FATD Response Arrives Years Late With Product Modifications, Were They Being Set Up by ATF?

What are we to make of ATF returning an assembled and unmarked “short-barreled rifle” four-and-a-half years after an industry submission of an unassembled firearm? (Photo: Len Savage)

U.S.A. – -(Ammoland.com)- “ATF FATD [Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division] answered my industry submission after four-and-one-half years,” firearms designer and Historic Arms LLC President Len Savage notes in a May 17 email to friends and colleagues disparagingly characterized by United States Attorneys as “a tangled web of connections between a small cadre of firearms activists.”

“Please see the attached response [embeded below] and please note my submission letter (also attached).  Also attached are emails with FATD over this submission,” Savage advised, including documents embedded below. He followed up with some questions carrying serious implications.[Len Savage sent ATF parts of an unassembled firearm, ATF returned a completed gun.]

“Did ATF manufacture an SBR [short-barreled rifle]?” he asked. “Did they properly mark their manufactured SBR?”

“I have yet to receive the firearm back,” Savage added.

So it took “four-and-a-half years” to get an answer on a routine request that it’s their job to provide…? To highlight the absurdity of that, Savage noted in his correspondence to ATF that “Your staff has taken so long to respond though the return postage has gone up twice since I sent it to you… My stamps will not be enough for USPS priority mail any longer.”

The firearm parts Savage submitted back in October of 2018 is “based on the AR-15 family of firearms. The upper receiver has a barrel chambered in 5.56 NATO and has a length of  10.5 inches. The lower receiver has an SBA3 Stabilizing Brace installed. The submitted firearm has never had a butt stock installed. As such, it cannot be a rifle since it is NOT DESIGNED to be fired from the shoulder [emphasis in original].”

Of significance here is the condition of the firearm submitted to ATF:

“The submitted firearm has never been assembled.”

ATF’s answer was hardly surprising:

“FTISB has determined that the submitted firearm is a weapon that is equipped with an accessory that provides surface area that allows the weapon to be fired from the shoulder, along with other factors as described in paragraph (2) of the regulatory definition of ‘rifle,’ which indicates the weapon is designed, made, and intended to be fired from the shoulder. Therefore, this firearm is a ‘rifle.’

Additionally, because the barrel length of this firearm is under 16 inches, it is properly classified as a ‘short-barreled rifle’ and a ‘firearm’ as defined in the NFA, 26 U.S.C. § 5845(a)(3).”

Also, not surprising was waiting for a new administration, and just before the stabilizing brace rule is to go into effect, before responding.

What was surprising is that in the photos the ATF returned, they showed a fully assembled firearm.

And note at the end of the response letter, the Firearms Technology Industry Service Branch (FTISB) copied the local Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of enforcement and the Director of Industry Operations.

“That was not an accident and leads me to believe I am about to be loved tenderly by ATF (read that either a visit by Special Agents or an Industry Operations inspection),” Savage speculates. “Two weeks until ATF final Rule is engaged…  Why now and why notify the local offices?”

Is his concern without foundation? Consider ATF and Savage have a history where he is considered part of that “small cadre” of what they view as troublemakers, and nothing gets rid of a problem like eliminating it.

“The very same ATF who demands I answer them within 24 hours took 1,659 days (or 54 1/2 months) to respond to a licensee (who they are mandated by law to supply guidance to),” he elaborated. “The CC’d individuals demonstrate either an attempt to intimidate or demonstrate they are planning a kinetic response for having dared ask them a guidance question.”

What makes him think that? For starters, there’s a long history that includes occasionally being on opposite sides in civil litigation.

“This is the same agency that has no problem using a confidential informant to garner civil litigation legal strategy,” Savage explained, attaching a recipient/sender redacted email [included in the embedded file, below] from 2008 by ATF’s Litigation Division Associate Chief Counsel asking:

“Why/how does an ATF employee have an informant passing on information about Mr. Savage’s litigation strategy against the government? This can’t be good. I’m copying Ralph, the CC [Chief Counsel] and DCC [Deputy Chief Counsel] to immediately report this troubling development.”

As for the firearm Savage submitted that’s taken four-and-a-half years to get an answer on, he sent a Tuesday update:

“So, I just got back the firearm less than an hour ago,” Savage advised. “I wanted to let the air out of any kinetic response quickly.”

To do that, he included a copy of the acknowledgment email [also embedded below] that he immediately sent off to the FTIB, the SAC, and the DIO, with photographic proof of what he was claiming:

“Upon receipt I immediately removed the subject firearm from jurisdiction of the NFA [National Firearms Act] by replacing the barrel with one greater than 16 inches.”

To further ensure his compliance has been documented, Savage followed that up with another email, again in the embedded file below, requesting “photos taken by your  FTSIB shipping and receiving technician back in 2018 of the submitted firearm and packaging… I am basing this request on your statement on page 10 of your response, “Please note this classification only applies to the example exactly as submitted” [emphasis in original], and the photos of the firearm in your response not matching exactly how I submitted the firearm back in 2018.”

As experience has proven, when dealing with a tangled web of unelected bureaucrats not above destroying anyone who gets on their bad side, one really can’t be too careful. Still to be seen: What their reaction to this report will be, which is why the “small cadre” will be keeping its eyes on that.

About David Codrea:

David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating/defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” is a regularly featured contributor to Firearms News, and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.