The ATF May Close a Machine Gun Loophole

     WASHINGTON (CN) - The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has proposed a regulation that would require background information when weapons are sold to individuals through corporations or legal trusts.
     A current loophole allows individuals to obtain weapons such as machine guns and sawed-off shotguns through corporations, trusts or other legal entities.
     Under current law, individuals wanting to acquire such weapons must file a photograph and fingerprint card with the ATF and the local chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) of a state or county to "assert there is no reason to believe it would be illegal for the buyer to own the gun."
     Those requirements do not apply, however, "if the applicant or transferee is a partnership, company, association, trust or corporation. As such, persons who possess, directly or indirectly, the power or authority to receive, possess, ship, transport, deliver, transfer or otherwise dispose of a firearm for, or on behalf of, the entity are not subject to these requirements, and ATF does not conduct a background check of those individuals."
     According to the agency, legal entities requesting involvement in gun manufacture or transfer, but who are not federal firearms licensees, increased from about 840 in 2000 to 40,700 in 2012.
     The loophole was brought to the Department of Justice's attention by the National Firearms Act Trade and Collectors Association (NFATCA), which submitted a petition to the ATF requesting amendments to change the law, according to the agency's action.
     "The petitioner expressed concern that an NFA firearm could be acquired by a prohibited person and used in a violent crime," the action noted.
     The agency is now proposing changes to the nation's gun laws that require more background information from legal entities acquiring weapons.
     In addition, the ATF requests comments on whether the information provided will be enough for CLEOs to work with.
     The "ATF seeks public comments regarding whether it is feasible to ask CLEOs to certify that they are satisfied that the photographs and fingerprints match those of the responsible person. For example, some responsible persons may bring their fingerprint cards to the CLEO office already stamped, and some legal entities may have the paperwork, fingerprint cards, and photographs for each of their responsible persons couriered to the CLEO office. In such instances, ATF seeks comments on whether CLEOs will have enough information to certify that they are satisfied that the photographs and fingerprints match those of the responsible persons, or whether changes are needed to this proposal," the agency said in its action.
     Tightening requirements for background checks is also meant to allow the agency to weed out individuals wanting to obtain certain weapons, but who are not eligible to do so, according to the agency.
     For example, "In Texas, [the] ATF became aware of a situation in which the member of an LLC was an illegal alien, living in the United States under an assumed name, and had a felony warrant outstanding. At that time, the LLC had 19 firearms registered to it and ATF lacked the necessary information to conduct any background checks to determine whether the member was a prohibited person," the agency noted.
     Another case, in Tennessee, prevented illegal firearms from getting into the wrong hands.
     "As a result of information provided by a Federal firearms licensee, ATF became aware of applications submitted to transfer two NFA firearms to a trust in which one of the trustees was a convicted felon. If there had been no referral, ATF would not have known of the need to conduct any background checks for the trust members to determine if any were prohibited persons. As a result, under current regulations, prohibited persons can circumvent the statutory prohibitions and receive and possess firearms. This proposed rule will make the requirements for background checks the same for certain legal entities as they are now for individuals," according to the action.
     Comments are due by Dec. 9.