ATF

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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives


26 U.S.C. 5812, 5841, 5844, 5861, 5872

27 CFR 479.11, 479.26, 479.105, 479.111, 479.112, 479.114 – 479.119: IMPORTATION OF FIREARMS SUBJECT TO THE NATIONAL FIREARMS ACT.

18 U.S.C. 921(a)(3), 922(l), 922(o), 923(e), 924(d), 925(d)(3)

27 CFR 478.11, 478.22, 478.111 – 478.113: IMPORTATION OF MACHINEGUNS, DESTRUCTIVE DEVICES, SHORT-BARREL SHOTGUNS, SHORT-BARREL RIFLES, FIREARMS SILENCERS, AND OTHER FIREARMS SUBJECT TO THE NATIONAL FIREARMS ACT

22 U.S.C. 2778

27 CFR 447.11, 447.21: TEMPORARY IMPORTATION OF DEFENSE ARTICLES

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has approved an alternate method or procedure for importers to use when temporarily importing firearms subject to the National Firearms Act, the Gun Control Act and the Arms Export Control Act for inspection, testing, calibration, repair, or incorporation into another defense article.

ATF Rul. 2004-2

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has received numerous inquiries from importers who wish to temporarily import firearms subject to the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, and the National Firearms Act (NFA), 26 U.S.C. Chapter 53, for inspection, testing, calibration, repair, or incorporation into another defense article. Importers advise ATF that they generally obtain a temporary import license, DSP-61, from the Department of State authorizing the importation or comply with one of the regulatory exemptions from licensing in 22 CFR 123.4. They ask whether such a license or exemption is sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the GCA and NFA.

Statutory Background

1. The National Firearms Act

The NFA imposes restrictions on certain firearms, including registration requirements, transfer approval requirements, and import restrictions. 26 U.S.C. 5812, 5841, 5844. The term "firearm" is defined in 26 U.S.C. 5845(a) to include machineguns, short-barrel shotguns, short-barrel rifles, silencers, destructive devices, and "any other weapons." Section 5844 of the NFA provides that no firearm may be imported into the United States unless the importer establishes that the firearm to be imported is--

(1) Being imported or brought in for the use of the United States or any department, independent establishment, or agency thereof or any State or possession or any political subdivision thereof; or

(2) Being imported or brought in for scientific or research purposes; or

(3) Being imported or brought in solely for testing or use as a model by a registered manufacturer or solely for use as a sample by a registered importer or registered dealer.

Regulations implementing the NFA in 27 CFR Part 479 require importers to obtain an ATF Form 6, Application and Permit for Importation of Firearms, Ammunition and Implements of War, prior to importing NFA firearms into the United States. 27 CFR 479.111. In addition, the regulations require importers to register the firearms they import by filing with the Director an accurate notice on Form 2, Notice of Firearms Manufactured or Imported, executed under the penalties of perjury, showing the importation of a firearm. 27 CFR 479.112. When an NFA firearm is to be exported from the United States, the exporter must file with the Director an application on Form 9, Application and Permit for Exportation of Firearms, to obtain authorization to export the firearm. 27 CFR 479.114-119.

Regulations in 27 CFR Part 479 indicate that NFA firearms may be imported for scientific or research purposes or for testing or use as a model by a registered manufacturer or as a sample by a registered importer or registered dealer. 27 CFR 479.111(a). However, section 479.105(c), implementing section 922(o) of the GCA, clarifies that machineguns manufactured on or after May 19, 1986, may be imported only with a purchase order for transfer to a governmental entity, or as a dealer's sales sample pursuant to section 479.105(d).

The regulations in Part 479 give the Director the authority to approve an alternate method or procedure in lieu of a method or procedure specifically prescribed in the regulations when it is found that:

(1) Good cause is shown for the use of the alternate method or procedure;


(2) The alternate method or procedure is within the purpose of, and consistent with the effect intended by, the specifically prescribed method or procedure and that the alternate method or procedure is substantially equivalent to that specifically prescribed method or procedure; and

(3) The alternate method or procedure will not be contrary to any provision of law and will not result in an increase in cost to the Government or hinder the effective administration of the GCA or regulations issued thereunder.


27 CFR 479.26.

2. The Gun Control Act

Import provisions of the GCA, 18 U.S.C. 922(l) and 925(d)(3), generally prohibit the importation of firearms subject to the NFA, except for the use of governmental entities. 18 U.S.C. 925(a)(1). The term "firearm" is defined in section 921(a)(3) to include any weapon which will or is designed to or may be readily converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; the frame or receiver of such weapon; any firearm silencer; and any destructive device. In addition, section 922(o) of the GCA prohibits the transfer or possession of a machinegun manufactured on or after May 19, 1986, except for the official use of governmental entities.

Regulations implementing the GCA in 27 CFR Part 478 require that persons importing firearms into the United States obtain an approved ATF Form 6, Application and Permit for Importation of Firearms, Ammunition and Implements of War, prior to bringing the firearms into the United States. 27 CFR 478.111-114. Regulations in Part 478 provide that the Director may approve an alternate method or procedure in lieu of a method or procedure specifically prescribed by the GCA and regulations when it is found that:

(1) Good cause is shown for the use of the alternate method or procedure;


(2) The alternate method or procedure is within the purpose of, and consistent with the effect intended by, the specifically prescribed method or procedure and that the alternate method or procedure is substantially equivalent to that specifically prescribed method or procedure; and

(3) The alternate method or procedure will not be contrary to any provision of law and will not result in an increase in cost to the Government or hinder the effective administration of the GCA or regulations issued thereunder.

27 CFR 478.22.

3. The Arms Export Control Act

The Arms Export Control Act (AECA), 22 U.S.C. 2778, gives the President the authority to control the export and import of defense articles and defense services in furtherance of world peace and the security and foreign policy of the United States. Authority to administer the permanent import provisions of the AECA was delegated to the Attorney General, while the authority to administer the export and temporary import provisions of the AECA was delegated to the Secretary of State. Executive Order 11958 of January 18, 1977, as amended by Executive Order 13333 of January 23, 2003, 3 CFR Executive Order 13284.

The term "defense article" is defined in 27 CFR 447.11 as any item designated in sections 447.21 or 447.22. Section 447.21, the U.S. Munitions Import List, includes a number of defense articles that are also subject to the GCA and NFA. Category I, "Firearms," includes nonautomatic and semiautomatic firearms to caliber .50 inclusive, combat shotguns, shotguns with barrels less than 18 inches in length, and firearms silencers and suppressors. All Category I firearms are subject to the GCA. "Combat shotguns" include the USAS-12 shotgun and the Striker-12/Streetsweeper shotgun, which have been classified as destructive devices under the GCA and NFA. In addition, all shotguns with barrels of less than 18 inches in length are subject to both the GCA and NFA. All rifles with barrels of less than 16 inches in length are subject to both the GCA and NFA, and silencers are subject to both the GCA and NFA.

Category II, "Artillery Projectors," includes guns over caliber .50, howitzers, mortars, and recoilless rifles. Firearms over .50 caliber have a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter and are "destructive devices" as defined in the GCA and NFA.

Category IV, "Launch Vehicles, Guided Missiles, Ballistic Missiles, Rockets, Torpedoes, Bombs and Mines," includes rockets, bombs, grenades, torpedoes, and land and naval mines. All these articles are "destructive devices" as defined in the GCA and NFA.

Regulations of the Department of State implementing the AECA generally require a temporary import license, DSP-61, for the temporary import and subsequent export of unclassified defense articles, unless otherwise exempted. 22 CFR 123.3. Regulations in 22 CFR 123.4 provide an exemption from licensing if the item temporarily imported:

(1) Is serviced (e.g., inspection, testing, calibration or repair, including overhaul, reconditioning and one-to-one replacement of any defective items, parts or components, but excluding any modification, enhancement, upgrade or other form of alteration or improvement that changes the basic performance of the item), and is subsequently returned to the country from which it was imported. Shipment may be made by the U.S. importer or a foreign government representative of the country from which the goods were imported; or


(2) Is to be enhanced, upgraded or incorporated into another item which has already been authorized by the Office of Defense Trade Controls for permanent export; or


(3) Is imported for the purpose of exhibition, demonstration or marketing in the United States and is subsequently returned to the country from which it was imported; or

(4) Has been rejected for permanent import by the Department of the Treasury [after January 24, 2003, the Department of Justice] and is being returned to the country from which it was shipped; or


(5) Is approved for such import under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program pursuant to an executed U.S. Department of Defense Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA).

Willful violations of the AECA are punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years, a fine of not more than $1,000,000, or both. 22 U.S.C. 2778(c). Articles imported in violation of the AECA are also subject to seizure and forfeiture. 18 U.S.C. 545.

Discussion

A temporary import license authorizing the temporary importation and subsequent export of a defense article by the Department of State satisfies all legal requirements under the AECA. Importers may also comply with AECA requirements if the importation meets one of the exemptions in 22 CFR 123.4. However, if the defense article is subject to the GCA and NFA, the importer must also comply with the requirements of those statutes. Neither the GCA nor NFA make a distinction between temporary importation and permanent importation, as is the case under the AECA. Regulations implementing the GCA and NFA make it clear that an "importation" occurs when firearms are brought within the territory of the United States. 27 CFR 478.11 and 479.11. Accordingly, any bringing of firearms into the territory of the United States is subject to the import provisions of the GCA and NFA. Issuance of a temporary import license by the Department of State, or exemption from licensing under regulations in 22 CFR Part 123, will not excuse compliance with the GCA and NFA.

The statutes and regulations outlined above do not address the importation of machineguns manufactured after May 19, 1986, for scientific or research purposes or for testing, repair, or use as a model by a manufacturer or importer. Nor do the regulations address the importation of post-86 machineguns for repair, inspection, calibration, or incorporation into another defense article.

For other "defense articles" that are subject to the requirements of the GCA and NFA, such as silencers, destructive devices, and short-barrel weapons, ATF has the authority to approve the importation of such firearms for scientific or research purposes or for testing or use as a model or sample by a registered importer or registered dealer. However, such importations must comply with all applicable provisions of the NFA, including filing of a Form 2, Notice of Firearms Manufactured or Imported, to effect registration. If such articles are subsequently exported, a Form 9, Application and Permit for Permanent Exportation of Firearms, must also be approved prior to exportation.

As with post-86 machineguns, neither the law nor regulations specifically address the importation of firearms subject to the NFA for purposes of repair, inspection, calibration, or for incorporation into another defense article.

ATF recognizes that inspection, repair, calibration, incorporation into another defense article, and reconditioning of machineguns, destructive devices, and other NFA firearms is often necessary for National defense. These defense articles are frequently sold to allies of the United States for their legitimate defense needs. Accordingly, ATF believes it is appropriate to recognize an alternate method that allows importers to temporarily import these firearms, subject to requirements to ensure the security of these articles while they are in the United States and accountability of the persons who import them.

Pursuant to 27 CFR 478.22 and 479.26, ATF hereby authorizes an alternate method or procedure for importers of defense articles to use for temporary importation of such articles for inspection, calibration, repair, or incorporation into another defense article when such articles are subject to the requirements of the NFA and GCA. The procedure requires that importers--

(1) Be qualified under the GCA and NFA to import the type of firearms sought for importation;

(2) Obtain a temporary import license, DSP-61, from the Department of State in accordance with 22 CFR 123.3 OR qualify for a temporary import license exemption pursuant to 22 CFR 123.4;

(3) Within 15 days of the release of the firearms from Customs custody, file an ATF Form 2, Notice of Firearms Manufactured or Imported, showing the importation of the firearms. The DSP-61 must be attached to the Form 2. If the importation is subject to a licensing exemption under 22 CFR 123.4, the importer must submit with the ATF Form 2 a statement, under penalty of perjury, attesting to the exemption and stating that the article will be exported within four years of its importation into the United States;

(4) Maintain the defense articles in a secure place and manner to ensure that the articles are not diverted to criminal or terrorist use; and

(5) Export the articles within 4 years of importation into the United States.

Importers who follow the procedures outlined above will be in compliance with all the provisions of the GCA, NFA, and AECA administered and enforced by ATF. All other provisions of the law must be followed.

ATF finds that the procedure outlined above meets the legal requirements for an alternate method or procedure because there is good cause to authorize the importation of defense articles for repair, inspection, calibration, or incorporation into another defense article. Because such defense articles are often provided to allies of the United States, it is imperative that the original manufacturers have a lawful method of importing such articles for repair and routine maintenance. The alternate method or procedure is consistent with the effect intended by the procedure set forth in the GCA and NFA, because the firearms must be registered and stored securely. Finally, the alternate method is consistent with the requirements of the GCA and NFA and will not result in any additional costs to ATF or the Department of State.

"Transfers" of NFA Weapons After Importation

ATF recognizes that temporarily imported NFA firearms are sometimes "transferred" from the importer to a contractor within the United States for inspection, testing, calibration, repair, or incorporation into another defense article. ATF has approved a procedure for authorizing the transportation or delivery of temporarily imported NFA firearms to licensed contractors for repair or manipulation, as noted above.

Conveyance of an NFA weapon to a licensee for purposes of inspection, testing, calibration, repair, or incorporation into another defense article is generally not considered to be a "transfer" under 26 U.S.C. 5845(j). ATF has taken the position that temporary custody by a licensee is not a transfer for purposes of the NFA since no sale, lease, or other disposal is intended by the owner. However, in order to document the transaction as a temporary conveyance and make clear that an actual "transfer" of a firearm has not taken place, ATF strongly recommends that the importer submit a Form 5, Application for Tax Exempt Transfer and Registration of Firearm, for approval prior to conveying a firearm for repair or manipulation. In the alternative, the importer should convey the weapon with a letter to the contractor, stating: (1) the weapon is being temporarily conveyed for inspection, testing, calibration, repair, or incorporation into another defense article; and (2) the approximate time period the weapon is to be in the contractor's possession. The transferee must be properly licensed to engage in an NFA firearms business.

Held, pursuant to 27 CFR 478.22 and 479.26, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has approved an alternate method or procedure for importers to use when temporarily importing firearms subject to the Gun Control Act, National Firearms Act, and the Arms Export Control Act for inspection, testing, calibration, repair, or incorporation into another defense article. This procedure applies to all defense articles that are also subject to the NFA and GCA. The procedure requires that importers--

(1) Be qualified under the GCA and NFA to import the type of firearms sought for importation;

(2) Obtain a temporary import license, DSP-61, from the Department of State in accordance with 22 CFR 123.3 OR qualify for a temporary import license exemption pursuant to 22 CFR 123.4;

(3) Within 15 days of the release of the firearms from Customs custody, file an ATF Form 2, Notice of Firearms Manufactured or Imported, showing the importation of the firearms. The DSP-61 must be attached to the Form 2. If the importation is subject to a licensing exemption under 22 CFR 123.4, the importer must submit with the ATF Form 2 a statement, under penalty of perjury, attesting to the exemption and stating that the article will be exported within four years of its importation into the United States;

(4) Maintain the defense articles in a secure place and manner to ensure that the articles are not diverted to criminal or terrorist use; and

(5) Export the articles within 4 years of importation into the United States.

Held further, temporary conveyance of NFA weapons from the importer to a contractor within the United States for purposes of inspection, testing, calibration, repair, or incorporation into another defense article may be accomplished through advance approval of ATF Form 5, Application for Tax Exempt Transfer and Registration of Firearm, or with a letter from the importer to the contractor stating: (1) the weapon is being temporarily conveyed for inspection, testing, calibration, repair, or incorporation into another defense article; and (2) the approximate time period the weapon is to be in the contractor's possession. The transferee must be properly licensed to engage in an NFA firearms business.

 

Date signed: April 7, 2004