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Things Are Getting Real For The BATFE’s Firearms Technology Branch

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Sometimes, you can get to know a bit about someone by taking a peek at their shopping list.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was served a lawsuit last week by SIG Sauer. This suit immediately followed ATF’s public chastising from a judge in a similar case brought by Innovative Arms (both cases where muzzle brakes were submitted for testing and classification and deemed “silencers” by the ATF, but no decibel reduction testing was provided to back up their determinations). It might be of interest to other muzzle device manufacturers (and possibly the legal team at SIG Sauer) that ATF themselves this month has admitted that their own sound testing equipment “…has reached end of life and requires an upgrade.” and has issued a sole-source solicitation to purchase a new “computer controlled firearm silencer testing system” from a Virginia-based Bruel & Kjaer representative that custom built ATF’s last system in 2005.

Click to view .pdf

FedBizOpps SIMS Solicitation

Recently, ATF’s Firearms Technology Branch claimed that Innovator Enterprises, Inc.’s Stabilizer Brake was a highly-restricted silencer, even though the manufacturer’s intent was to make a freely-sold, unregulated recoil device. The ATF’s determination, however, was shot down with no small amount of candor by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia when Innovator Enterprises sued the ATF over the mischaracterization. District Judge John Bates’ commentary read that the ATF’s “decision to classify the Stabilizer Brake as a ‘firearm silencer’ is ‘arbitrary and capricious’ for at least two reasons: the agency failed to ‘articulate a satisfactory explanation’ for its decision and the agency failed to ‘examine the relevant data’ before coming to a final conclusion.”

The Court noted that the ATF did not provide any proof or determination of the Stabilizer brake’s ability to reduce noise, but gave FTB the benefit of the doubt by assuming “Although the FTB (Firearms Technology Branch) utilizes state-of-the-art sound metering equipment, these tests do not affect the classification of any item.” But ATF themselves, in what may wind up being an unfortunately-timed admission from them in any upcoming court cases, gives justification of their purchase by admitting that their sound metering equipment is actually not “state-of-the-art” but rather “has reached end of life.”

The Court goes even further to question the history of “what exactly Congress was concerned about in deciding to regulate silencers at the federal level”, and points out a study showing that “The 1934 congressional debates [over what became the National Firearms Act] provide no explanation about why silencers were licensed” in the first place.

The ATF’s National Firearms Act Branch is incredibly overworked and understaffed. It is constantly inundated with tens of thousands of silencer transfers, and is currently dealing with the frustrations of a contractor’s failed e-Forms website (that was supposed to help ease their workload and speed the processing times of these transfers). Add the issue of being repeatedly sued over arbitrary determinations – on what is not even a firearm to begin with, but rather a harmless noise-pollution reduction device – it is certainly a ripe time for Congress to assess if suppressors should be removed from the purview of the NFA entirely.

- Kel Whelan

Kel Whelan has spent decades working NFA issues, and is well known to many in the firearms industry. Plus, he can always recommend a great place to eat.

Final Draft of AFMAN for USAF Implementation of Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act

Monday, April 14th, 2014

The US Air Force has been rather slow to implement the provisions of Public Law 108-277 dated 22 July 2004, The Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act of 2004 (LEOSA) as amended by Public Law 112-239 dated 2 January 2013, as well as specific instructions under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 and DoDI 5525.12, The Amended Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004. That 2013 amendment told DoD that its LEOs were covered as well by the legislation because they weren’t quite sure before. But, this is going to happen guys.

You see, the LEOSA as it is commonly known, is a federal law, that allows two classes of persons; “qualified law enforcement officers” and “qualified retired law enforcement officers”, to carry a concealed firearm in any jurisdiction in the United States, regardless of state or local laws, with certain exceptions. That is a pretty big privilege.

Why is taking the AF so long to comply with Federal Law? Probably because they’ve never had to face something like actually facilitating the concealed carry of firearms by current and former Airmen. I’ve said it before (while in uniform) and I’ll say it again; the Air Force is institutionally afraid of guns. That might make you understand their apprehension. That, and they haven’t let a contract to handle issuing credentials yet. Security Forces is the largest enlisted careerfield in the Air Force. It’s also going to be a bit of a mess dealing with Retired and those with 10 years cumulative experience as a Qualified LEO. Supposedly, this won’t happen until Fall, 2014.

I will go on record to say that I cannot support LEOSA because it creates a privileged class of gun owners who have rights that other citizens do not. It is my contention that legislation such as LEOSA divides the gun owning populace. Since current and retired LEOs may concealed carry virtually anywhere, they have effectively been removed from the pro-2A lobbying effort. Their concerns have been answered and there’s no reason for them to go to bat to help normalize concealed carry laws across the nation. At the federal level, it means that anyone who qualifies under LEOSA is not subject to the concealed carry laws of any state, with a couple of exceptions.

However, LEOSA is the law of the land and the military departments must comply, offering their current and “retired” LE personnel the credentials necessary for compliance with the law. That, I do support.

I’ve been told that this version has been signed but not issued yet so I’m calling it a final draft. The Air Force Manual lays out in its simplest terms what the Air Force is required to do in order to make this happen for current/former Airmen. Specifically, under LEOSA and this Manual, “individuals who have apprehension authority and are identified as qualified law enforcement officers, active, retired or separated with 10 or more years of aggregate service in a position as a qualified law enforcement officer, may carry privately owned weapons (POW) concealed while off duty and outside the boundary of the installation.” Notice that they still won’t be able to off-duty concealed carry on military installations or any other “gun free zones” for that matter.

There are a couple of interesting points in the draft of the AFMAN. I wonder how those made it past the legal review.

3.2. All personnel receiving a USAF SF LEOSA credential who choose to carry a concealed weapon should obtain concealed carry or self-defense insurance with civil and criminal defense coverage in the event they are involved in an off-duty LEOSA Use of Force incident. The Air Force has no liability and will not provide legal defense if an individual is involved in an off-duty LEOSA Use of Force incident. The USAF role is solely to determine that all requirements to carry under LEOSA are met; any action taken by the individual is their personal responsibility.

3.3. Personnel should also consider carrying a “grand jury kit.” A recommended grand jury kit consists of the AF Form 688D or E, weapons qualification documentation, driver’s license or state issued identification card, proof of ownership for the weapon carried, copies of DoDI 5525.15, this AFMAN and the LEOSA Act legislation.

While I have issues with the underlying law, I’m very glad to see that we will be welcoming a wide variety of new, serving and Veteran military LEOs to the concealed carrying public and I’m also glad to see the Air Force is finally making some headway with this.

Feel free to read the DRAFT AFMAN LEOSA.

Sig Sauer Sues BATFE for Classifying Muzzle Brake as Suppressor

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

According to Sea Coast Online New Hampshire-based SIG SAUER has filed civil suit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives alleging they wrongfully classified a SIG-designed muzzle brake as an item “intended only for use” in producing suppressors. Specifically, BATFE determined that the SIG brake incorporated a monolithic baffle stack in its design. On April 4, 2013, SIG submitted the brake for BATFE examination which is described as 9.5 inches long and permanently attached with a weld to a 6.5 inch barrel, making the overall barrel length 16 inches. ATF responded by informing that the device was classified as a suppressor and that, “Welding it to a barrel does not change its design characteristics or function.”

SIG asked for a reconsideration, responding to the ATF on 6 September, 2013 in a letter offering evidence that sound meter testing proved the device amplified, not muffled sound,as well as evidence showing the device offsets and corrects recoil. Unfortunately, it seems the ATF stuck by their determination, responding in a February 21 letter stating that the device is a part intended only for use in manufacturing a suppressor.

Consequently, SIG filed suit claiming economic injury because suppressors are “subject to burdensome legal requirements” and “no market would exist for the device” whereas their muzzle brake “effectively reduces recoil and muzzle rise when a shot is discharged” making it “highly marketable to consumers and will generate profit.” SIG also asserts that despite their follow up with ATF, the agency did dispute its evidence that the device worked as claimed.

“If classified as a silencer, no market exists for the subject device given that it will not silence, muffle, or diminish the report of a firearm and yet it would still be subject to the burdensome requirements set forth above as if it really is a silencer,” Sig argues through Manchester attorney Mark Rouvalis and Virginia attorney Stephen Halbrook.

This suit comes on the heels of a recent suit by Innovator Enterprises against the ATF because it classified their Stabilizer Brake as a suppressor. U.S. District Judge John Bates

“In any agency review case, a reviewing court is generally obligated to uphold a reasonable agency decision that is the product of a rational agency process,” U.S. District Judge John Bates writes. “This is not a high bar,” he continues, “But in this case, ATF fails to clear it.” The Judge overturned the BATFE determination letter for teh device becuase it was based solely on physical characteristics rather than performance. He goes on, referring to the determination letter in his decision, writing, “contains hardly any reasoning, and makes no reference to prior agency regulations or interpretations that support its conclusion.” Instead, Judge Bates called the ATF letter a brief and informal document and “a non-binding statement of the agency’s position on whether the Stabilizer Brake is a silencer,” and “will not bear the force of law as applied in future classifications of different devices.”

Sounds pretty familiar.

American Silencer Association – Iowa Suppressor Legalization Needs Immediate Support

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

ATLANTA, GA — Iowa House File 2381, a bill which sought to legalize the possession and ownership of firearm suppressors in Iowa, was denied a hearing in a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee chaired by Senator Thomas Courtney (D-44), and is no longer active. HF 2381, formerly known as HF 384, passed the Iowa State House by an 83-16 margin.

The opposition for the legalization of suppressors stems from the vehemently anti-gun Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Robb Hogg (D- 33). Despite overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, Sen. Hogg continues to oppose the measure in a blanket attempt to block any and all legislation that advances the Second Amendment.

What Sen. Hogg does not understand is that the legalization of suppressors is about more than the Second Amendment. It is about jobs. It is about economic development. It is about hearing protection.

The primary role of a suppressor is to reduce the overall sound signature of the host firearm to hearing safe levels. Despite their name, suppressors do not silence anything. Instead, they simply trap the expanding gasses at the muzzle and allow them to slowly cool, in a similar fashion to car mufflers. Their muffling capabilities intrinsically make them a hearing protection device for both the shooter and those around them.

Even the most effective suppressors on the market on the smallest and quietest calibers reduce the peak sound level of the gunshot to that of a chainsaw or a hammer drill (110-115 dB). According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), “without proper hearing protection, running a chain saw for only 2 minutes can become dangerous to the human ear.” For centerfire rifle and pistol calibers, suppressors can only reduce the peak sound level to that of a snare drum at a rock concert, or a jet engine at takeoff (130-140 dB).

According to NIOSH, individuals should not be exposed to sound levels over 85 dB for more than eight hours (Occupational Noise Exposure, Revised Criteria 1998). For every three dB increase, exposure time is cut in half. At levels between 130-140 dB, the sound level of most suppressed firearms, noise levels are loud enough that only a few rounds can be safely fired without earplugs or earmuffs. Any exposure to sounds in excess of 140 dB will cause instantaneous and irreversible hearing damage. However, when suppressors are used in conjunction with traditional hearing protection devices, shooters can safely expose themselves to hours of additional shooting without risking permanent damage to their hearing.

Iowans have made it clear that they want to become the 40th state to allow their citizens to protect their hearing by possessing and using suppressors. In order for it to become a reality this year, the Senate and House leadership will need to agree to include language from HF 2381 in their end of session leadership bill. They will only do so if you keep the pressure on them.

Please contact members of the Senate and House Leadership IMMEDIATELY and urge them to support the legalization of suppressor ownership in Iowa. Urge your friends and family to do the same. Without everyone’s support, your rights will not be granted.

Contact information can be found here:

Senate:

Senate President Jochum: Pam.Jochum@legis.iowa.gov (563) 556-6530
Senate Majority Leader Gronstal: Mike.Fronstal@legis.iowa.gov (712) 328-2808
Senate President Pro Tempore Sodders: Steve.Sodders@legis.iowa.gov (641) 751-4140
Senate Majority Whip: Joe.Bolkcom@legis.iowa.gov (319) 337-6280

House of Representatives:

Speaker Paulsen: Kraig.Paulsen@legis.iowa.gov (515) 281-3521
Speaker Pro Tempore Olson: Steven.Olson@legis.iowa.gov (515) 281-3221
House Majority Leader Upmeyer: Linda.Upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov (641) 357-8807
House Majority Whip Hagenow: Chris.Hagenow@legis.iowa.gov (515) 281-3221

americansilencerassociation.com

BATFE Raids Ares Armor

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

At around 1015 AM PDT, Saturday, March 15th, the BATFE executed a search warrant on SoCal-based Ares Armor. Several websites have reported that this raid was illegal because Ares Armor had been granted a Temporary Restraining Order earlier in the week by a federal judge of the US District Court, Southern District of California. This TRO prevented BATFE from executing a warrant based on what Ares Armor considered incorrect information regarding the 80% AR-15 lowers from EP Armory they had been selling.

Unfortunately, for Ares Armor, District Judge Janis L. Sammartino of the United States District Court, modified the TRO Friday afternoon. His order prevents Ares Armor from divesting itself of inventory and records. This prevents them from destroying or removing any evidence BATFE may be after. Also, the modification To the TRO clarifies that it does “not restrain lawful criminal proceedings.”

link to TRO modification

Ares Armor claims they were willing to give BATFE any unsold 80% lowers but that they would not provide BATFE with a list of their customers. This was the primary reason Ares Armor sought out the TRO in the first place.

BATFE asserts that Ares Armor has had in its possession thousands of firearms in the form of 80% lowers and, as they do not possess an FFL, this is a serious issue.

Ares Armor on the other hand, sold what they thought were perfectly legal, non-firearms in the form of 80% lower receivers for the AR-15. This means that they are only 80% complete and cannot function. Heretofore, it has been perfectly legal for individuals to purchase these non-firearms, which are simply machined aluminum or polymer and complete them on their own, for their own use, without serial number. BATFE has long held 80% receivers are non-firearms. We await to see what rule changes will be announced by BATFE that may affect the status of all 80% completed firearm blanks.

Ares Armor Threatened With Raid By BATFE – Obtains Temporary Restraining Order Against BATFE

Friday, March 14th, 2014

We were contacted yesterday by Ares Armor front man Dimiti Karras regarding an issue that has begun to come to the forefront of 2A rights. Although drawn in by ATF actions against one of Ares’ suppliers, they are now at the center of it. Not only is the story swirling the blogosphere, it’s also made its way to the evening news.

The story revolves around polymer 80% lower receivers for AR15-style rifles. These are considered non-guns are and consequently do not have serial numbers. They are purchased by those who wish to finish the work at home and so long as they do the work themselves for their own use, it is perfectly legal and the resulting firearm will not have a serial number. In some people’s eyes, this makes them even more evil than the standard evil that is a black rifle.

Reportedly, the BATFE raided California-based EP Armory last week due to a determination letter that had deemed EP’s 80% Polymer lower to be a firearm – the determination letter was quickly found to be factually incorrect, and the BATFE was alerted to this. Despite this, the BATFE still obtained warrants against EP Armory, and earlier this week also threatened to raid Ares Armor, who sells these 80% lowers, based on incorrect information. It must be mentioned the ATF has allowed EP Armory to go back to business.

Ares Armor’s lawyers contacted the ATF and they requested a list of every customer that had purchased an EP Armory polymer lower from Ares Armor and for them to turn over the remaining polymer lower inventory that they have in lieu of the threatened raid. Ares is willing to turn over the 80% lower receivers but they draw the line at giving up the information on customers they maintain have done nothing wrong. In response, Ares Armor has managed to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order against the BATFE issued by the United States district court of Southern California. That’s a new one on me. I can’t of anyone who’s ever done that before. The ATF has yet to respond to the order and both parties may end up in front of a federal judge later this month in order to determine if the restraining order has merit.

TRO Ares Armor and ATF

(Click to view order)

Update: Here is a scan of the official order issued by the United States District Court of the Southern District of California, separated into two parts.

Dale Comstock Introduces Ranger Hall of Fame Member Gary O’Neill

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

American Badass” author and US Army SOF Veteran Dale Comstock (MSG, USA Ret) introduces Gary O’Neil (CWO4, USA Ret), Ranger Hall of Fame member. Gary O’Neil is an author himself having penned “American Warrior“. Both books are worth picking up.

The Iowa Suppressor Ownership Bill Needs Your Support

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Our friends at the American Silencer Association have asked us to spread the word on a pending bill that would allow citizens of Iowa to possess suppressors. As a native of that great state that values liberty, it’s something near to my heart.

Last week, State Rep. Matt Windschitl, (R-Missouri Valley) introduced House File 384 to the Iowa State House. The purpose of the bill is to legalize the possession of suppressors for the law abiding citizens of Iowa who complete the proper Federal NFA transfer process.

Iowa is currently one of only 11 states that prohibit the possession of suppressors by civilians. For a full map, visit the ASA’s website.
Although HF 384 is moving through the General Assembly, it needs your support to pass.

Please contact members of the Iowa State House and Senate TODAY and urge them to support the legalization of suppressor ownership in Iowa. Contact information can be found below:
House: www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/house
Senate: www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/senate

Beretta USA Announces New Plant in Tennessee

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

This just in. Beretta USA has been searching for a new home in light of last year’s assault on the firearms industry by anti-2A legislators. looks like they found what they are looking for in Gallatin, Tennessee.

World’s oldest firearms manufacturer and major U.S. defense contractor to expand to Gallatin, Tn.

NASHVILLE – Beretta USA officials along with Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty announced today the company will expand its U.S. operations by building a new firearms manufacturing plant in the Gallatin Industrial Park. Beretta, a global manufacturer of high-quality sporting and military firearms, will invest $45 million in a state-of-the-art manufacturing and R&D facility. Beretta will create 300 new Tennessee jobs. The company is expected to complete construction on the facility this year.

Beretta is the world’s oldest manufacturing dynasty, operating since 1526 in Italy. The company is privately owned and operated by members of the 15th and 16th generations of the Beretta family. Beretta supplies quality sporting and self-defense firearms to consumers worldwide. The company manufactures the U.S. Armed Forces M-9 pistol, the standard sidearm of U.S. soldiers since 1985. Beretta will make firearms at the new Gallatin plant from both their sporting and tactical product lines.

“Beretta is one of the world’s greatest companies, and their decision to expand into Tennessee speaks to the standards of craftsmanship and quality our state’s workforce embraces every day,” Haslam said. “Attracting a legendary company like Beretta reinforces our goal of becoming the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs. I want to thank the Beretta family for their substantial investment in Tennessee and the 300 jobs they’ll create in Sumner County.”

M9 painted

“Today’s significant announcement by Beretta USA is a historic moment for the state of Tennessee, the Haslam Administration and ECD,” Hagerty said. “Beretta is one of the best brands in the world. Tennessee’s global reputation for manufacturing in an artisan tradition means we are able to attract companies like Beretta, with a proven commitment to excellence. Tennessee continues to earn global accolades for our business climate, and we boast the best balance sheet in the nation. I appreciate Beretta’s decision to locate in Tennessee, and we look forward to a partnership that will last centuries.”

“From the moment when we started to consider a location outside of the State of Maryland for our manufacturing expansion, Governor Haslam and his economic development team did an excellent job demonstrating the benefits of doing business in Tennessee. We are convinced we could find no better place than Tennessee to establish our new manufacturing enterprise. We look forward to building operations here and being part of your community for many years to come,” said Franco Gussalli Beretta, Vice President and Managing Director of Fabbrica D Armi S.p.A and Executive Vice President of Beretta USA.

“When Beretta chooses a location for its business, we start with the possibility that we will be in that location for decades, if not hundreds of years, to come. We move forward with confidence knowing that Tennessee is a great place to do business. We look forward to our opportunities here and we look forward to working side-by-side with our new Tennessee neighbors,” said Jeff Reh, Beretta USA Member of the Board of Directors for Beretta USA.

Read the full transcript of Vice President and Managing Director of Fabbrica D Armi S.p.A and Executive Vice President of Beretta USA’s Franco Gussalli Beretta’s speech here.

Read the full transcript of Beretta USA’s Board of Directors Member Jeff Reh’s speech here.

LWRCI’s 50 State Compliant Rifle Demonstrator

Monday, January 20th, 2014

At SHOT Show, LWRCI showed me an interesting new carbine demonstrator. It looks like their standard IC-style carbine with a 10 round magazine peeking out from the mag well. But then I noticed that there is no magazine release.

photo 1

Turns out, it features a 10 round, spring loaded, fixed magazine, you grasp the bottom of the magazine and pull until the bullet-shaped loading gate aligns. Then you can feed ammunition into the magazine to top it off. When you are done, you release the magazine and it automatically closes under spring pressure.

photo 2

This is still a concept demonstrator and not yet ready for primetime but it’s good to see industry developing rifles for every segment of the market; even those who live in areas with restrictive gun laws. When the latest wave of legislation was proposed last year, I knew that someone would analyze the laws and begin to work on technologies that accommodate them, yet allow the user to continually top off the magazine and in a for factor we all know and love, the Stoner AR platform.

I was so impressed with the concept that, during SHOT Show, I mentioned this rifle when asked by others what I had seen that was cool. Many in industry were intrigued with the idea and supported the notion. In fact, I was so struck by the rifle that I uncharacteristically shot and posted a quick video on the demonstrator to the SSD Facebook page. However, I was quite dismayed by the reaction from the readers. I noticed industry fans liked the rifle. Many, disappointingly, were outraged by LWRCI’s development of the rifle which they felt was an act of capitulation to laws they don’t agree with. Some mentioned that LWRCI should spend their money on legal action, opposing prohibitive gun legislation. Apparently, they don’t realize how much money the firearms industry pours into organizations that lobby for your gun rights.

I cannot explain this upside down attitude that would rather leave citizens without guns, than offer them something that complies with these laws. The attitude reminds of a spoiled child who won’t accept something unless they get it the way they want it. I find it to be a defeatist attitude that eschews resistance via innovation in favoring hunkering down awaiting change via legislation or the court system, or worse yet, abandoning areas with restrictive gun laws altogether. Naturally, the issue must be confronted via the middle path, with a balance of adaption during periods of prohibition combined with legislative and legal actions including education, lobbying, and court challenges.

Whether you agree with their LWRCI’s actions on a philosophical level, you have to admit that it is an innovative approach and I hope that it spurs more innovation industry-wide.