Over the past week, multiple claims have stated that the BATFE’s Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division (FATD) is in the process of issuing an industry wide determination on the legality of modular suppressors. After speaking at length to several of our contacts within ATF, ASA has concluded that these assertions stem from misinterpreted comments made by ATF officials at a recent industry conference. According to our contacts at ATF, these are the facts related to three separate areas of discussion:
Modular Suppressor Design – FATD is in the process of reviewing a request from an independent industry representative regarding a single, specific modular suppressor design. The representative is seeking a determination regarding their specific product, not a blanket determination that would apply to other existing modular designs. The issue in question is whether or not the suppressor being reviewed has the ability to assemble more than one functional suppressor out of the component parts that are supplied as a single suppressor to the end-user.
ATF 29P – On May 4, 2016, ATF published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in response to an eight year old request by the National Firearms Act Trade & Collectors Association (NFATCA) made in 2008. In the ANPRM, ATF sought to specify that manufacturers must mark the outer tube of suppressors, not just any externally visible part. The ASA, along with many members of the industry, submitted comments to the ATF opposing ATF 29P. We have been told by ATF that 29P is no longer being worked on by the Bureau, as many current suppressor designs without an outer tube have made the proposed rules within 29P obsolete.
NFA Handbook – The NFA Division and Firearms & Explosives Industry Division are working on a long overdue update to the NFA Handbook. Within the updated handbook, new language will be included that addresses the repair or replacement of modular suppressor components. This language will be consistent with previously published guidance, which states that the serialized component of a suppressor cannot be replaced without the filing of a new Form 2 by the manufacturer, and a new Form 4 by the consumer, including the payment of applicable transfer taxes. Unmarked components of a modular suppressor may be replaced by a licensed manufacturer on a one-for-one basis, just as previously allowed in the silencer FAQ published by ATF on April 17, 2008.
In summation, there are currently no widespread determinations set to be issued by ATF with regards to modular suppressors.