On June 3rd, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the fiscal year 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, H.R. 2578 by a 242 – 183 margin. Included in H.R. 2578 is an American Suppressor Association backed provision to prevent an expansion of the Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) certification requirement for certain transfers of suppressors and other National Firearms Act (NFA) items.
In 2013, the Obama Administration issued an executive action that seeks to amend the transfer of firearms and suppressors under the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA). Known as ATF 41P, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is still awaiting Final Action. The proposal includes an amendment to require a CLEO certification for all NFA transfers to non-licensees, including those conducted by a trust or legal entity. Under current law, only individuals who purchase NFA items are required to obtain a CLEO certification as part of the Federal process.
41P represents a curious reversal in the Administration’s own position. In 2011, the ATF recommended eliminating the CLEO certification altogether. In fact, according to their own proposal, they wanted to “eliminate the requirement for a certification signed by the CLEO.”
When the National Firearms Act of 1934 was signed into law, computerized background checks did not exist. At that time, the CLEO certification was the only way that individuals applying for a transfer of an NFA item could be vetted. Since 1934, technology has come full circle, making the subjective approval from local Law Enforcement no longer an enhancement to public safety.
According to the proposed amendments, “ATF conducts its own background checks of individuals applying to make and receive NFA firearms. In addition to transmitting fingerprints to the FBI for a criminal history check, ATF routinely queries the following databases and indexes:
- National Crime Information Center
- TECS (formerly named the Treasury Enforcement Communication System)
- National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System
- Interstate Identification Index
- National Instant Criminal Background Check System”
Given the already extensive background checks currently in place, the expansion of CLEO certifications will not enhance public safety in any way. Instead, it will only serve to create hardships for collectors, manufacturers, and licensed dealers.
If enacted, 41P would result in a de facto ban on NFA transfers in many jurisdictions, jeopardizing thousands of jobs supported by the manufacturing and sale of such items, as well as the liberties of millions of law abiding citizens. With suppressors accounting for the overwhelming majority of NFA transfers, fighting this politically motivated executive action has remained one of ASA’s top priorities since it was announced.
The American Suppressor Association would like to thank Rep. John Carter (R-TX) for championing this amendment to protect the suppressor industry and the rights of the law abiding citizens of this country. We call on House and Senate negotiators to keep this language intact in the final bill.