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As the US Federal Government approaches the third week of its shutdown and pundits in the press are saying that “80% of Federal employees are still working”, some sectors of the firearms industry are feeling the effects. Various government agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and State department have furloughed the majority of their non-law enforcement personnel.
The mainstream media is reporting this as a “delay in the issuing of gun permits”, but as the federal government issues no permits in the commonly used sense of the term (carry permits or ownership permits are issued at state and local government levels); it is presumed that they are referring to Federal Firearms Licenses (FFL) and National Firearms act (NFA) tax stamps or possibly states relying on a different branch of the FBI to conduct a criminal background check for issuing state concealed carry permits.
There has been no indication that the government shutdown is affecting the FBI’s NICS section. This is most likely due to the fact that a “hold” or “delay” will trigger a “proceed” or approval if no action is taken by the government after five days.
The government shutdown has been directly impacting the issuing of federal tax stamps for NFA items as all but 2 of the ATF’s examiners were furloughed on October 1, 2013. When calling to find out the status of a tax stamp, the phones at the NFA branch were answered, but the operator stated that they could not give any information regarding status.
Processing of all NFA transfer applications (Forms 1, 3, 4, etc.) is essentially stopped for now and application status inquiries will not be answered. Depending on the length of the government shutdown, it could add several weeks or even months to the current 7 to 9 month wait time for most forms to be approved.
The shutdown also has an impact on the issuing and renewal of Federal Firearms Licenses currently in the system. With reduced manpower at the ATF’s licensing center, the wait for a new FFL or approval for a renewal may be extended by several weeks.
While new applicants may not feel the effects, this delay will prove challenging for businesses waiting for a renewal.
Likewise, manufacturers and importers will be feeling the sting as the ATF’s firearms industry branch which processes marking variances and the imports branch are essentially non-staffed until the end of the shutdown.
The State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) is accepting licenses, but only acting on them in emergency situations. The Commerce Department Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is no longer accepting export license applications, classification requests, encryption reviews, encryption registrations or advisory opinion requests. All pending export license applications, commodity classification requests, encryption reviews, encryption registrations and advisory opinion requests will be held without action by BIS until the government shutdown ends.
The Department of Interior, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture which manage all National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, National Parks and National Recreation Areas have stated that all federal owned property is closed to all recreational use during the shutdown including hunting, fishing and camping.
More information specific to each government agency’s shutdown policies affecting the firearms industry may be found at the following links: