I’ve written about silencer (or suppressor, if you prefer, although “silencer” is the actual legal term used by the ATF) ownership legalities here on the blog only briefly before, as it is far from one of the areas in which I consider myself knowledgeable. Having said that, I did want to write a few words about what I have learned in the past few months and what actions I am taking based on that knowledge.
On January 4, 2016 ATF Rule 41F was signed by the Attorney General. This final version of the proposed rule changes previously known as ATF 41P specifically affects NFA trusts in addition to some other areas of NFA law. The ruling goes into effect 180 days from the date of entry into the Federal Register (January 15, 2016). Therefore, any pending ATF applications postmarked prior to July 13, 2016 will be handled according to the old rules.
The new ruling changes how trusts have been historically treated by the ATF. In the past, trusts have sometimes been used to successfully circumvent anti-gun Chief Law Enforcement Officers (CLEOs) who refused to sign off on NFA applications. In addition, a trust allows for possession of NFA items by all trustees and provides for an easy solution to estate and beneficiary disposition of NFA items. On July 13 (96 days from today), the new ruling will require fingerprints and photos to be submitted for all “responsible persons” in order to conduct background checks, and will require CLEO notification of all new NFA transfers. On a positive note, it removes the CLEO signature requirement for all NFA applications and instead simply requires notification. There are other changes as well, but the ones I’ve highlighted here are most relevant to this post. One prevalent fear is that the increased processing steps will double ATF wait times. Further, the changes may create a nightmare process for large corporate entities with numerous “responsible persons.”
Despite the fact that my CLEO is willing to sign NFA applications, I had long ago decided to use a trust if I were to ever acquire any NFA items primarily because I was concerned about their disposition after my demise. The added benefit of them being legal for my wife or other trustees to possess was also important to me. Late last year, I read an article in Guns & Ammo’s “Suppressor” magazine about SilencerCo’s EasyTrust service. Basically, the EasyTrust is a service offered by SilencerCo that allows you to inexpensively purchase an NFA specific trust preparation online. To put this in perspective, the EasyTrust service is $129.99 as of this writing, whereas I had previously been quoted over $700 from a local attorney that specializes in such matters. So late last year, I took advantage of SilencerCo’s service, and had my own NFA trust prepared. The process with SilencerCo was ridiculously quick and easy, occupying literally only a few minutes of my time. My trust document was delivered electronically that same day. Getting it notarized took me a lot longer! Once I had the trust signed, notarized, copied, and scanned, it was time to contemplate what exactly I wanted to acquire.
I knew I wanted a silencer, and I have in fact had a flash hider suppressor mount pinned and welded to one of my AR barrels for several years now. With the impending changes mandated by ATF 41F, I decided that it was time to act. Let me assure you, choosing a silencer is no easy task these days, especially since it borders on a lifetime purchase given its cost and transfer requirements. We are living in a golden age of silencer development, with too many manufacturers to name offering a multitude of options for the discriminating buyer.
Ultimately, since I already had an Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC) flash hider mount permanently installed on a gun, I decided to go with an AAC silencer. For a variety of reasons (cost, availability, length, weight, sound reduction, online research, etc.), I chose a dedicated 5.56 suppressor instead of an increasingly common multi-caliber modular option. The AAC M4-2000 has a long and proven track record of military use, and its design has undergone continual improvement over the past several years. After much indecision, based on several weeks of research and recommendations, I purchased my first silencer using my trust documents today.
I must highly recommend dealing with Silencer Shop if you’re inclined to buy a silencer. Much like the EasyTrust, the decision was the hard part. The actual purchase of the silencer and tax stamp was made incredibly quick and easy using Silencer Shop’s website. They handle all paperwork and transfer fees and ship free of charge to numerous dealers nationwide. In addition, Silencer Shop also offers trust preparation services for $129.95, allowing for one-stop shopping. I highly recommend using their “compare” tool to compare different silencers that you may be considering. In addition, you can see stock status, check reviews, watch demonstration videos, and maybe even take advantage of a sale price that includes the cost of the tax stamp!
Thus my wait begins today, and this post will serve as an anecdotal indication of current ATF Form 4 wait times! I’ll update this post accordingly.
Status Update 5/24/16 – I received notification today that the ATF cashed the check 5/22/16. Progress!
Status Update 2/25/17 – I took delivery of my silencer at my dealer today. My Form 4 is stamped 2/6/17, which is almost 10 months from the date of purchase.
I may yet add other items into my trust before the deadline, but I haven’t made any firm decisions. I am tempted to shorten a rifle or shotgun as a home defense gun. Even if I wait until after the deadline has passed, the changes are only moderately onerous. Drafts of the new forms have already been released by the ATF, so ownership of NFA items will really only involve more time and paperwork. Whether the changes will have any effect on crime remains to be seen… as we all know, NFA items are rarely used by criminals, and criminals don’t care about the law anyway!
So if you’re on the fence about buying a silencer or short barrel rifle, I want this post to motivate you to take action. Legally obtaining and owning NFA “toys” seems to be an intimidating process, but I can assure you that it really isn’t! You’ve got three months if you want to avoid the extra red tape!
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