We have recently learned that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives made a decision that has put them in the awkward position of having created a “loophole” for citizens to exercise a right taken from us decades ago with the “Firearms Owners Protection Act” (FOPA). While mostly a series of protections of the Second Amendment, FOPA also included the “Hughes Amendment” which prohibited ownership of machineguns manufactured after 1986 by any person. However, in other recent rulings, the BATFE has determined that unincorporated trusts – long used as a vehicle for private ownership of Class 3 devices such as suppressors – do not fall into the category of “persons.” Several citizens, acting as trustees for their respective trusts, applied for approval of newly manufactured machineguns – and received it. These citizens took possession of their Federal tax stamps but, weeks later, were advised that the approval was rescinded, the stamps must be returned and the firearms cannot be possessed. This, despite the fact that the tax stamp process has no provision for such rescinding and the agency has no power to do so.
The ATF has shown yet again that their regulations have a tendency to contradict themselves. If the ATF can’t keep track of their own rules, how in the world can they possibly expect the citizens to follow them? This time is a bit different though – there is evidence of their arbitrary and capricious behavior in the form of issuance of approved NFA tax stamps, followed up with the unprecedented denial of said stamps. The agency may be facing a lawsuit to force them to eat their words in public and hopefully think twice before cavalierly applying regulations.
This may or may not go anywhere, but there are plaintiffs and lawyers in communication with us on the issue. At the very least, we will keep you apprised of the situation as it develops.