Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Instant Manufacturer: Just Add Arbitrary Ruling

So apparently, under the modern logic of ATF, should a MAACO repaint a damaged car sent to them by General Motors, MAACO is suddenly the exact same type of business AS General Motors. So is Bubba Joe's Hot Rods, if he installs a really sweet chromed air breather on some schmucks '74 Firebird.
Or is he?
I am unclear.
The new BATFE ruling (PDF File here) equates many basic gunsmithing functions with manufacturing, and would seem to force many current Type 01-Gunsmith FFL holders into re-upping ASAP as Type07 FFL manufacturers, or face being in violation of a shipload of regulations. So, without futher racket, here is the text of the letter I sent to ATF, looking for clarification.


Firearms Technology Branch

244 Needy Road

Martinsburg, WV 25405

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to request clarification regarding the ATF’s current legal stance regarding firearm refinishing conducted by a Type 01 FFL- holding gunsmith, specifically refinishing processes performed on weapons brought in or sent in to the gunsmith by the current individual owner for the purposes of rust proofing, Parkerizing, plating, epoxy coating, camouflaging, and/or heat treating.

The ATF ruling “Manufacturing of Firearms” dated August 15th, 2008 (enclosed “attachment A”) clearly states (item 14) that “ATF has determined that both colorization and heat treating of firearms are manufacturing processes The companies performing these processes are required to be licensed as manufacturers.”“firearms or firearms receivers ands send the firearms/receivers out for colorizing (bluing, camouflaging, phosphating, or plating) and/or heat treating. HOWEVER, this response was to a question (also Item 14) which refers to a COMPANY that produces


My concern is that a Type 01 FFL Gunsmith who performs a heat treatment, or a refinishing procedure on a worn or damaged firearm (or receiver) finds themselves potentially misclassified as someone who should hold a Type 07 manufacturing FFL, when there is no viable manufacturing of a complete receiver or firearm occurring.

Without clarification, this ruling might be misinterpreted to reclassify a licensed gunsmith who:

A) Repaints a front sight on a handgun when the paint has worn off, or

B) Changes or replaces a fiber optic insert on a front sight from one color to another, or

C) Heat treats a slide, cylinder, or even a serialized frame or receiver that has been through a fire, for restoration and safety

D) Re-parkerizes the same fire damaged firearm, or

E) Nickel plates an antique family heirloom firearm for a customer, or

F) Camouflages a firearm for duty usage for a local Law Enforcement agency, or

G) Finishes a firearm for a customer who has legally made his own firearm for personal use, having filed the appropriate ATF E-Form 1 (5320.1) or

H) Epoxy clear-coats a rifle to prevent its rusting, or

J) Plates a worn part to increase its thickness and make it serviceable again, or

K) Refinishes a pink “girls” rifle to a blue “boys” rifle, or

L) Refinishes an upper receiver and lower receiver on a firearm so that the colors match.

As you can see by my examples, the possibilities for misunderstanding in this situation are quite numerous.

It is also my understanding that as of the time of this writing (August 20th, 2008) that firearms refinishing is not a taxable event for the purposes of collecting Federal Excise Tax, per

(Below the heading of “Gunsmiths,” exact text of TTB webpage section is included on separate pages as “Attachment B.”)

With the above being true, it would seem illogical for a type 01 FFL Gunsmith to be reclassified as a Type 07 FFL Manufacturer solely on the basis of performing a “manufacturing process”on a firearm/receiver brought in to a gunsmith for repair and/or refinishing. (Much as actual firearms manufacturers will likely need to be or employ gunsmiths and finishers, not all gunsmiths or refinishers being manufacturers; as a person that repaints an automobile is not a full automobile manufacturer, yet an auto manufacturer will surely employ painters.)

As someone who mostly performs cleaning, gunsmithing and refinishing operations, I am asking ATF for clarification on these issues, so that I may continue to legally and profitably operate my gunsmithing/refinishing business with as few impediments as possible. Applying this section towards reclassifying gunsmiths as manufacturers has broader ramifications beyond ATF; common gunsmiths would suddenly fall under State Department ITAR regulations, and I find it hard to believe that that is the intent of this ruling.

Thank you for you time, attention, and clarifications to these matters; it is appreciated.


Cc: United States Senator Charles Grassley

United States Representative Leonard Boswell

United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Larry Pratt, Gun Owners of America

Chris W. Cox, National Rifle Association


DJ said...

I found The National Firearms Act Handbook in this location at the ATF web site. On pages 39-40, I found the following:

"7.2.3 What is the difference between manufacturing and gunsmithing? Performing the work of a gunsmith requires a dealer’s license under the GCA, not a manufacturer’s license. Nevertheless, a license as an importer or manufacturer also entitles the licensee to conduct business as a gunsmith. The term “dealer” under the GCA includes a gunsmith, that is, “any person engaged in the business of repairing firearms or fitting special barrels, stocks, or trigger mechanisms to firearms.” However, gunsmiths occasionally perform the work of a manufacturer and do so without the required manufacturer’s license. Indeed, there is no distinction between the activities of a gunsmith and a
manufacturer in terms of the physical things done to a firearm. What distinguishes gunsmithing from manufacturing is the purpose for which the work is done. If a gunsmith performs work on a customer’s personal gun for the customer’s personal use, the function is lawfully performed pursuant to the gunsmith’s license as a dealer under the GCA. However, if the gunsmith performs work on guns as a step in the process of preparing them for subsequent sale, the work is “manufacturing” requiring a
manufacturer’s license and, if the firearm is an NFA firearm, a special tax stamp under the NFA. Here are some examples:

"(1) John Doe has a personal firearm and takes it to a gunsmith, a licensed dealer, for
modification. The work performed in this instance is the legitimate work of a gunsmith and may be performed pursuant to the gunsmith’s dealer’s license. The gunsmith need not be licensed as a manufacturer, or hold a special tax stamp in the case of an NFA firearm, to perform the work.

"(2) Company A is a licensed manufacturer, but contracts with other licensees to perform
finishing work on NFA firearms it manufactures. One such contractor is a gunsmith, a licensed dealer. After receiving the finished firearms, Company A offers the firearms for sale. In this instance, the gunsmith, as well as Company A, is engaged in business as an NFA firearms manufacturer and needs a manufacturer’s license and special tax stamp to do so."

Perhaps this helps.

Sean Galt said...

thanks DJ- *I* get it- I just want to make sure THEY get it. If they did, why write yet another rule?

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