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From the Gunsmith to the Jail?

What if your NFA item requires repair?

During a tactical training exercise, you accidentally dropped your suppressor onto concrete; it has a visible dent, and you aren't sure it's safe to operate in its current condition. As we all know, National Firearms Act ("NFA") items aren't cheap, and a replacement is anything but quick and easy. Can you just drop off your suppressor at your favorite gunsmith and let him repair it?

The NFA regulates and imposes a tax on the manufacture and transfer of machine guns, short-barreled weapons, suppressors, and other unique firearms, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”) enforces these registrations seriously. As any NFA item owner knows, you must keep the firearm or device at the precise address listed on the Form 4 or Form 1 (whichever applicable) currently on file with the ATF and have copies of that form when possessing the item. If you fail to follow these specific regulations, you risk being arrested.

Typically, all dispositions of NFA items like demonstrations or sales require the appropriate application and forms on record with the ATF, and without these steps, the transferor and the transferee could be charged and arrested for federal felonies and face heavy fines, plus prison time.

In a February 18, 2000 letter, the ATF stated the repair of NFA items is not considered a "transfer" under the law. Therefore, the typical transfer paperwork (a Form 4) is not required. Rather, an Application for Tax Exempt Transfer and Registration of Firearm (Form 5) is recommended. There is an "Other" option on the Form 5, and repair is a valid reason that should be used in these situations.

The ATF recommends the NFA item owner complete and submit a Form 5 prior to repairs, and the licensed gunsmith do the same before returning the property to the owner. The best practice to protect against potential prosecution is to fill out and submit a Form 5, receive approval from the ATF, and then drop the item off at the gunsmith. So, don't just drop off your suppressor with the gunsmith without the proper forms, unless you want to risk picking up a nice stay at Club Fed.

Author: Colm Keane

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website does not contain legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Every case is different, and this material is not a substitute for, and does not replace the advice or representation of, a licensed attorney.

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Walker & Taylor, PLLC is located in Houston, TX and serves clients in and around Harris, Galveston, Fort Bend, Montgomery, Liberty, Brazoria, and Chambers Counties.

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