this issue, the final rule modifies the language of this provision to 
state that ``Safely storing and securing firearms away from children 
will help prevent the unlawful possession of handguns by juveniles, 
stop accidents, and save lives.'' This statement encourages handgun 
owners to ensure compliance with the law as well as to promote general 
gun safety.
    Finally, the order of the four provisions has been rearranged for 
purposes of clarity. The revised language of the sign and notice is 
reflected in the regulations portion of this Treasury Decision.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    It is hereby certified under the provisions of Section 3 of the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 605(b), that this final rule will 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The notices and signs that are required in this document will 
be provided free of charge by the Federal Government to Federal 
firearms licensees. Licensees may choose to provide the required 
written notice in another format; however, they always have the option 
of using the notices provided by ATF. Moreover, the new requirements 
relating to the posting of signs and the distribution of notices will 
place only a minimal burden on firearms licensees. Accordingly, a 
regulatory flexibility analysis is not required.

Executive Order 12866

    It has been determined that this regulation is not a significant 
regulatory action as defined by Executive Order 12866. Accordingly, 
this regulation is not subject to the analysis required by this 
Executive Order.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    The provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, 44 U.S.C. 
chapter 35, and its implementing regulations, 5 CFR part 1320, do not 
apply to this final rule because no new reporting or recordkeeping 
requirements are imposed.

List of Subjects in 27 CFR Part 178

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

Authority and Issuance

PART 178--[AMENDED]

    Part 178--Commerce in Firearms and Ammunition is amended as 
follows:
    Paragraph 1. 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 178.103 is added to Subpart F to read as follows:


Sec. 178.103  Posting of signs and written notification to purchasers 
of handguns.

    (a) Each licensed importer, manufacturer, dealer, or collector who 
delivers a handgun to a nonlicensee shall provide such nonlicensee with 
written notification as described in paragraph (b) of this section.
    (b) The written notification (ATF I 5300.2) required by paragraph 
(a) of this section shall state as follows:

    (1) The misuse of handguns is a leading contributor to juvenile 
violence and fatalities.
    (2) Safely storing and securing firearms away from children will 
help prevent the unlawful possession of handguns by juveniles, stop 
accidents, and save lives.
    (3) Federal law prohibits, except in certain limited 
circumstances, anyone under 18 years of age from knowingly 
possessing a handgun, or any person from transferring a handgun to a 
person under 18.
    (4) A knowing violation of the prohibition against selling, 
delivering, or otherwise transferring a handgun to a person under 
the age of 18 is, under certain circumstances, punishable by up to 
10 years in prison.

FEDERAL LAW

    The Gun Control Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, provides in 
pertinent part as follows:

18 U.S.C. 922(x)

    (x)(1) It shall be unlawful for a person to sell, deliver, or 
otherwise transfer to a person who the transferor knows or has 
reasonable cause to believe is a juvenile--
    (A) a handgun; or
    (B) ammunition that is suitable for use only in a handgun.
    (2) It shall be unlawful for any person who is a juvenile to 
knowingly possess--
    (A) a handgun; or
    (B) ammunition that is suitable for use only in a handgun.
    (3) This subsection does not apply to--
    (A) a temporary transfer of a handgun or ammunition to a 
juvenile or to the possession or use of a handgun or ammunition by a 
juvenile if the handgun and ammunition are possessed and used by the 
juvenile--
    (i) in the course of employment, in the course of ranching or 
farming related to activities at the residence of the juvenile (or 
on property used for ranching or farming at which the juvenile, with 
the permission of the property owner or lessee, is performing 
activities related to the operation of the farm or ranch), target 
practice, hunting, or a course of instruction in the safe and lawful 
use of a handgun;
    (ii) with the prior written consent of the juvenile's parent or 
guardian who is not prohibited by Federal, State, or local law from 
possessing a firearm, except--
    (I) during transportation by the juvenile of an unloaded handgun 
in a locked container directly from the place of transfer to a place 
at which an activity described in clause (i) is to take place and 
transportation by the juvenile of that handgun, unloaded and in a 
locked container, directly from the place at which such an activity 
took place to the transferor; or
    (II) with respect to ranching or farming activities as described 
in clause (i) a juvenile may possess and use a handgun or ammunition 
with the prior written approval of the juvenile's parent or legal 
guardian and at the direction of an adult who is not prohibited by 
Federal, State, or local law from possessing a firearm;
    (iii) the juvenile has the prior written consent in the 
juvenile's possession at all times when a handgun is in the 
possession of the juvenile; and
    (iv) in accordance with State and local law;
    (B) a juvenile who is a member of the Armed Forces of the United 
States or the National Guard who possesses or is armed with a 
handgun in the line of duty;
    (C) a transfer by inheritance of title (but not possession) of a 
handgun or ammunition to a juvenile; or
    (D) the possession of a handgun or ammunition by a juvenile 
taken in defense of the juvenile or other persons against an 
intruder into the residence of the juvenile or a residence in which 
the juvenile is an invited guest.
    (4) A handgun or ammunition, the possession of which is 
transferred to a juvenile in circumstances in which the transferor 
is not in violation of this subsection shall not be subject to 
permanent confiscation by the Government if its possession by the 
juvenile subsequently becomes unlawful because of the conduct of the 
juvenile, but shall be returned to the lawful owner when such 
handgun or ammunition is no longer required by the

[[Page 37743]]

Government for the purposes of investigation or prosecution.
    (5) For purposes of this subsection, the term ``juvenile'' means 
a person who is less than 18 years of age.
    (6)(A) In a prosecution of a violation of this subsection, the 
court shall require the presence of a juvenile defendant's parent or 
legal guardian at all proceedings.
    (B) The court may use the contempt power to enforce subparagraph 
(A).
    (C) The court may excuse attendance of a parent or legal 
guardian of a juvenile defendant at a proceeding in a prosecution of 
a violation of this subsection for good cause shown.

18 U.S.C. 924(a)(6)

    (6)(A)(i) A juvenile who violates section 922(x) shall be fined 
under this title, imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both, except 
that a juvenile described in clause (ii) shall be sentenced to 
probation on appropriate conditions and shall not be incarcerated 
unless the juvenile fails to comply with a condition of probation.
    (ii) A juvenile is described in this clause if--
    (I) the offense of which the juvenile is charged is possession 
of a handgun or ammunition in violation of section 922(x)(2); and
    (II) the juvenile has not been convicted in any court of an 
offense (including an offense under section 922(x) or a similar 
State law, but not including any other offense consisting of conduct 
that if engaged in by an adult would not constitute an offense) or 
adjudicated as a juvenile delinquent for conduct that if engaged in 
by an adult would constitute an offense.
    (B) A person other than a juvenile who knowingly violates 
section 922(x)--
    (i) shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 1 
year, or both; and
    (ii) if the person sold, delivered, or otherwise transferred a 
handgun or ammunition to a juvenile knowing or having reasonable 
cause to know that the juvenile intended to carry or otherwise 
possess or discharge or otherwise use the handgun or ammunition in 
the commission of a crime of violence, shall be fined under this 
title, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.

    (c) This written notification shall be delivered to the nonlicensee 
on ATF I 5300.2, or in the alternative, the same written notification 
may be delivered to the nonlicensee on another type of written 
notification, such as a manufacturer's or importer's brochure 
accompanying the handgun; a manufacturer's or importer's operational 
manual accompanying the handgun; or a sales receipt or invoice applied 
to the handgun package or container delivered to a nonlicensee. Any 
written notification delivered to a nonlicensee other than on ATF I 
5300.2 shall include the language set forth in paragraph (b) of this 
section in its entirety. Any written notification other than ATF I 
5300.2 shall be legible, clear, and conspicuous, and the required 
language shall appear in type size no smaller than 10-point type.
    (d) Except as provided in paragraph (f) of this section, each 
licensed importer, manufacturer, or dealer who delivers a handgun to a 
nonlicensee shall display at its licensed premises (including temporary 
business locations at gun shows) a sign as described in paragraph (e) 
of this section. The sign shall be displayed where customers can 
readily see it. Licensed importers, manufacturers, and dealers will be 
provided with such signs by ATF. Replacement signs may be requested 
from the ATF Distribution Center.
    (e) The sign (ATF I 5300.1) required by paragraph (d) of this 
section shall state as follows:

    (1) The misuse of handguns is a leading contributor to juvenile 
violence and fatalities.
    (2) Safely storing and securing firearms away from children will 
help prevent the unlawful possession of handguns by juveniles, stop 
accidents, and save lives.
    (3) Federal law prohibits, except in certain limited 
circumstances, anyone under 18 years of age from knowingly 
possessing a handgun, or any person from transferring a handgun to a 
person under 18.
    (4) A knowing violation of the prohibition against selling, 
delivering, or otherwise transferring a handgun to a person under 
the age of 18 is, under certain circumstances, punishable by up to 
10 years in prison.

    Note: ATF I 5300.2 provides the complete language of the 
statutory prohibitions and exceptions provided in 18 U.S.C. 922(x) 
and the penalty provisions of 18 U.S.C. 924(a)(6). The Federal 
firearms licensee posting this sign will provide you with a copy of 
this publication upon request. Requests for additional copies of ATF 
I 5300.2 should be mailed to the ATF Distribution Center, P.O. Box 
5950, Springfield, Virginia 22150-5950.

    (f) The sign required by paragraph (d) of this section need not be 
posted on the premises of any licensed importer, manufacturer, or 
dealer whose only dispositions of handguns to nonlicensees are to 
nonlicensees who do not appear at the licensed premises and the 
dispositions otherwise comply with the provisions of this part.

    Signed: May 28, 1998.
John W. Magaw,
Director.

    Approved: June 6, 1998.
John P. Simpson,
Deputy Assistant Secretary (Regulatory, Tariff and Trade Enforcement).
[FR Doc. 98-18546 Filed 7-10-98; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4810-31-P