Firearms Importer – New ATF Ruling e6/6A

No sooner were we commenting with surprise that we hadn’t seen an ATF Ruling yet in 2013 than one was issued.  The ATF recently announced ATF Ruling 2013-1, adding Form 6 and Form 6A to the world of ATF electronic submissions.  While ATF Ruling 2013-1 pertains specifically to the import segment, the Ruling is a good reminder of the structure of a Ruling and the group of permissive e-filings.

The portal to the ATF “eForms” is found at www.ATFonline.gov.  An on-line account must be set up by the individuals, FFLs, and registered importers under the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) that file Form 6 or Form 6A.  ATF Form 6 – Part I is the “Application and Permit for Importation of Firearms, Ammunition, and Implements of War.”  ATF Form 6A is the “Release and Receipt of Imported Firearms, Ammunition, and Implements of War.”

Once the ATF eForms account is established, the authorized person may file digitally scanned copies of the original supporting statements and documents.  The ATF reserved the right to request additional documentation.  It can also deny a permit application if the copies are not legible or an applicant fails to provide an original upon request or fails to provide additional supporting statements or documents upon request.  Also, the ATF retained the authority to terminate a person, FFL, or registered importer from future eForms submissions.

The Ruling specifies a list of regulations that are modified by the Ruling, and it supersedes three prior ATF Rulings.  To assist your comprehension and research, the Orchid Advisors on-line research library contains all cross-references from the ATF Ruling 2013-1 with notices as to the status of the referenced prior materials.  We’ve also uploaded .pdf copies of the ATF Forms 6 – Part I and 6A for your review.

It’s a long stretch from where this paperwork all started.  The current instructions on Form 6 – Part I seek triplicate copies and the signatures “must be in ink on all copies.”  There is express permission for other data to be in ink or typewritten.  It recommends submission 60-days prior to the intended importation.

And that is where we will have to learn from experience whether e-filing will result in speedy responses.  The paperwork, even in “e” form, will still follow the same procedure, as reinforced through the Ruling.  Form 6 – Part I must first be approved by the ATF Director, which makes it the import permit.  Form 6A must still be furnished both to Customs and Border Protection and the ATF to complete the release of the imported articles.

Under the prefatory remarks to a proposed regulation change in February 2012, it was stated that the ATF processes approximately 11,000 import applications each year, and that the ATF estimates it takes a compliance officer at an FFL or registered importer approximately 30 minutes to complete the ATF Form 6 permit application.  It was then estimated that it takes the ATF an average of 2-hours to complete quality review and data entry functions for each import application, and that ATF examiners typically spend 4-hours processing an ATF Form 6 application.  The ATF website states that it takes approximately 4-6 weeks to process a properly completed ATF Form 6.

ATF Ruling 2013-1 adds to a group of Rulings relevant to electronic filings.  Most frequently occupying our compliance hours is ATF Form 4473, which can also be electronically filed, courtesy of ATF Ruling 2008-3.  Take special note that the ATF issued a “Clarification” to this Ruling in its March 2013, Volume 2 “FFL Newsletter,” including specific instructions for handling mistakes made to an e-Form 4473.  You can also find a blog (dated April 27, 2013) about this topic in the Orchid Advisors on-line blog archive and these documents are in our on-line research library.

It’s worth reading through the ATF Ruling 2008-3 in comparison to this recent 2013-1.  In particular, what the Ruling 2013-1 does not speak to is the requirement to maintain a record of these forms as part of firearm and ammunition record keeping requirements.  ATF Ruling 2008-3 went so far as to define the weight and finish of the paper to be used in the print-out of an electronically filed Form 4473 and requires original signatures on the print-out, which paper duplicates of electronic submissions bearing original signatures is then retained in accordance with all laws and regulations.

While ATF Ruling 2013-1 evolves from the Government Paperwork Elimination Act, stay tuned for any associated modifications to our record keeping requirements.