In conjunction with its silver anniversary convention, Quail Unlimited will also host the Heartland Wildlife Expo in Kansas City, July 28-30.
The Volvo Ocean Race will return to Annapolis, Maryland just in time for the May 4-7 Maryland Maritime Heritage Festival. The schedule of events for the Festival has been released for media and visitors.
Nebraska landowners have a rare general sign-up opportunity for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Through April 14th, landowners interested in enrolling their property into the CRP can begin the enrollment process, through their local USDA - Farm Service Agency (FSA) office.
Pheasants Forever (PF) is encouraging Iowans to consider enrolling in the current Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) sign-up running now through April 14th
BASSMASTER Elite Series Angler Alton Jones has released a statement regarding his disqualification from this weekend's Santee Cooper Showdown.
Preston Clark, shattered the BASS four-day catch records as he took the Santee Cooper Showdown on Sunday. Clark says he won the event because of an unlikely aid: Bassmaster magazine. It was Clark's first visit to the reservoir and to prepare, the 41-year-old researched the waters by reading an issue of Bassmaster that documented a similar win by Kelly Jordon in 2004.
The North Dakota Highway Patrol has selected the .357 SIG caliber SIG SAUER P226 semi-automatic handgun made by U.S. firearms manufacturer SIGARMS as the department's new duty-issue firearm. In selecting the new sidearm an evaluation team of Troopers tested over 20 pistol models from five manufacturers. The SIG SAUER P226 was the top rated pistol among those tested.
Quail Unlimited will hold its annual national convention in Kansas City, July 26-29. QU will be celebrating its silver anniversary and successes as "America's leader in quail conservation."
Students from Oklahoma State University (OSU) have been elected as chapter leaders for a new Stillwater area Quail Forever (QF) chapter.
Emmrod Fishing Gear has become the newest Supporting Member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA).
Zach Even, a catalog art director for Cabela's, has won the Nebraska Game and Parks Department's 2006 Habitat Stamp Art Contest. His oil painting of a pronghorn antelope buck will be featured on the Nebraska's 2007 Habitat Stamp.
The National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, has presented NOAA with preliminary findings of a study to improve the agency's scientific program for recreational marine fisheries. NRC's primary recommendation supports the a universal angler registration program as part of a comprehensive data collection system, included in the reauthorization bill for the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act currently under consideration in Congress.
The Salmon stocking programs in the Connecticut River and Lake Champlain and the lake trout stocking program for Lake Ontario is seeking "egg pickers", volunteers to help sort through developing trays of eggs to remove occasional eggs that have died to prevent contamination of healthy eggs.
Working with volunteers of the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS), Pennsylvania Game Commission land managers recently removed 3,516 feet of deer exclosure fence from around a 23-acre timber regeneration site on State Game Land 106 near Monks Bog, Windsor Township in Berks County.
Habitat specialists are preparing for prescribed burns on wildlife habitats across the pheasant range. Prescribed burning is an important element in the successful management of wildlife habitat.
International hall-of-fame bowhunter Tink Nathan has launched a new website (www.tinks.TV) featuring the long-awaited DVD release of Tink's legendary bowhunts, spanning five continents.
Hi-Mountain Seasonings of Riverton, Montana, introduces Bayou Bass, one of four new seasonings for fish.
The Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises Ocean Fund award $100,000 to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for its Smart Gear initiative, aimed at reducing bycatch of endangered marine species through development of innovative, practical and cost-effective fishing technologies. WWF launched the International Smart Gear Competition in 2004 to inspire and reward the development of fishing gear that reduces the accidental catch and related deaths of marine species in nets and longlines.
Pro Mark Meddock of Woodland, California, caught a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 40 pounds, 9 ounces to win the Stren Series Western Division event on Lake Shasta near Redding, California… Ernest Plant of Pinconning, Michigan, earned $2,555 Saturday as winner of the FLW Walleye League Michigan Division event on the Detroit River at Trenton, Michigan.
Remington Arms announces the launch www.parkergunmakers.com, the Parker Gun website.
When does customization of a firearm become manufacturing? That seemingly simple question is occupying the near undivided attention of the firearms industry. Observers say it is a question with the potential to become a firestorm that could put custom gunsmiths out of business; if not behind bars.
The controversy began with a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms inspection of Competitive Edge Gunworks in Bogard, Missouri. BATF and tax agents appeared and began examining the company's records. When they finished, owner Larry Crow was told he potentially faced felony charges for manufacturing firearms without a license.
Crow says he was stunned.
Agents went on to tell him that his manufacturing status would mean liability for federal excise taxes - and penalties - from the beginning of his business. There is, they told the thunderstruck Crow, no statute of limitations for failing to file Federal Excise Taxes, but there were serious penalties.
"I'm confused, " an obviously shaken Crow told The Outdoor Wire during a telephone conversation last Thursday, "and more than a little concerned."
Since the BATF visit, Crow hasn't done any gunsmithing, but has initiated the licensure process necessary to change his classification from gunsmith to manufacturer. He also says he's agreed with the BATF to settle the whole matter as quickly as possible. In the meantime, Crow says he's struggling financially, but despite the costs of waiting for his licensure process to be completed, he told The Outdoor Wire "I'm not doing any more work until the manufacturing paperwork's complete."
Whether Crow's is a single case brought by an overzealous agent or the opening shot of a BATF campaign against gunsmiths has the entire firearms industry abuzz.
If it proves to be the first shot of another fight, the stakes are very high. The fallout would be felt by virtually any company or individual involved in the gunsmithing business; from individual gunsmiths and educators teaching firearms repair to companies like Brownells or Midway USA. Those companies primarily supply componentry to gunsmiths, but also produce instructional material. The firearms they produce in the course of those instructional pieces are apparently enough to qualify them as manufacturers in this very narrow interpretation. Likewise, custom gunsmiths' samples are also apparently under scrutiny.
Consequently, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Second Amendment Foundation, the National Rifle Association and others are looking for clarification of a single question: at what point does gunsmithing become manufacturing?
BATF regulations appear to offer a solid definition of manufacturing. It would appear, says experts, that a new, and considerably narrower definition is being used against Crow. A definition that has the potential to make virtually any change, from changing parts inside the lockworks to re-barreling or changing firearm calibers enough to constitute manufacturing. Enough, for example, to make any gunsmith's show samples or writers' samples "manufactured" and subject to taxes and penalties.
Should that become the new working definition for ATF and IRS enforcement agents, gunsmiths we've contacted the effect would be immediate and would bankrupt what they consider "one of America's remaining cottage industries."
Hamilton Bowen, of Bowen Custom Arms in Louisville, Tennessee, is a longtime gunsmith and member of the prestigious gunsmiths' guilds. He feels the narrow definition "won't stick" should it come to a fight. He also says the fight itself might be sufficient to put gunsmiths out of business.
"We might win the fight," Bowen said, "but the loss of business along with the associated legal fees for the fight would more than put most of us out of business."
"If the ATF came in and told me that I was liable for federal excise taxes and penalties for all the years I've been in business, I'd just hand them the keys and head to the unemployment office," he said. "ATF is charged with writing regulations to enforce Congressional statutes. They have the ability to clarify statutes, but this one's anything but clear."
San Antonio, Texas gunsmith Alex Hamilton agrees. "I'm essentially a sole proprietor," he says, "if the ATF came in here and started an in-depth investigation, I couldn't work for a couple of reasons. First, I'd be afraid not to be with them the whole time they were here. Secondly, the anxiety their even being here would cause would keep me from doing my job anyway."
The issue isn't licensure; manufacturing licenses are relatively inexpensive, although they add another layer of paperwork and compliance to a small business group that says it already spends a disproportionate amount of working time on compliance paperwork. A retroactivity tax liability could spell significant enough economic damage to shut most gunsmiths down.
Off the record, industry officials say they're starting to receive reports of other gunsmiths being "visited" by BATF officers. Despite those unconfirmed reports, they remain confident the situation can be clarified and a confrontation avoided.
That might be the equivalent of whistling in a graveyard.
Battles between the firearms industry and the BATF have historically been bitter, protracted affairs. Passage of recently-introduced legislation giving gunsmiths a 50-firearm annual tax exemption passed late in the prior Congressional session. The battle to get the legislation introduced, however, took 15 years. It still lacked the support to win the retroactivity gunsmiths had hoped for.
Although they unwilling to say so on the record, some gunsmiths feel the BATF may be getting a little "payback" for the passage of legislation they so vehemently opposed.
In the meantime, the National Rifle Association is attempting to mediate what may have the potential to blossom from a skirmish into a bitter war.
Eric Schwartz, clerk to the NRA's Chief Legislative Counsel, told The Outdoor Wire, "we believe there are inconsistencies by ATF and the IRS that make it difficult, if not impossible, for a law-abiding gunsmith to practice their trade."
"We'd like to see, if necessary, steps taken to address any inconsistencies and make it crystal-clear what acts are manufacturing acts and which are gunsmithing acts so our members can ply their trade in a law-abiding manner."
That might be easier said than done.
One obstacle in the way of "crystal clarity" is a multitude of statutes, regulatory language and opinions; many of which appear to contradict each other. Another; the simple fact that the question lies squarely at an intersection of IRS and BATF regulatory and enforcement areas.
Both agencies have reputations as ferocious opponents to any perceived weakening of their enforcement powers.
The Federal Excise Tax itself may prove to be a bone of litigation should a gunsmith be deemed to be a manufacturer. As observers have pointed out, a Federal Excise Tax on the firearm had already been paid - by the original manufacturer.
Deeming a firearm to have been "manufactured" in the course of customization and subject to FET appears to be a BATF attempt at "double dipping" the firearms industry.
Further, in customization and gunsmithing, labor is the major cost. The gunsmith would have already paid federal income tax on that labor. Again, this creates an apparent attempt at double-taxation.
And what about record keeping? For income tax purposes, businesses are required to maintain their records for a clearly-defined period. BATF has implied no statute of limitations on the potential FET liability for gunsmiths that find themselves declared manufacturers. Consequently, there would be a requirement that records be kept in perpetuity. That creates what legal experts call a "practical impossibility" - a situation where one federal agency creates a requirement that's "practically impossible" to satisfy. Small businesses normally operate in small spaces, i.e., tax records outside the IRS maintenance requirements are routinely destroyed as each year's taxes are filed.
Whether the BATF visit to Competitive Edge was a single agent operating under a personal interpretation of regulations or the first shot in another war between the firearms industry and the BATF is, at this point, irrelevant.
Another genie has been released from another bottle.
--- Jim Shepherd
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