DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY



Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms



27 CFR Parts 55, 72, 178 and 179



[T.D. ATF-396; Ref: T.D. ATF-363 and Notice No. 807; T.D. ATF-383 and 

Notice No. 833]

RIN 1512-AB35



 

Implementation of Public Law 103-322, the Violent Crime Control 

and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (94F-022P)



AGENCY: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Treasury.



ACTION: Final rule, Treasury decision.



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SUMMARY: These final regulations implement the provisions of Public Law 

103-322, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. 

This Treasury decision adopts the regulations substantially as proposed 

in Notice No. 807, as amended by Notice No. 833.

    The temporary regulations published in the Federal Register on 

April 6, 1995



[[Page 12644]]



(T.D. ATF-363) and July 29, 1996 (T.D. ATF-383), are adopted as final 

upon the effective date of this final rule.



EFFECTIVE DATE: This rule is effective on May 15, 1998.



FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: James P. Ficaretta, Regulations 

Branch, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 650 Massachusetts 

Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20226 (202-927-8230).



SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:



Background



    On September 13, 1994, Public Law 103-322 (108 Stat. 1796) was 

enacted, amending the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), as amended (18 

U.S.C. Chapter 44), and Title XI of the Organized Crime Control Act of 

1970, as amended (18 U.S.C. Chapter 40). The provisions of Pub. L. 103-

322, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 

(hereafter, ``the Act''), became effective upon the date of enactment.



Temporary Rule (T.D. ATF-363) and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking



    On April 6, 1995, ATF published in the Federal Register a temporary 

rule implementing the provisions of the Act (T.D. ATF-363, 60 FR 

17446). The temporary regulations implemented the law by restricting 

the manufacture, transfer, and possession of certain semiautomatic 

assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices, with 

certain exceptions. Regulations were also prescribed with regard to 

reports of theft or loss of firearms from a licensee's inventory or 

collection, new requirements for Federal firearms licensing, responses 

by firearms licensees to requests for gun trace information, and 

possession of firearms by persons subject to restraining orders. Except 

as otherwise provided, the temporary regulations became effective upon 

the date of publication in the Federal Register.

    On April 6, 1995, the Bureau also published a notice of proposed 

rulemaking cross-referenced to the temporary regulations (Notice No. 

807, 60 FR 17494). The comment period for Notice No. 807 closed on July 

5, 1995.



Temporary Rule (T.D. ATF-383) and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking



    ATF received 129 comments in response to Notice No. 807. Fifty-two 

commenters, representing 40 percent of the total comments received, 

objected to ATF's interpretation of the law as restricting the 

importation of large capacity ammunition feeding devices after the date 

of enactment regardless of the date of manufacture of such devices. 

They also contended that the marking requirements prescribed in the 

regulations pursuant to T.D. ATF-363 (Sec. 178.92(c)) only apply to 

large capacity ammunition feeding devices manufactured after the 

effective date of the statute. Similar objections and arguments were 

raised in litigation challenging ATF's interpretation of the law.

    After analyzing the comments received and in light of the above-

mentioned litigation, ATF re-examined the Act and determined that 

feeding devices with a capacity of more than 10 rounds manufactured on 

or before September 13, 1994, are not subject to the restrictions of 

the law. Consequently, on July 29, 1996, ATF published in the Federal 

Register another temporary rule reflecting this position (T.D. ATF-383, 

61 FR 39320). The temporary rule also provided guidance to importers on 

acceptable evidence that magazines sought to be imported were 

manufactured on or before September 13, 1994.

    On July 29, 1996, the Bureau also published a notice of proposed 

rulemaking cross-referenced to the temporary regulations (Notice No. 

833, 61 FR 39372). The comment period for Notice No. 833 closed on 

October 28, 1996.



Analysis of Comments--Notice No. 807



    ATF received 129 comments in response to Notice No. 807. Fifty-

seven comments, representing 44 percent of the comments received, 

expressed general support for the temporary regulations. However, these 

commenters requested that the final rule include a number of changes.

    One commenter recommended that the term ``pistol grip'' be defined 

so that it includes so-called thumbhole stocks. The term 

``semiautomatic assault weapon'' is defined in the Act as including 

semiautomatic rifles and semiautomatic shotguns which have 2 or more of 

the features specified in the law. One of the features specified is a 

``pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the 

weapon.'' The commenter stated that thumbhole stocks function in the 

same manner as pistol grips and, therefore, should be included within 

the definition of this term.

    ATF agrees with the commenter that replacing a separate pistol grip 

with a thumbhole stock does not remove the pistol grip as a feature. A 

semiautomatic rifle or semiautomatic shotgun with a thumbhole stock and 

one or more of the other features specified in the law would be a 

``semiautomatic assault weapon'' as defined. However, ATF does not 

believe it is necessary to provide a separate definition of ``pistol 

grip'' or any of the other features listed in the statute.

    Several commenters recommended that Federal firearms licensees be 

required to swear under penalties of perjury that semiautomatic assault 

weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices will be 

transferred only to lawful recipients. The regulations in 27 CFR 178.40 

and 178.40a provide that manufacturers and dealers may manufacture and 

deal in semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity ammunition 

feeding devices manufactured after September 13, 1994, upon obtaining 

evidence that the weapons and devices will only be disposed of to law 

enforcement agencies and law enforcement officers.

    ATF does not believe that imposing such a requirement on licensees 

is necessary. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Sec. 922(m), it is unlawful for any 

licensee to make a false entry in any required record. A violation of 

this section can result in revocation of the license or in criminal 

prosecution. ATF believes these sanctions are adequate to deter most 

licensees from falsifying documents. Accordingly, ATF is not adopting 

the changes recommended by the commenters.

    ATF also received comments concerning the wording of the export 

marking requirement for semiautomatic assault weapons and large 

capacity ammunition feeding devices. The commenters recommended that 

the wording of the present regulatory requirement, ``FOR EXPORT ONLY,'' 

be changed to read ``DOMESTIC SALE UNLAWFUL, FOR EXPORT ONLY.'' The 

commenters stated their belief that this language more adequately 

conveys the fact that such weapons and devices are highly restricted 

and are illegal for domestic sale.

    ATF believes that the wording of the current export marking 

requirement provides sufficient notice that these weapons and devices 

are not intended for domestic sale. Furthermore, to ATF's knowledge, 

the current marking requirement has not resulted in any confusion among 

the general public. Accordingly, the Bureau has determined that the 

proposed amendment is unwarranted and would impose an unnecessary 

burden on the industry.

    Several commenters stated that variances from the marking 

requirements imposed on semiautomatic assault weapons and large 

capacity ammunition feeding devices should not be allowed. Current 

regulations provide that the Director may authorize other means of



[[Page 12645]]



identifying assault weapons and feeding devices when such other 

identification is reasonable and will not hinder the effective 

administration of the regulations. The commenters contend that marking 

variances could be used by manufacturers to create confusion as to the 

legal status of post-ban weapons and feeding devices.

    ATF is not adopting the commenters' suggestion. The decision to 

allow marking variances for semiautomatic assault weapons and large 

capacity ammunition feeding devices is consistent with that for other 

firearms. In the case of such weapons and devices, ATF has authorized 

variances from the marking requirements only for law enforcement and 

military purposes where there is a demonstrated need for such a 

variance.

    One commenter states that the current regulations requiring that 

assault weapons be marked ``RESTRICTED LAW ENFORCEMENT/GOVERNMENT USE 

ONLY'' raises concerns in the case of weapons that are reconfigured so 

that they no longer meet the definition of ``semiautomatic assault 

weapon.'' The commenter raised the case of an assault weapon 

transferred to a law enforcement officer upon retirement, which is 

permissible under the law. If the retiree subsequently decides to 

remove features from the weapon so that it is no longer subject to the 

restrictions of the law, he may have difficulty selling it, due to the 

restrictive marking. To address this potential problem, the commenter 

recommends that ATF amend the regulations to require only that the date 

of manufacture be marked on the weapon.

    ATF maintains that the restrictive language required in the current 

regulations clearly provides notice to law enforcement officers and the 

general public that semiautomatic assault weapons may be lawfully 

possessed only by Government agencies and law enforcement personnel. 

ATF does not believe that placing the date of manufacture on the 

weapons provides this information. Accordingly, ATF is not adopting 

this comment.

    To address the commenter's concern about reconfiguration of an 

assault weapon, if the weapon has been modified so it no longer meets 

the definition of ``semiautomatic assault weapon,'' it is not subject 

to the restrictions of the law. However, ATF would caution that a 

dealer obtaining assault weapons by falsely representing that the 

weapons are for resale to law enforcement, but who actually intends to 

reconfigure the weapons so they no longer meet the definition of 

assault weapon, would possess the weapons in violation of 18 U.S.C. 

Sec. 922(v). The Federal firearms licenses of such dealers would also 

be subject to revocation.

    The same commenter concerned about reconfiguration also had 

recommendations concerning the documentation required for law 

enforcement officers to acquire assault weapons for official use. The 

regulations at 27 CFR 178.132 require licensees to obtain written 

statements, under penalty of perjury, from the purchasing officer and a 

supervisory officer, stating that the weapon is for use in performing 

official duties and is not being acquired for personal use or for 

purposes of transfer or resale. The commenter requests that ATF amend 

the regulations to permit officers to obtain semiautomatic assault 

weapons for purposes of familiarization, marksmanship, and training. 

The commenter also contends that the regulation appears to prevent the 

officer from reselling the weapon, even if reconfigured so that it no 

longer meets the definition of ``semiautomatic assault weapon.''

    It is unnecessary to amend section 178.132 to include 

familiarization, marksmanship, and training as valid purposes for law 

enforcement officers obtaining semiautomatic assault weapons. If these 

activities are part of a law enforcement officer's official duties and 

a supervisor is willing to submit a statement certifying to such 

duties, the weapon may be lawfully acquired for such purposes. ATF does 

not believe it is necessary to spell out every possible official use in 

the regulation.

    As for the comment concerning resale, neither the law nor the 

regulation prevents future resale of the weapon by the purchasing 

officer. The regulation merely requires the officer to state, under 

penalty of perjury, that the weapon is not being acquired for purposes 

of transfer or resale. The regulation merely requires that the officer 

acquire the weapon for official use and not for purposes of transfer or 

resale. The issue concerning reconfiguration is discussed above.

    Several clarifying amendments have been made to Sec. 178.132. The 

regulation is being amended to provide that the written statement 

prepared by the purchaser's supervisor must be on agency letterhead. 

The regulation is also being revised to provide that this section 

applies to the transfer of assault weapons and large capacity 

ammunition feeding devices to employees or contractors of nuclear 

facilities.



Analysis of Comments--Notice No. 833



    ATF received one comment in response to Notice No. 833. This 

commenter objected to ATF requiring an import permit for ammunition 

feeding devices manufactured on or before September 13, 1994, as 

specified in Sec. 178.119.

    In order to ensure compliance with the provisions of the law and to 

enforce the marking requirements of the statute, ATF has determined 

that it is necessary to require importers to obtain import permits for 

feeding devices manufactured on or before September 13, 1994. ATF 

maintains that this requirement is necessary in order to determine 

whether the devices are subject to the restrictions of the law. Since 

import permits for such devices are already required pursuant to the 

Arms Export Control Act, 22 U.S.C. Sec. 2778, and implementing 

regulations in 27 CFR Part 47, the burden imposed by this requirement 

is minimal. Accordingly, the Bureau is adopting the regulation as 

proposed in Notice No. 833.



Miscellaneous Amendments to Regulations



    Section 923(g)(7) of the GCA and its implementing regulation in 27 

CFR 178.25a require Federal firearms licensees to respond to requests 

for firearms trace information within 24 hours after receipt of the 

request. Personnel at the National Tracing Center have had problems 

with licensees providing the requested trace information on crime guns 

within the required 24-hour period. A question has arisen whether the 

licensee must provide the requested trace information within the 24-

hour period or whether licensees would comply with the requirement by 

simply acknowledging the request and providing the requested 

information at a later time. The statute and regulation require 

licensees to provide the requested trace information within the 24-hour 

period. To ``respond'' to a trace request within the meaning of the 

statute and regulation means to provide the information. Interpreting 

the statute otherwise gives the statute no meaning and defeats its 

purpose, to enable ATF to obtain trace information quickly by 

telephone. Accordingly, Sec. 178.25a is being amended to clarify that 

licensees must provide the requested trace information within the 24-

hour period. A technical amendment is also being made at the end of 

this section to include the control number assigned by the Office of 

Management and Budget (OMB).

    A technical amendment is also being made to the marking 

requirements in 27 CFR 178.92. Language has been added to 

Sec. 178.92(c)(1)(iii), relating to markings for large capacity 

ammunition



[[Page 12646]]



feeding devices, to make it clear that importers who import such 

devices for purposes of export shall mark them ``FOR EXPORT ONLY.''

    Finally, ATF is making a technical amendment to the definition of 

``firearm'' in 27 CFR 179.11 with respect to the sentence describing 

barrel length measurement. The amendment makes it clear that 

measurements do not apply to revolvers. It also clarifies that the 

method specified does not apply to revolving cylinder shotguns.



Executive Order 12866



    It has been determined that this final rule is not a significant 

regulatory action as defined in E.O. 12866, because the economic 

effects flow directly from the underlying statute and not from this 

final rule. Accordingly, this final rule is not subject to the analysis 

required by this Executive order.



Regulatory Flexibility Act



    The provisions of the Regulatory Flexibility Act relating to an 

initial and final regulatory flexibility analysis (5 U.S.C. 604) are 

not applicable to this final rule because the agency was not required 

to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking under 5 U.S.C. 553 or any 

other law.



Paperwork Reduction Act



    The collections of information contained in this final regulation 

have been reviewed and approved by the Office of Management and Budget 

in accordance with the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 

U.S.C. 3507(d)) under control numbers 1512-0017, 1512-0018, 1512-0019, 

1512-0526, and 1512-0387. Other collections of information contained in 

this final rule have been approved under control numbers: 1512-0522 and 

1512-0523 (Sec. 178.47); 1512-0524 (Sec. 178.39a); and 1512-0525 

(Sec. 178.52). An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is 

not required to respond to, a collection of information unless it 

displays a valid control number assigned by the Office of Management 

and Budget.

    The collections of information in this final regulation are in 27 

CFR 178.25a, 178.40(c), 178.40a(c), 178.119, 178.129(e), 178.132, and 

178.133. This information is required by ATF to ensure compliance with 

the provisions of Pub. L. 103-322 (108 Stat. 1796). The likely 

respondents and recordkeepers are individuals and businesses. The 

estimated average annual burden associated with the collections of 

information in this regulation is 6 minutes per respondent for control 

numbers 1512-0017, 1512-0018, and 1512-0019, and 2.52 hours per 

respondent or recordkeeper for control number 1512-0526.

    Comments concerning the accuracy of this burden estimate and 

suggestions for reducing this burden should be directed to the Chief, 

Document Services Branch, Room 3450, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and 

Firearms, 650 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20226, and to 

the Office of Management and Budget, Attention: Desk Officer for the 

Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 

Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Washington, DC 20503.



Disclosure



    Copies of the temporary rules, the notices of proposed rulemaking, 

all written comments, and this final rule will be available for public 

inspection during normal business hours at: ATF Public Reading Room, 

Room 6480, 650 Massachusetts Avenue, NW., Washington, DC.



Drafting Information



    The author of this document is James P. Ficaretta, Regulations 

Branch, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.



List of Subjects



27 CFR Part 178



    Administrative practice and procedure, Arms and ammunition, 

Authority delegations, Customs duties and inspection, Exports, Imports, 

Military personnel, Penalties, Reporting requirements, Research, 

Seizures and forfeitures, and Transportation.



27 CFR Part 179



    Administrative practice and procedure, Arms and munitions, 

Authority delegations, Customs duties and inspection, Exports, Imports, 

Military personnel, Penalties, Reporting requirements, Research, 

Seizures and forfeitures, and Transportation.



Authority and Issuance



    Accordingly, 27 CFR Parts 55, 72, 178 and 179 are amended as 

follows:

    Paragraph 1. The temporary rule published April 6, 1995 (60 FR 

17446), amended July 29, 1996 (61 FR 39320) and further amended 

February 25, 1997 (62 FR 8374) is adopted as final.

    Paragraph 1a. The temporary rule published July 29, 1996 (61 FR 

39320) is adopted as final.



PART 178--COMMERCE IN FIREARMS AND AMMUNITION



    Paragraph 1b. The authority citation for 27 CFR Part 178 continues 

to read as follows:



    Authority: 5 U.S.C. 552(a); 18 U.S.C. 847, 921-930; 44 U.S.C. 

3504(h).



    Par. 2. Section 178.25a is amended by revising the second sentence 

and by adding a parenthetical text at the end of the section to read as 

follows:





Sec. 178.25a  Responses to requests for information.



    * * * The requested information shall be provided orally to the ATF 

officer within the 24-hour period. * * *



(Approved by the Office of Management and Budget under control 

number 1512-0387)





Sec. 178.92  [Amended]



    Par. 3. Section 178.92(c)(1)(iii) is amended by adding the words 

``or imported'' after the words ``in the case of devices 

manufactured''.



Par. 4. Section 178.132 is revised to read as follows:





Sec. 178.132  Dispositions of semiautomatic assault weapons and large 

capacity ammunition feeding devices to law enforcement officers for 

official use and to employees or contractors of nuclear facilities.



    Licensed manufacturers, licensed importers, and licensed dealers in 

semiautomatic assault weapons, as well as persons who manufacture, 

import, or deal in large capacity ammunition feeding devices, may 

transfer such weapons and devices manufactured after September 13, 

1994, to law enforcement officers and to employees or contractors of 

nuclear facilities with the following documentation:

    (a) Law enforcement officers. (1) A written statement from the 

purchasing officer, under penalty of perjury, stating that the weapon 

or device is being purchased for use in performing official duties and 

that the weapon or device is not being acquired for personal use or for 

purposes of transfer or resale; and

    (2) A written statement from a supervisor of the purchasing 

officer, on agency letterhead, under penalty of perjury, stating that 

the purchasing officer is acquiring the weapon or device for use in 

official duties, that the firearm is suitable for use in performing 

official duties, and that the weapon or device is not being acquired 

for personal use or for purposes of transfer or resale.

    (b) Employees or contractors of nuclear facilities. (1) Evidence 

that the employee is employed by a nuclear facility licensed pursuant 

to 42 U.S.C. 2133 or evidence that the contractor has a valid contract 

with such a facility.

    (2) A written statement from the purchasing employee or contractor 

under penalty of perjury, stating that the weapon or device is being 

purchased for one of the purposes authorized in



[[Page 12647]]



Sec. Sec. 178.40(b)(7) and 178.40a(b)(3), i.e., on-site physical 

protection, on-site or off-site training, or off-site transportation of 

nuclear materials.

    (3) A written statement from a supervisor of the purchasing 

employee or contractor, on agency or company letterhead, under penalty 

of perjury, stating that the purchasing employee or contractor is 

acquiring the weapon or device for use in official duties, and that the 

weapon or device is not being acquired for personal use or for purposes 

of transfer or resale.



(Approved by the Office of Management and Budget under control 

number 1512-0526)



PART 179--MACHINE GUNS, DESTRUCTIVE DEVICES, AND CERTAIN OTHER 

FIREARMS



    Par. 5.  authority citation for 27 CFR Part 179 continues to read 

as follows:



    Authority: 26 U.S.C. 7805.



    Par. 6. Section 179.11 is amended by revising the third sentence in 

the definition of ``Firearm'' to read as follows:





Sec. 179.11  Meaning of terms.



* * * * *

    Firearm. * * * For purposes of this definition, the length of the 

barrel having an integral chamber(s) on a shotgun or rifle shall be 

determined by measuring the distance between the muzzle and the face of 

the bolt, breech, or breech block when closed and when the shotgun or 

rifle is cocked. * * *

* * * * *

    Signed: July 25, 1997.

John W. Magaw,

Director.



    Approved: August 11, 1997.

John P. Simpson,

Deputy Assistant Secretary (Regulatory, Tariff and Trade Enforcement)



    Editorial note: This document was received at the Office of the 

Federal Register on March 10, 1998.

[FR Doc. 98-6591 Filed 3-13-98; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4810-31-P





This was last updated on August 25, 1998