March 16, 2022
The recent discovery that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has begun mass denial of Form 1 applications for prospective makers of suppressors is a huge shift in policy that has some pro-Second Amendment organizations concerned.
On the last day of February, ATF denied nearly 850 Form 1 applications (their technical name is ATF Form 5320.1) That’s the form required for applicants who are not licensed to manufacture NFA-regulated firearms to legally create an NFA firearm, and suppressors have the same requirement.
This seeming new interpretation of federal law has attorneys at the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) concerned about what President Joe Biden’s ATF might choose to change next without going through proper procedures.
“We are not surprised that once again ATF is attempting to bend and broaden their interpretation of what constitutes a firearm, this time in the context of a silencer, in order to disrupt and deny individuals the ability to manufacture their own arms,” Adam Kraut, FPC vice president of programs, said in an exclusive interview with Firearms News. “While the definition of a silencer is broad and encompasses a number of objects, it appears that ATF is seemingly trying to shoehorn items that would not otherwise qualify unless and until an individual takes steps to alter or redesign them into silencer parts and/or silencers.
“Of course, these same individuals who are having their applications denied on the premise that they already possess silencers or silencer parts are those that are attempting to comply with the National Firearms Act by submitting an application in the first place and waiting for its approval before modifying or redesigning the objects they possess into regulated items.”
In applying their new interpretation of the statute, ATF is asking applicants for more information about the parts they plan to use in making a silencer. This new logic means that ATF considers the parts intended for “assembling or fabricating” a silencer to already be legally a silencer.
“It would seem as though ATF is trying to minimize the channels of materials that individuals can utilize to manufacture their own silencers at home, despite attempting to comply with the onerous NFA process,” Kraut noted. “The fewer materials that are readily available for individuals to purchase and subsequently modify to become silencers and silencer parts, after having submitted and receiving an approved application to manufacture one, leads to a simple result—less economical means to manufacture one’s own silencer.”
The new interpretation raises a big red flag for those who are considering making their own silencer—quite possibly what the ATF is trying to do by the mass Form 1 denial. After all, nothing curbs the appetite of a hobbyist like the threat of several years in federal prison just for trying to follow what was recognized law.
FPC’s Kraut urges caution moving forward.
“Given ATF’s recent actions, it would seem prudent to be wary of any kits, so-called solvent traps or other options that remain available, as it appears ATF is taking the position that these objects in and of themselves are silencers,” Kraut concluded. “In the case you anticipate being contacted or approached by anyone with ATF, we recommend familiarizing yourself with the guidance FPC previously provided regarding the agency’s possible action regarding Forced-Reset-Triggers (FRTs).”
About the Author: Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for more than 20 years.