ATF Rulings

Are you familiar with ATF “Rulings?”  These are documents issued by the ATF, typically in response to questions from FFLs, which interpret and modify the implementing regulations associated, for example, with the Gun Control Act and the National Firearms Act.

There aren’t many ATF Rulings since 1969, all of which are available on the ATF website or here in the Orchid Advisors on-line research library.  And each one is just a few pages long.

What’s particularly helpful is the template structure of these Rulings.  Each one lists the statutory topic (e.g., “Records Required” under 18 USC 923(g)(1)(A)), the associated regulations, a statement of the scenarios being submitted by fellow FFLs, and the ATF ruling.

Let’s walk through ATF Ruling 2011-1 to show you an example.  It happens to be about consolidation of record keeping requirements for importers.

At the top of the ATF Ruling, each of the statutes and regulations that apply to the issue are enumerated.  With any ATF Ruling posted to an Orchid Advisors blog, newsletter, or Webinar, you’ll find these statutes and regulations in the Orchid Advisors on-line research library.  ATF Rulings and regulations on the ATF page.  Statutes in duplicate on the House and Senate pages.

After listing and describing the pertinent legal provisions, the ATF Ruling 2011-1 goes on to state that licensed importers have been seeking ATF approval for an alternate method or procedure to record the acquisition and disposition of firearms.

The ATF Ruling then explains that federal regulations give the ATF the authority to authorize alternative methods when the alternative will “accurately and readily disclose the information required to be maintained.”  The standard, quite logically, requires good cause be shown for a procedure consistent with the purpose and effect of the current method, and that it is neither contrary to existing law nor costly or inhibiting the effective administration of the regulations.

In this instance, the ATF found good cause to authorize a variance from separate acquisition and disposition records for importers into one, combined record, as long as certain conditions are met.  The ATF Ruling 2011-1 then lists the specific importation data on a 15-day record-keeping rule and the disposition data on a 7-day record-keeping rule.

The balance of the ATF Ruling reminds importers of the importance of additional record-keeping requirements.  For example, it defines that once consolidated, the combined acquisition and disposition records must be permanently maintained by the importer and, in the event of discontinuation of business, must be dispensed to the ATF as per established regulations.