CLEO Requirement to be Discontinued

Dec 5, 2011
For enthusiasts of NFA-controlled firearms (e.g., machine guns, short barrel rifles and shotguns, suppressors), the requirement to get the local chief of police or sheriff's approval on the required Form 1 or Form 4 has been a problem. Started at the inception of the National Firearms Act, the idea was to get the person in front of the chief or sheriff - who was expected to know the "problem children" in his or her jurisdiction - to keep wackos from getting these special weapons. In the 30s through the 70s, that was potentially appropriate: there was no national computer database available at all hours to get criminal histories.

Now, someone buying a .22 rifle can have the National Instant (Background) Check (NICS) and leave the gunshop in fifteen minutes.

Since the CLEOs (Chief Law Enforcement Officer) approval was based on that person's supposed knowledge of local citizens and not whether or not the CLEO thought "people shouldn't own guns like that," it was (and is) often misused.

The National Firearms Act Trade & Collectors Association (NFATCA) has sought removal of the CLEO requirement for the last six years, according to NFATCA Executive Director and Board Member Jeff Folloder.

"There wasn't a lot of high profile aspects of the effort," he said in a phone interview. "It was a lot of drudgery and detail work trying to get the ATF to go along with removing that requirement."

They eventually did and ran the recommendation up to U.S. Department of Justice. The proposal was returned to NFA Branch for some clarifications. These were completed and the recommendation was sent back up.>
Barring something unexpected, the CLEO requirements will be disappearing from Forms 1 and 4. Graphic created by OWDN
Clearing the CLEO requirement off of Forms 1 and 4 has been approved by the DOJ. The revised Forms are being laid out and sent to Office of Management and Budget. They'll examine the proposed regulations and forms change and open the proceeding up for public comments. When that process is completed, they'll approve the printing run and disseminate the forms.

Something could happen to derail the process but it's not clear that anyone wants to. A problem does lurk if the proposed change - an apparently good thing - completes the bureaucratic process: There will be a run on NFA firearms from citizens who could legally own NFA guns but had a chief or sheriff who denied them the right.

Are there that many who were denied?

"The Harris County Sheriff (Texas) has never approved a Form 1 or Form 4," Mr. Folloder said. "That's potentially four million applications right there. Since there's a federal hiring freeze and the number of examiners will not increase, the increased applications will likely expand the time needed to get completed forms back from ATF/NFA."

He told people to be careful for what they wish. It looks like now we'll get it.

A call to the ATF's NFA branch for comment was not returned.

--Rich Grassi

Grassi is editor of our companion news service The Tactical Wire(