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Firearms Dealers Must Certify Secure Guns Storage or Safety Devices under new Rule

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Justice Department Announces New Rule to Help Enhance Safe and Secure Storage of Firearms; Publishes Best Practices Guide for Federal Firearms Licensees

The Department of Justice today announced a new rule to help enable the safe and secure storage of firearms and published a Best Practices Guide for federal firearms licensees (FFLs). This new rule implements the existing Gun Control Act requirement that federal firearms licensees that sell firearms to the general public (non-licensees) must certify that they have available secure gun storage or safety devices. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Best Practices Guide for FFLs is an important resource and reference guide about federal laws and regulations.

Attorney General Garland Delivers Remarks at Department of Justice Sunshine Week Celebration DOJ

“Today’s announcements build on the department’s efforts to reduce the risk of firearms falling into the wrong hands,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Gun safety is a Department of Justice priority, and we will continue to take all appropriate steps to help reduce the number of people killed and injured by the misuse of firearms.”

The Department of Justice has submitted to the Federal Register for publication a final rule, which will take effect Feb. 3, requiring FFLs to certify that they have secure gun storage devices available to their customers for purchase. Secure gun storage or safety device, as defined by statute and regulation, includes a safe, gun safe, gun case, lock box or other device that is designed to be or can be used to store a firearm and that is designed to be unlocked only by means of a key, a combination or other similar means. Not all devices are compatible with varying types of firearms. Therefore, integral to the new rule is the requirement that FFLs have available secure gun storage options that are compatible with the firearms they are selling.

In addition, today, the ATF published a Best Practices Guide for FFLs. The ATF’s Best Practices Guide is designed to assist FFLs in complying with all required firearm laws and regulations that are designed to ensure public safety and the traceability of firearms.

The Best Practices Guide also encourages FFLs to provide customers with ATF publications to help firearms owners better understand their legal obligations, as well as practical steps they can take to help keep firearms out of the hands of prohibited persons and facilitate the safe storage of firearms. Links to ATF publications addressing the following topics are included in the Best Practices Guide: procedures for FFLs to assist unlicensed firearms owners in conducting background checks for private party transfers; compliance with the Youth Handgun Safety Act; records firearms owners should maintain that can assist law enforcement if the owner’s firearms are ever lost or stolen; and the legal consequences and public safety dangers of straw purchasing – which involves purchasing a gun for someone who is prohibited by law from possessing one or for someone who does not want his or her name associated with the transaction.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives

Secure Gun Storage and Definition of “Antique Firearm”
AGENCY: 
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Department of Justice. 

ACTION: Final rule.

SUMMARY: The Department of Justice is amending the regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”) to codify into regulation certain provisions of the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1999.

This rule amends ATF’s regulations to account for the existing statutory requirement that applicants for Federal firearms dealer licenses certify that secure gun storage or safety devices will be available at any place where firearms are sold under the license to nonlicensed individuals.

This certification is already included in the Application for Federal Firearms License, ATF Form 7/7CR (“Form 7/7CR”). The regulation also requires applicants for manufacturer or importer licenses to complete the certification if the licensee will have premises where firearms are sold to nonlicensees. Moreover, the regulation requires that the secure gun storage or safety devices be compatible with the firearms offered for sale by the licensee. Finally, it conforms the regulatory definitions of certain terms to the statutory language, including the definition of “antique firearm,” which is amended to include certain modern muzzle loading firearms.
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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Background

On October 21, 1998, Public Law 105-277 (112 Stat. 2681), the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1999 (“the Act”), was enacted. Among other things, the Act amended the Gun Control Act of 1968, Public Law 90-618 (82 Stat. 1213) (“GCA”) (codified as amended at 18 U.S.C. chapter 44). Some of the GCA amendments made by the Act are as follows1:

(1) Secure Gun Storage. The Act amended section 923(d)(1) of title 18, United States Code, to require that, with certain exceptions, applicants for Federal firearms dealer licenses certify the availability of secure gun storage or safety devices at any place where firearms are sold under the license to nonlicensees. 18 U.S.C. 923(d)(1)(G). The certification requirement does not apply where a secure gun storage or safety device is temporarily unavailable because of theft, casualty loss, consumer sales, backorders from a manufacturer, or any other similar reason beyond the control of the licensee. Id.

1 The Child Safety Lock Act of 2005 (“CSLA”), enacted as part of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, Public Law 109-92 (119 Stat. 2095), amended the GCA by adding a new subsection, 18 U.S.C. 922(z). This subsection requires licensed importers, manufacturers, and dealers to provide secure gun storage or safety devices whenever they sell, deliver, or transfer any handgun to a nonlicensed person. See 18 U.S.C. 922(z)(1). The CSLA was implemented primarily in a final rule issued shortly before the NPRM was issued for this rule. See Federal Firearms License Proceedings—Hearings, 81 Fed. Reg. 32,230 (May 23, 2016) (amending 27 CFR 478.73, which provides that a notice of suspension or revocation of a license, or the imposition of a civil penalty, may be issued whenever the ATF Director has reason to believe that any licensee has violated § 922(z)(1) by selling, delivering, or transferring any handgun to any person other than a licensee, unless the transferee was provided with a secure gun storage or safety device for that handgun). Although the requirements of the CSLA and the regulation at issue in this rulemaking are in some respects similar, the two requirements are distinct: the CSLA requires that licensed importers, manufacturers, and dealers actually provide a secure gun storage or safety device to any nonlicensee that receives a handgun, whereas the regulation at issue in this rulemaking applies more broadly to the sale of “firearms” (not just handguns) to nonlicensees, but requires only that secure gun storage or safety devices be made available (not actually provided).page2image3575401760

In addition, the Act amended 18 U.S.C. 923(e) to provide that the Attorney General may revoke, after notice and opportunity for hearing, the license of any Federal firearms licensee that fails to have secure gun storage or safety devices available at any place where firearms are sold under the license to nonlicensees, subject to the same exceptions noted above.

The Act defined the term “secure gun storage or safety device” in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(34) to mean: (1) a device that, when installed on a firearm, is designed to prevent the firearm from being operated without first deactivating the device; (2) a device incorporated into the design of the firearm that is designed to prevent the operation of the firearm by anyone not having access to the device; or (3) a safe, gun safe, gun case, lock box, or other device that is designed to be or can be used to store a firearm and that is designed to be unlocked only by means of a key, a combination, or other similar means.

The provisions of the Act relating to secure gun storage became effective April 19, 1999. (2) Definition of Antique Firearm. The Act amended the definition of “antique firearm”

in the GCA to include certain modern muzzle loading firearms. Specifically, section 115 of the Act amended the definition of “antique firearm” in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(16) to include a weapon that is a muzzle loading rifle, muzzle loading shotgun, or muzzle loading pistol; that is designed to use black powder or a black powder substitute; and that cannot use fixed ammunition. The term expressly does not include any weapon that incorporates a firearm frame or receiver; any firearm converted into a muzzle loading weapon; or any muzzle loading weapon that can be readily converted to fire fixed ammunition by replacing the barrel, bolt, breechblock, or any combination thereof. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(16)(C).

The provisions of the Act relating to antique firearms became effective upon the date of enactment, October 21, 1998.

(3) Miscellaneous Amendments. Prior to amendment by the Act, the term “rifle” was defined in the GCA to mean “a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of

the explosive in a fixed metallic cartridge to fire only a single projectile through a rifled bore for each single pull of the trigger.” 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(7) (1994). The Act amended the definition of “rifle” by replacing the words “the explosive in a fixed metallic cartridge” with “an explosive.” See 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(7) (2018).

Additionally, prior to amendment by the Act, the term “shotgun” was defined in the GCA to mean “a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed shotgun shell to fire through a smooth bore either a number of ball shot or a single projectile for each single pull of the trigger.” 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(5) (1994). The Act amended the definition of “shotgun” by replacing the words “the explosive in a fixed shotgun shell” with “an explosive.” See 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(5) (2018).

The provisions of the Act relating to the miscellaneous amendments also became effective upon the date of enactment, October 21, 1998.

II. Proposed Rule

On May 26, 2016, the Department of Justice (“the Department”) published in the Federal Register a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”) to codify into regulation certain provisions of the Act. Commerce in Firearms and Explosives; Secure Gun Storage, Amended Definition of Antique Firearm, and Miscellaneous Amendments, 81 FR 33448 (May 26, 2016). The rule proposed amending ATF’s regulations to account for the existing statutory requirement that applicants for Federal firearms dealer licenses certify that secure gun storage or safety devices will be available at any place where firearms are sold under the license to nonlicensed individuals. This certification is already included in ATF Form 7/7CR. The NPRM also proposed requiring applicants for Federal firearms manufacturer or importer licenses to complete the certification if the licensee will have premises where firearms are sold to nonlicensees.

Next, the Department proposed to amend 27 CFR 478.11 by adding a definition for the term “secure gun storage or safety device” that tracks the language in the statute, as well as a new section 27 CFR 478.104 that specifies the terms of the certification requirement. Moreover, the proposed regulation required that the secure gun storage or safety device be compatible with the firearms offered for sale by the licensee. 81 FR at 33449. Therefore, applicants under the proposed rule would be required to certify the availability of compatible secure gun storage or safety devices at any place where firearms were sold under the license to nonlicensees.

One provision of the Act provides that, “[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law, evidence regarding compliance or noncompliance [with the secure gun storage or safety device requirement] shall not be admissible as evidence in any proceeding of any court, agency, board, or other entity.” Public Law 105-277, sec. 119, reprinted in 18 U.S.C. 923 note. In the proposed rule, ATF explained that this section applies to civil liability actions against dealers and other similar actions, and not to proceedings associated with license denials or revocations (or appeals in Federal court from decisions in such proceedings) involving noncompliance with the secure gun storage or safety device requirement of the GCA. 81 FR at 33449. The proposed rule amended 27 CFR 478.73 to clarify that a notice of revocation of a Federal firearms license may be issued whenever the ATF Director has reason to believe that a licensee fails to have secure gun storage or safety devices available at any place in which firearms are sold under the license to persons who are not licensees (except in any case in which a secure gun storage or safety device is temporarily unavailable because of theft, casualty loss, consumer sales, backorders

from a manufacturer, or any other similar reason beyond the control of the licensee). Id. at 33453.

Finally, the Department proposed to amend 27 CFR 478.11 to reflect the definitions of the terms “antique firearm,” “rifle,” and “shotgun” set forth in the Act. Id.

Comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking were to be submitted to ATF on or before August 24, 2016.

2. Affected Population

This rulemaking affects two populations. The first population is the number of FFLs required to certify on Form 7/7CR that secure gun storage or safety devices will be available at any place in which firearms are sold under the license to persons who are not licensees. The second population is the number of FFLs that need to acquire secure gun storage or safety devices to make available at their place of business.

Entities directly affected by the requirement to certify the availability of secure gun storage or safety devices are all FFLs. Although this rule primarily affects FFLs that sell firearms to nonlicensed persons, this rule affects all FFLs in that all FFL applicants must indicate on the Form 7/7CR application whether the applicants have gun storage or safety devices available for nonlicensees or whether this requirement is not applicable because they are seeking a Type 3 license for collectors.

Because the Act was enacted shortly before 1999, and because ATF has required certification since 1999, ATF estimated the affected population to be all FFLs from 1999 to present. However, FFLs have to certify the availability of secure gun storage or safety devices only when they apply as new FFLs or every three years when they renew their Federal firearms license. Tables 2 and 3 show the numbers of new applications and renewals by FFL type and year. For more information on the methodology used to determine the numbers of new FFLs by Type, please refer to the standalone RA.

FOR A MUCH DEEPER DIVE VISIT DOJ

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