In October 2019 we published a Blog which posed the question, “Is the NFA dead? In the article we discussed several types of short barreled weapons which had been reviewed by the ATF and other law enforcement agencies and had been found to not be covered by the National Firearms Act. In September 2017 we reported in an article about the Mossberg Shockwave and related firearms that such weapons were legal to purchase and own in New York despite the fourteen inch barrel. However, in our article in October 2019, we discussed the Franklin Armory Reformation line of firearms which at that time were considered to be legal to own and purchase based upon an ATF determination that the firearms were not considered short barreled rifles or shotguns under the National Firearms Act. However, today, the ATF issued new guidance.
In an “Open Letter” dated December 19, 2019, the Acting Assistant Director of the BATFE for Enforcement, Programs and Services, the ATF determined that Reformation firearms with barrels less than 18 inches are “Short-Barreled Shotguns” under the Gun Control Act, not the National Firearms Act. It therefore appears that it is difficult to transport or transfer any Reformation firearm with a barrel length less than 18 inches. According to the BATFE letter, this is the first firearm ever produced that the BATFE has classified as a Gun Control Act Short Barreled Shotgun. This is notwithstanding the fact that the Reformation does not accept or shoot shotgun shells.
To refresh everyone’s recollection, the Franklin Armory Reformation line includes firearms with a full stock and short barrels but unlike traditional rifles have the lands and grooves cut straight, front to back. A traditional rifle has the lands and grooves cut in a twisted pattern to impart a spin on the bullet as it travels through and leaves the barrel. Since the Reformation does not have “rifling” it could not be considered a rifle and therefore was not subject to the provisions of the NFA that pertain to rifles. In addition, because the barrel of the Reformation is not smooth and since it does not accept shotgun shells, it similarly cannot be considered a shotgun and therefore the provisions of the NFA pertaining to short-barreled shotguns also do not apply.
Today’s action by the BATFE stands in sharp contrast to the letter dated December 14, 2018 which never mentioned any issues under the Gun Control Act and represents the first time in history that the BATFE has ever classified a weapon as a “short-barreled” shotgun under the Gun Control Act. Today’s action also should cause some concern about whether the BATFE will be revisiting its position on the Mossberg Shockwave, the Remington Tac-14 and the Dark Storm Industries, non-NFA Ar-15s.
For now, there are two schools of thought. The first is buy these firearms while they are still available before they are banned. The other school of thought is to proceed with caution until we see whether or not the BATFE takes any action on any other short-barreled weapons.
Tilem & Associates, represents clients with regard to all aspects of firearms ownership and use in New York.
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