As many already know, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives anticipates opening a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with regard to bump fire stocks to clarify whether or not they meet the definition of a machine gun under the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968. Before they release any proposed rule, they are seeking comments from manufacturers, retailers, and consumers. These must be received by midnight EST on January 25, 2018.
The Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with the questions to be answered is here. All comments must include this identification number – 2017R-22. Comments can be submitted online, by fax, or by US Mail. So far, 2,309 comments have been received. Here is the link to submit them online. It also allows you to upload a document.
These are the questions that they have for consumers:
21. In your experience, where have you seen these devices for sale and which of these has been the most common outlet from which consumers have purchased these devices (e.g., brick and mortar retail stores; online vendors; gun shows or similar events; or private sales between individuals)?
22. Based on your experience or observations, what is (or has been) the price range for these devices?
23. For what purposes are the bump stock devices used or advertised?
Gun law attorney Adam Kraut had these suggestions for responding to the ANPRM. Adam has more on the notice here.
Comments vary in form, length, and specificity. However, there are some things that a person submitting a comment will want to consider. Specificity is key. Providing a basis for the support or opposition to a proposed rule is crucial. Citing to studies or other evidence-based information is useful to show the agency why or why not a proposed rule is useful. In the instance of an ANPRM, responding to the specific questions posed by the agency is a particularly good strategy (not to say a commenter could not and should not go broader in their response). Regulations.gov has some more tips.
As important as comment “dos” are, there is one comment “don’t” that should be avoided: the Form Letter. As comment periods are not a measure of “popularity”, flooding the agency with form letters do not serve a useful purpose in the rulemaking process. A comment that is well reasoned is a much better avenue to pursue and not very difficult.
David Codrea has his take on the notice of rulemaking here.
The danger in this anticipated rulemaking is the same as it is with the proposed bills banning bump stocks before Congress: where does it stop? With the Slidefire Bump Stock or will it go further to mean any modification that could increase the rate of fire of a semi-automatic firearm? Because of this, it is important that we comment.
While it might feel good to tell the BATFE to just f*#k off, go away, and mind the letter of the law, that will get us nowhere. It will be expressly ignored as it includes profanity. I think Adam’s approach to address some part of the questions asked is a good one. These cannot be ignored as readily. I think the key thing is to kill the attempt to issue a rule before it gets off the ground. That is better than having to respond to an actual proposed rule which is more likely to be adopted.