Arsenal Attorneys’ George L. Lyon, Jr and Matthew J. Bergstrom, on behalf of client Dick Heller (of District of Columbia v. Heller fame) and two other plaintiffs successfully challenged the District of Columbia’s so-called ghost gun statute. As a result, District residents will have the freedom to make their own firearms, subject to DC’s registration requirement and placing a serial number on the firearm.
The District has since 1976 banned the manufacture of a firearm in the city, a plainly unconstitutional prohibition. In 2019, the District passed its so-called ghost gun statute which criminalized the possession of “unfinished” receivers. According to Mr. Lyon, “DC so broadly defined a ghost gun that it likely unintentionally outlawed most polymer frame handguns, including the very Glock handguns the city issues to its own police officers.”
Arsenal Attorneys and Dick Heller determined to challenge the District’s plainly unconstitutional prohibition on self-made firearms. Mr. Heller ordered a Polymer 80 (unfinished receiver) kit and had the kit sent to one of the District’s FFLs in anticipation of registering it. The FFL in turn inquired of the Metropolitan Police Department as to how to handle the matter and was told that the kit was illegal and to send it back to the vendor.
In response, Mr. Heller sued in Federal District Court for the violation of his constitutional rights. Two other District residents who own polymer frame handguns sued on the grounds that the District law appeared to criminalize their possession of their legally acquired and registered polymer framed pistols.
The District, concluding that the law was indefensible, enacted temporary legislation to address the plaintiff’s claims. Among the changes the District made to its law was a provision allowing District residents to make their own firearms subject to registration and placing a serial number on the self-made firearm. Additionally, the District repealed the ban on unfinished receivers and amended its definition of “undetectable” firearm to avoid criminalizing the possession of polymer frame receivers.
The District’s City Council is currently considering a bill to permanently repeal the offending provisions.
As compensation for the denial of Mr. Heller’s civil rights, without admitting liability, the District paid the Heller Foundation $5,000, a nonprofit dedicated to education on gun rights and safety. The District also paid plaintiffs’ attorneys fees and costs in bringing the action in the amount of some $81,000.
Arsenal Attorneys is preparing additional litigation related to DC’s unconstitutional firearms regulations. If you are interested in becoming a plaintiff in one or more of these cases, please contact us.
Arsenal Attorneys is a nationwide law firm headquartered near Washington, DC in Fairfax, Virginia. The firm offers services in estate planning, criminal defense, civil litigation, business law, firearms law, and its proprietary Arsenal Gun Trust. George Lyon is licensed to practice law in Virginia and the District of Columbia. He was one of the plaintiffs in Palmer v. District of Columbia that forced DC to begin issuing concealed carry licenses and in the US Supreme Court's landmark Second Amendment decision, Heller, which legalized handguns in Washington, DC. Mr. Lyon is licensed by the Metropolitan Police Department to teach the DC Concealed Carry License course including the renewal course and conducts the course monthly. His next class will be May 21-22. Class will be conducted online in light of continuing COVID 19 health issues, with the shooting portion of the course arranged by appointment. To sign up for his course, contact Mr. Lyon at email@example.com or at 202-669-0442.
Arsenal Attorney’s clients could soon expect to receive faster approval of NFA applications. According to BATFE, sometime after December 15 but before Christmas, the eForm system will expand to accept ATF Forms 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 9. In this blog we have presented background to these developments as well as next steps our clients could take to benefit from these developments.
For background, firearms regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA), include silencers/suppressors, short barrel rifles, short barrel shotguns, and full auto. NFA regulations are administered by BATFE, who issue tax stamps to approved applications to register NFA firearms following payment of the applicable tax.
Previously most applications to register NFA firearms have been submitted in hard copy followed by a wait of 6-9 months. During the Obama presidency, it was common for NFA applicants to wait as long as 18 months for a tax stamp. During this same period, ATF launched eForms, but it was limited to a few categories, such as ATF Form 5320.1, the ‘Application to Make and Register an NFA Firearm’ (Form 1). Typically, Arsenal Attorneys’ clients submitting Form 1’s electronically through eForms have received a tax stamp in just a few weeks. The most common Form 1 concerned building short barrel rifles (SBR). The new eForms system will accept Form 4 (ATF Form 5320.4), which is used to transfer an NFA firearm. The most common example of such an NFA transfer is the retail purchase of a silencer.
It may come as a surprise that eForms will expand to benefit NFA applicants during the Biden presidency. In fact, funding for eForms was previously budgeted due to the long-term efforts of firearms industry leaders, particularly Silencer Shop. In fact, Silencer Shop has maintained a close working relationship with ATF’s NFA Division to upgrade technology and improve efficiency. For example, in 2017 ATF adopted Silencer Shop’s proposal to bar code all the data in a Form 4. By scanning that code attached to the first page of an NFA transfer application, ATF staff avoided the need to manually input all that information. The combination of bar coding and the use of eForms for Form 1 greatly reduced the processing times for NFA tax stamps.
What if you have an NFA application pending with ATF?
Before cancelling NFA applications awaiting ATF approval, consider this guidance from the American Suppressor Association:
If you recently submitted an NFA application, keep it in the queue. We cannot stress this enough. Withdrawing your Form 4 and re-submitting electronically will take longer than allowing your Form 4 to make its way through the approval process. That’s because ATF isn’t going to dig through the tens of thousands of forms being processed to find your application. They’re going to wait until your Form 4 reaches an NFA examiners desk – the exact point at which it would normally be approved – to process your withdrawal. Instead of approving it though, they will acknowledge your withdrawal and release your serial number. You will not be able to re-submit an eForm 4 with the same serial number until ATF acknowledges your withdrawal and puts it back into your dealer’s inventory. Thus, withdrawing and re-submitting electronically will add months to your overall application process.
How can you take advantage of eForms?
NFA applicants could pursue a mixed strategy of buy now but wait and see. Once the new eForm system goes live, it is expected it will need 24-48 hours to become fully operational. Of course, Murphy’s law could apply to any launch of a government website. Recall the disastrous launch of the Obamacare website. Thus, it might be wise to wait and see when the new eForms is fully functional.
Nevertheless, this breaking news has sparked another spike in demand for NFA firearms, which could reduce inventories and increase prices. Remember, you can purchase an NFA firearm now, but delay the application until eForms is available. If eForms proves faulty and unreliable, then a traditional paper application could be a better option. That said, we encourage you to plan your next steps in cooperation with your FFL. Circumstances like the eForm launch highlight the importance of dealing with a reputable FFL who will provide good customer service and manage your NFA application through the ATF process.
Finally, we recommend use of a trust for any NFA application to avoid the danger of unlawful possession by those who have access to an NFA firearm. Also, an effectively designed trust, like Arsenal Attorneys’ proprietary Arsenal Gun Trust, can be a firearms-specific estate plan for an entire gun collection. We help clients ensure their firearms are distributed safely, lawfully, and privately. If you are an existing client, or if you have a trust obtained elsewhere, contact us to update your documents before submitting a new NFA application. Remember, if you have a poorly designed trust or a trust pre-dating the 2016 changes to the NFA regulations, you can update your existing trust by means of a 'restatement'. Contact us to learn more.
Arsenal Attorneys is a nationwide law firm headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia near metropolitan Washington, DC. The firm serves clients in over 30 states in estate planning, criminal defense, civil litigation, business law, landlord-tenant disputes, real estate, firearms law, restoration of rights, carry permits, and the firm’s proprietary Arsenal Gun Trust. Matthew Bergstrom is the firm’s Managing Attorney, and he is licensed in California, Michigan, Nevada, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
This blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.
By George L. Lyon, Jr
As you may have heard, the ATF on December 18, 2020, published a notice setting forth the factors it considers in classifying firearms equipped with a stabilization brace, sometimes called an arm brace. The importance of this classification is that it can mean the difference between a firearm equipped with such a brace being classified as a pistol and thus not subject to the National Firearms Act or as a short barrel rifle requiring registration and payment of a $200 tax. Violation of the requirements of the National Firearms Act (NFA) is a felony potentially subjecting the offender to several years in prison and permanent loss of firearms rights.
By George L. Lyon, Esq.
My clients and students frequently request my analysis of the various self-defense insurance type products on the market, some of which are not technically insurance per se. My knowledge of this topic has benefited by Recoil magazine’s occasional comparison of these products as well as an informative video by attorney Andrew Branca, author of the highly recommended book Law of Self Defense. I will give you the results of my own review of these products below. Bear in mind, policies often change, so I recommend you perform your own due diligence at the time of your decision. I recommend my analytical framework as a guide.
It is important to understand that basic homeowner’s insurance even with umbrella insurance does not cover a self-defense shooting. First, these insurance products do not defend you from a criminal prosecution, and, second, they do not cover you civilly because a self-defense shooting is considered an intentional act. Homeowner’s coverage would apply if it were alleged that you negligently shot someone on the premises of your home. Some plaintiffs have made such allegations specifically to try to get within the coverage of homeowner’s policies.
With respect to self-defense insurance or insurance like products, a number of companies offer this type of service. The ones I am going to discuss here are in alphabetical order: Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network (“ACLDN”); CCW Safe; Firearms Legal Protection (“Firearms Legal”) Second Call Defense (“Second Call”); United States Concealed Carry Association (“USCCA”) and U.S. Law Shield.