[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 26 (Friday, February 7, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 7392-7396]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-02580]


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DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives

27 CFR Parts 447 and 479

[Docket No. ATF 26F; AG Order No. 3417-2014]
RIN 1140-AA42


Importation of Arms, Ammunition and Implements of War and Machine 
Guns, Destructive Devices, and Certain Other Firearms; Extending the 
Term of Import Permits (2010R-26P)

AGENCY: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), 
Department of Justice.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: This rule amends the regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol, 
Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to extend the standard term of 
import permits for firearms, ammunition, and defense articles from 1 
year to 2 years. The additional time will allow importers sufficient 
time to complete the importation of the authorized commodity. In 
addition, it will eliminate the need for the importer to submit a new 
import application, ATF Form 6, where the importation was not completed 
within the 1-year period. Extending the term of import permits will 
result in a substantial cost and time savings for both the industry and 
ATF, and will not cause any discernible adverse effects. This 
rulemaking proceeding is included in the Department of Justice's 
retrospective review plan developed pursuant to Executive Order 13563, 
``Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review.''

DATES: This rule is effective April 8, 2014.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Denise Brown, Enforcement Programs and 
Services, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, U.S. 
Department of Justice, 99 New York Avenue NE., Washington, DC 20226, 
telephone (202) 648-7070.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

    The Attorney General is responsible for enforcing the provisions of 
section 38 of the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 (AECA), 22 U.S.C. 
2778, that relate to the permanent importation of defense articles and 
defense services; and the National Firearms Act (NFA), 26 U.S.C. 
Chapter 53, and the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), 18 U.S.C. Chapter 
44, relating to commerce in firearms and ammunition. The Attorney 
General has delegated all of those responsibilities to the Director of 
ATF (Director), subject to the direction of the Attorney General and 
the Deputy Attorney General. 28 CFR 0.130.

A. Importation of Arms, Ammunition, and Implements of War (27 CFR Part 
447)

    Regulations that implement the provisions of the AECA that are 
concerned with the importation of arms, ammunition, and implements of 
war are set forth in 27 CFR Part 447. The regulation at 27 CFR 
447.41(a) generally provides that articles on the U.S. Munitions Import 
List may not be imported into the United States except pursuant to a 
permit. Section 447.42(a) states that persons required to obtain a 
permit must file with ATF an ATF Form 6--Part I (5330.3A), 
``Application and Permit for Importation of Firearms, Ammunition and 
Implements of War'' (ATF Form 6). The application must be signed and 
dated and must contain the information requested on the form.
    Section 447.43(a) provides that import permits are valid for 1 year 
from their issuance date unless a different period of validity is 
stated thereon. Furthermore, under section 447.43(b), if shipment 
cannot be completed during the period of validity of the permit, 
another application must be submitted for a permit to cover the 
unshipped balance.

B. Importation of Machine Guns, Destructive Devices, and Certain Other 
Firearms Under the NFA (27 CFR Part 479)

    Regulations that implement the provisions of the NFA are set forth 
in 27 CFR Part 479, which contains the procedural and substantive 
requirements relative to the importation, manufacture, making, 
exportation, transfer, taxing, identification and registration of, and 
the dealing in, machine guns, destructive devices, and certain other 
firearms. The regulation at 27 CFR 479.111(a) provides that no firearm 
may be imported or brought into the United States or any territory 
under its control or jurisdiction unless the

[[Page 7393]]

person importing or bringing in the firearm establishes to the 
satisfaction of the Director that the firearm to be imported or brought 
in is being imported or brought in for certain specified purposes, 
e.g., scientific or research purposes. This paragraph further provides 
that any person desiring to import or bring a firearm into the United 
States must file with the Director an application on ATF Form 6. For 
NFA firearms, the approval of an application to import a firearm shall 
be automatically terminated at the expiration of 1 year from the date 
of approval unless, upon request, it is further extended by the 
Director.
    Section 479.113 provides that the Director shall permit the 
conditional importation of any NFA firearm for the purpose of examining 
and testing to determine whether the importation of such firearm will 
be authorized. An application under this section shall be filed with 
the Director on ATF Form 6. The Director may impose conditions upon any 
importation, and the person importing the firearm must agree to either 
export or destroy the weapon if a final determination is made that it 
may not be imported.

C. Importation of Firearms and Ammunition (27 CFR Part 478)

    Regulations in Subpart G of part 478 provide the procedural and 
substantive requirements of the GCA relative to the importation of 
firearms and ammunition. Section 478.112 states that no firearm, 
firearm barrel, or ammunition shall be imported or brought into the 
United States by a licensed importer unless the Director has authorized 
the importation of the firearm, firearm barrel, or ammunition. This 
section further provides that the licensed importer must file with the 
Director an application for a permit, ATF Form 6, to import or bring a 
firearm, firearm barrel, or ammunition into the United States. If the 
Director approves the application, such approved application will serve 
as the permit to import the firearm, firearm barrel, or ammunition 
described on the permit, and importation of such firearms, firearm 
barrels, or ammunition may continue to be made by the licensed importer 
under the approved application (permit) during the period specified on 
the permit.
    Similar procedures are set forth in section 478.113 with respect to 
the importation of a firearm, firearm barrel, or ammunition into the 
United States by a licensee other than a licensed importer.
    Requirements for the conditional importation of firearms, firearm 
barrels, and ammunition for the purpose of examination and testing to 
determine whether the Director will authorize their importation are set 
forth in section 478.116. This section provides that an application on 
ATF Form 6 for such conditional importation must be filed with the 
Director. If approved, the Director may impose conditions on the 
importation, and the person importing the firearm, firearm barrel, or 
ammunition must agree to either export or destroy the imported item if 
it is determined that the item may not be imported.

II. FAIR Trade Group Petition

    ATF received a petition, dated August 10, 2010, filed on behalf of 
the FireArms Import-Export Roundtable (FAIR) Trade Group. As stated in 
the petition, FAIR is an organization that represents importers and 
exporters of firearms, ammunition, firearms parts, and accessories. The 
petitioner requested an amendment of the regulations to change the ATF 
Form 6 period of validity from 1 year to 2 years. According to the 
petitioner, this amendment would be beneficial to both the industry and 
to ATF, without having any impact on public safety or compliance with 
the law. As stated in the petition:

    [E]xtending the period a license [permit] is valid could reduce 
the workload for [ATF] examiners by lowering the number of renewals 
submitted to ATF and reduce the uncertainty importers face when 
dealing with long-lead time deals. [Many licensed and/or registered 
importers import the same defense articles year after year. ATF 
processes these ``renewal'' permits.] . . . Renewals of existing 
permits are perfunctory processes that consume the valuable 
resources of both the industry and the ATF.

    Increasing the term of an import permit to 2 years would also 
result in an economic benefit for ATF. Of the approximately 11,000 ATF 
Form 6 import applications ATF processes each year, 9,000 are submitted 
by an ATF licensed or registered importer. Subsequent information 
provided by the petitioner estimates that the renewal rate on import 
permits for industry members is approximately 50 percent. If the term 
of an import permit is changed from 1 year to 2 years, ATF estimates 
the number of import permit applications submitted by licensed or 
registered importers would be reduced to 4,500 each year. ATF employs 
data entry contractors who spend an average of 2 hours completing 
quality review and data entry functions for each import application. 
The average salary of a contractor is $14 per hour. ATF examiners 
typically spend 4 hours processing an ATF Form 6 application. The 
average hourly rate for an examiner is $24.74. If the number of 
applications was reduced to 4,500 each year, the annual savings to ATF 
would be approximately $571,320.

III. Proposed Rule

    The Department determined that an amendment of the regulations to 
extend the term of import permits for firearms, ammunition, and defense 
articles from 1 year to 2 years is warranted. Accordingly, in order to 
reduce the paperwork burden on the industry and to increase the 
efficiency of ATF in processing requests for importation, the 
Department proposed to amend the regulations in parts 447 and 479 to 
increase the term of import permits from 1 year to 2 years (Notice No. 
ATF 43P, Feb. 6, 2012, 77 FR 5735).
    Because the regulations in part 478 do not specify the period of 
validity for import permits as 1 year, the Department did not propose 
to amend the regulations in part 478. The regulations in part 478 
provide that importation may continue to be made by the applicant 
during the period specified on the approved application (permit). As 
stated on the ATF Form 6, the permit is valid for 12 months from the 
Director's approval date on the permit. If the proposed regulations 
were adopted, the ATF Form 6 would be revised to reflect the amended 
period of validity for importation as 2 years from the Director's 
approval date on the permit.
    The term of validity for import permits filed by members of the 
United States military returning to the United States from abroad with 
firearms, and for nonimmigrant aliens temporarily importing firearms 
into the United States for lawful hunting and sporting purposes was not 
affected by the proposed rule and would remain at 1 year. The comment 
period for Notice No. ATF 43P closed on May 7, 2012.

IV. Analysis of Comments and Department Responses

    In response to Notice No. ATF 43P, ATF received four comments. Two 
commenters supported the proposed rule and two commenters indicated 
opposition to the proposed rule.

Comments Received in Support

    One of the commenters, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, 
Inc. (NSSF), indicated support for the proposed rule and stated that 
``[t]his change would significantly benefit both ATF and U.S. importers 
without reducing ATF's ability to administer the 27 CFR part 447 
regulations and to ensure that importers are in compliance

[[Page 7394]]

with the law.'' As stated in its comment, NSSF is a trade association 
for America's firearms, ammunition, hunting, and shooting sports 
industry.
    Another commenter expressed support for the proposed rule but 
raised two concerns that he believed needed to be addressed. The 
commenter's first concern involves the source of some of the 
information presented in the proposed rule:

    Indeed, the Notice seems to admit that certain information used 
in calculating the reduction in import permits that would result 
from the implementation of the new rule was provided by the FAIR 
Trade Group. At the same time however, ATF claims to have researched 
and provided certain information. This mix of sources may lead to 
the belief that ATF has simply accepted the FAIR Trade Group's 
information, which, due to the fact that FAIR is not an independent 
body, could further lead to a belief that this rule is rooted in 
bias. . . . ATF could easily overcome any hints of bias by first 
conducting its own research regarding the renewal rate on import 
permits from registered industry members and then making that 
information available to the public along with the Notice.

    The commenter's second concern involves safety, i.e., the proposed 
rule ``offers no information as to what ramifications this change will 
have in regard to safety and national security.'' According to the 
commenter, while there are a number of conditions in the proposed rule 
that could lead one to conclude that safety and security are not an 
issue, e.g., there are no proposed changes to the information required 
on ATF Form 6, ``without any statement from ATF, one is left to draw 
his or her own conclusions.''

Department Response to Comments in Support

    In the proposed rule, the Department stated that information 
provided by the petitioner indicates the renewal rate on import permits 
for industry members is approximately 50 percent. One commenter 
expressed concern regarding the source of this information, i.e., the 
petitioner, and suggested that ATF conduct its own research regarding 
the renewal rate on import permits. As stated in the proposed rule, ATF 
processes approximately 11,000 ATF Form 6 applications annually. Each 
permit is entered into ATF's database system as a ``new'' application. 
``Renewals'' are not entered into the system as such. Accordingly, 
available data does not permit ATF to conduct the kind of independent 
research suggested by this commenter. Nevertheless, ATF's experience in 
processing thousands of ATF Form 6 applications every year supports the 
conclusion that the petitioner's estimate of a 50 percent annual 
renewal rate is not unreasonable. Moreover, even if that estimate is 
high it does not undercut the value of this rule. A renewal rate of 
even half of the estimate (i.e., 25 percent) would still produce 
substantial savings to both the industry and ATF.
    Regarding the commenter's second concern, ATF does not believe that 
extending the term of import permits from 1 year to 2 years will 
compromise safety and national security. Most annual ATF Form 6 
applications (roughly 9,000 of the approximately 11,000 applications) 
are filed by federally licensed or registered importers. Customs and 
Border Protection (CBP) of the Department of Homeland Security verifies 
the license/registration and permit are still valid at the time of 
importation. In addition, Federal firearms licensees are subject to 
periodic inspections by ATF industry operations investigators who will 
have access to the firearms in inventory and any associated paperwork 
concerning acquisition and disposition of these firearms. The majority 
of these permit applications are for sporting firearms being imported 
into the United States. These firearms do not require any supporting 
documentation for import nor are they subject to any additional 
regulations beyond the license, permit, and AECA registration 
requirements. Imports of National Firearms Act weapons represent a 
minority of the import applications filed. NFA weapons are generally 
not importable except under very limited circumstances (i.e. for the 
government) and those restrictions would still be applicable. 
Therefore, the concerns for public safety and national security when 
extending the term of import permits from 1 to 2 years is minimal.
    The remaining 2,000 applications represent imports of defense 
articles that are not firearms or ammunition (e.g., gas masks, engines 
for military vehicles, aircraft fuselages). The majority of these 
articles are not subject to further regulation once in the United 
States nor are they subject to requirements beyond the ATF Form 6 at 
the time of importation. For example, in order to import a gas mask for 
resale, an importer need only file the ATF Form 6 and be registered 
under the AECA. There is no limit on the amount they may import and 
they are not usually restricted by State or local governments. However, 
ATF may deny, suspend, or revoke any import permit due to violations of 
law. For the reasons discussed above, ATF believes that safety and 
security will not be compromised by extending the validity period of a 
permit every 2 years instead of each year. ATF also retains the 
authority to revoke any approved permit pursuant to any changes in the 
law, interpretation of the law, or changes to the regulations.

Comments Received in Opposition

    One of the commenters questioned the Department's authority to 
issue regulations without specific congressional authorization. The 
second commenter indicated opposition to extending the term of import 
permits from 1 year to 2 years:

    I think the nature of the items being shipped are of such 
gravity and danger that it is necessary to have strict limits on 
importation. If an importer would like to ship these weapons or 
articles of war, they should be subjected to a strict application 
standard and validity period.

As an alternative, the commenter suggests that the process for renewing 
an application should be less burdensome. According to the commenter, 
``[t]his would provide for the continuance of current rule, while 
providing a less workload for both parties. This would still decrease 
the economic burden somewhat and continue the policy of having standard 
applications only valid for one year.''

Department Response to Comments in Opposition

    Regarding ATF's authority to issue regulations, the Attorney 
General is responsible for enforcing the provisions of section 38 of 
the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 (AECA), 22 U.S.C. 2778, that relate 
to the permanent importation of defense articles and defense services; 
the National Firearms Act (NFA), 26 U.S.C. Chapter 53, and the Gun 
Control Act of 1968 (GCA), 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, relating to commerce 
in firearms and ammunition. The Attorney General has delegated 
responsibility for the enforcement of these statutes to the Director of 
ATF, subject to the direction of the Attorney General and the Deputy 
Attorney General. 28 CFR 0.130. This rule is being promulgated by the 
Attorney General, pursuant to authority vested in him under those 
statutes.
    The second commenter objected to extending the term of import 
permits to 2 years, arguing that the nature of the articles being 
imported warrants strict limits on importation. While the Department 
acknowledges the commenter's concern, it does not believe that 
extending the term of import permits from 1 year to 2 years will have a 
negative effect on public safety or national security. As stated in the 
response above, most annual ATF Form 6 applications are filed by

[[Page 7395]]

federally licensed or registered importers. Furthermore, all importers 
are subject to periodic compliance inspection by ATF. The majority of 
all permit applications are for sporting firearms being imported into 
the United States, which do not require any supporting documentation 
for import. Therefore, ATF believes that a 2-year permit lifespan will 
not undermine its ability to ensure compliance with the law and 
regulations, and that public safety and national security will not be 
compromised by allowing ATF to review this supporting documentation 
every 2 years instead of each year.
    Rather than extending the term of an import permit to 2 years, the 
same commenter stated that ATF should make the current import process 
less burdensome. ATF continually evaluates its regulatory processes to 
determine, inter alia, whether they can be streamlined or simplified 
without undermining ATF's regulatory responsibilities. ATF believes 
that extending the term of an import permit to 2 years meets those 
criteria, and it will continue to explore additional opportunities to 
simplify the import permit process.

V. Final Rule

    This final rule adopts without substantive change the proposed 
amendments that extend the term of import permits for firearms, 
ammunition, and defense articles from 1 year to 2 years.

How This Document Complies With the Federal Administrative Requirements 
for Rulemaking

A. Executive Orders 12866 and 13563

    This rule has been drafted and reviewed in accordance with 
Executive Order 12866, ``Regulatory Planning and Review,'' section 
1(b), The Principles of Regulation, and in accordance with Executive 
Order 13563, ``Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review,'' section 1, 
General Principles of Regulation, and section 6, Retrospective Analyses 
of Existing Rules. The Department of Justice has determined that this 
rule is not a ``significant regulatory action'' under Executive Order 
12866, section 3(f).
    Further, both Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 direct agencies to 
assess all costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, 
if regulation is necessary, to select regulatory approaches that 
maximize net benefits (including potential economic, environmental, 
public health and safety effects, distributive impacts, and equity). 
Executive Order 13563 emphasizes the importance of quantifying both 
costs and benefits, of reducing costs, of harmonizing rules, and of 
promoting flexibility. The Department has assessed the costs and 
benefits of this regulation and believes that the regulatory approach 
selected maximizes net benefits.
    Executive Order 13563 section 6, Retrospective Analyses of Existing 
Rules, directs agencies to develop a plan to review existing 
significant rules that may be ``outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or 
excessively burdensome,'' and to make appropriate changes where 
warranted. The Department selected and reviewed this rule under the 
criteria set forth in its Plan for Retrospective Analysis of Existing 
Rules. During this review, ATF calculated that it processes 
approximately 11,000 import applications each year. Approximately 82 
percent of those applications (9,000) are submitted by federally 
licensed or registered importers. ATF estimates that it takes a 
compliance officer employed by a federally licensed or registered 
importer approximately 30 minutes to complete an ATF Form 6 permit 
application. According to the Occupational Employment Statistics (May 
2011), published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of 
Labor, the average hourly wage of a compliance officer is $30.66. If 
the term of an import permit was extended to 2 years, ATF estimates 
that the number of ATF Form 6 permit applications submitted by licensed 
or registered importers will decrease, perhaps as much as by half. 
Reducing the number of permits submitted by the industry by half 
(4,500) would result in an annual savings of approximately $68,985.
    Increasing the term of an import permit to 2 years would also 
result in an economic benefit for ATF. ATF employs data entry 
contractors who spend an average of 2 hours completing quality review 
and data entry functions for each import application. The average 
salary of a contractor is $14 per hour. ATF examiners typically spend 4 
hours processing an ATF Form 6 application. The average hourly rate for 
an examiner is $24.74. If the number of applications submitted by the 
industry was reduced to 4,500 each year, the annual savings to ATF 
would be approximately $571,320.

B. Executive Order 13132

    This regulation will not have substantial direct effects on the 
States, on the relationship between the Federal Government and the 
States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the 
various levels of government. Therefore, in accordance with section 6 
of Executive Order 13132, ``Federalism,'' the Attorney General has 
determined that this regulation will not have sufficient federalism 
implications to warrant the preparation of a federalism summary impact 
statement.

C. Executive Order 12988

    This regulation meets the applicable standards set forth in 
sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of Executive Order 12988, ``Civil Justice 
Reform.''

D. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 605(b)) requires an agency 
to conduct a regulatory flexibility analysis of any rule subject to 
notice and comment rulemaking requirements unless the agency certifies 
that the rule will not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities. Small entities include small 
businesses, small not-for-profit enterprises, and small governmental 
jurisdictions. The Attorney General has reviewed this rule and, by 
approving it, certifies that this rule will not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.
    The Department believes that this rule will have a positive 
economic impact on both the industry and ATF. The number of permits and 
the time required for industry to file those permits and for ATF to 
process them will be significantly reduced.
    An industry compliance officer spends approximately 30 minutes 
completing an ATF Form 6. According to the Occupational Employment 
Statistics (May 2011), published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 
United States Department of Labor, the average hourly wage of a 
compliance officer is $30.66. Reducing the number of permits submitted 
by the industry by half (4,500) would result in an annual savings of 
approximately $68,985.

E. Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996

    This rule is not a major rule as defined by section 251 of the 
Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996, 5 U.S.C. 
804. This rule will not result in an annual effect on the economy of 
$100 million or more; a major increase in costs or prices; or 
significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, 
productivity, innovation, or the ability of United States-based 
enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises in domestic and 
export markets.

[[Page 7396]]

F. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995

    This rule will not result in the expenditure by State, local, and 
tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of $100 
million or more in any one year, and it will not significantly or 
uniquely affect small governments. Therefore, no actions were deemed 
necessary under the provisions of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 
1995.

G. Paperwork Reduction Act

    This rule does not impose any new reporting or recordkeeping 
requirements under the Paperwork Reduction Act. ATF Form 6 has been 
revised under currently approved OMB control number 1140-0005 to 
reflect the 2 year (24 months) amended period of validity for import 
permits.

Disclosure

    Copies of the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), all comments 
received in response to the NPRM, and this final rule will be available 
for public inspection by appointment during normal business hours at: 
ATF Reading Room, Room 1E-062, 99 New York Avenue NE., Washington, DC 
20226, telephone (202) 648-8740.

Drafting Information

    The author of this document is Denise Brown, Enforcement Programs 
and Services, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

List of Subjects

27 CFR Part 447

    Administrative practice and procedure, Arms control, Arms and 
munitions, Authority delegations, Chemicals, Customs duties and 
inspection, Imports, Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Scientific equipment, Seizures and forfeitures.

27 CFR Part 479

    Administrative practice and procedure, Arms and munitions, 
Authority delegations, Customs duties and inspection, Exports, Imports, 
Military personnel, Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Research, Seizures and forfeitures, Transportation.

Authority and Issuance

    Accordingly, for the reasons discussed in the preamble, 27 CFR 
parts 447 and 479 are amended as follows:

PART 447--IMPORTATION OF ARMS, AMMUNITION AND IMPLEMENTS OF WAR

0
1. The authority citation for 27 CFR part 447 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority:  22 U.S.C. 2778.


Sec.  447.43  [Amended]

0
2. In Sec.  447.43, paragraph (a) is amended by removing the phrase 
``one year'' and adding in its place the phrase ``two years''.

PART 479--MACHINE GUNS, DESTRUCTIVE DEVICES, AND CERTAIN OTHER 
FIREARMS

0
3. The authority citation for 27 CFR part 479 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 26 U.S.C. 7805.


Sec.  479.111  [Amended]

0
4. In Sec.  479.111, paragraph (a) is amended by removing the phrase 
``one year'' in the eighth sentence and adding in its place the phrase 
``two years''.

    Dated: January 31, 2014.
Eric H. Holder, Jr.,
Attorney General.
[FR Doc. 2014-02580 Filed 2-6-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4410-FY-P