ATF publishes rulings and procedures to promote uniform understanding and application of the laws and regulations it administers, and to provide uniform methods for performing operations in compliance with the requirements of the law and regulations. Rulings represent ATF’s guidance as to the application of the law and regulations to the entire state of facts involved, and apply retroactively unless otherwise indicated. Rulings do not have the force and effect of federal statutes or Department of Justice regulations, but may be cited and relied upon as precedents in the disposition of similar cases. In applying published rulings, the effect of subsequent legislation, regulations, court decisions, and other rulings must be considered. Concerned parties are cautioned against reaching the same conclusions in other cases unless the facts and circumstances are substantially the same
For more information, see “Memorandum for All Components: Prohibition of Improper Guidance Documents,” from Attorney General Jefferson B. Sessions III, November 16, 2017.
[Source: 27 C.F.R. 70.701(d)(2) (as in effect on January 23, 2003, and continued by 28 C.F.R. 0.133(a)(2)]
Rulings that have an effect on previous rulings use the following defined terms to describe the effect:
AMPLIFIED is used in a situation where no change is being made in a prior published position, but the prior position is being extended to apply to a variation of the fact situation set forth in the new ruling. Thus, if an earlier ruling held that a principle applied to (A), and the new ruling holds that the same principle also applies to (B), the earlier ruling is amplified.
CLARIFIED is used in a situation where the language in a prior ruling is being made clear because the language has caused, or may cause, some confusion. It is not used where a position in a prior ruling is being changed.
DECLARED OBSOLETE is used in a situation where a previously published ruling is not considered determinative with respect to future transactions. This term is most commonly used in a ruling that lists previously published rulings that are declared obsolete because of changes in law or regulations. A ruling may also be declared obsolete because its substance has been included in regulations subsequently adopted.
MODIFIED is used in a situation where the substance of a previously published position is being changed. Thus, if a prior ruling held that a principle applied to A but not to B, but the new ruling holds that it applies to both A and B, the prior ruling is modified.
REVOKED is used in a situation where the position in the previously published ruling is not correct and the correct position is being stated in the new ruling. Rulings that have been revoked have no further effect.
SUPERSEDED is used in a variety of situations. The term may be used where the new ruling amplifies a prior ruling if both the position taken in the prior ruling and the position as amplified are contained in the text of the new ruling. The term may be similarly used where the new ruling clarifies or modifies a prior ruling. The term may also be used where, for the purpose of updating references, the new ruling does nothing more than restate the substance and situation of a prior ruling. For example, a ruling issued under former statutes and regulations may be reissued under the current statutes and regulations. Lastly, the term may be used when it is desired to republish in a single ruling a series of situations, names, etc. that were previously published over a period of time in separate rulings.
SUPPLEMENTED is used in situations in which a list, such as a list of curios and relics, is published in a ruling and that list is expanded by adding further items in subsequent rulings. After the original ruling has been supplemented to include several items, a new ruling may be published that includes the list in the original ruling and the additions, and supersedes all prior rulings in the series.