Individuals submitting NFA applications to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives are expected to enjoy a shorter review period.
The ATF has streamlined processing steps to minimize application reviews. A report made in early July 2014 showed the number of applications currently in queue has dropped approximately one-fourth. Processing times for NFA applications have traditionally taken as long as 10 months.
The processing of NFA applications hinges on several factors that can lengthen review times. The prospective transferee may need to pass Federal background checks (name and fingerprints) while law enforcement agencies or foreign military agencies are exempt from background checks. Another factor that commonly contributes to delays: The ATF researches State and local regulations where the transferee is domiciled to verify no violations are present.
Although wait times dropped, the change is not significant across the board. For example, the wait time for an ATF Form 3 Application for Tax-Exempt Transfer has dropped by 30 days. However, the ATF Form 4—required for most transfers of NFA Class III items—has a current anticipated processing time of 9 months. (This is the same wait time forecasted in December 2013.)
One of the attractive features enjoyed by those who elect to use an NFA gun trust to ‘store’ their firearms is that ATF applications can be submitted electronically on the new ATF website* and if an applicant discovers an error on the form they can make corrections without losing their figurative spot in line. (In the past, mistakes required applicants to start the application process from the beginning.) Online ATF applications for gun trust users are possible because there are no fingerprint and no Chief Law Enforcement Officer sign-off requirements for gun trusts. (This may be changing if federal gun trust regulations change.)
Right now acquiring NFA firearms through gun trusts is much easier than trying to do so as an individual. However, there may be delays on the horizon. Lawmakers at the federal level are reviewing potential regulations that could create additional administrative work and impose time-consuming requirements on gun trusts. The ATF’s new report of shorter processing times may be the calm before the storm. Connect with a gun trust attorney to start the process as soon as possible.
*Only select forms are accepted electronically as of this writing.