[UPDATE] Bumbling Machinations on Bump Stocks?

[See ATF update below]

I’ve been chasing bump-fire stock commenting on regulations.gov this morning, because it matters, trying to sort out the issues with commenting. What I’ve found so far:

My layman’s understanding is that new rules (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, NPRM) have to be announced in the Federal Register, giving people a chance to voice their views on them, before the rules can be implemented. Sure, they can ignore us, but they have to let us yammer.

The only Federal Register announcement for “Bump-Stock-Type Devices” is “A Proposed Rule by the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Bureau on 03/29/2018.” That is Docket No. 2017R-22, which on federalregister.gov shows 35,709 public comments. Clicking the link to those comments takes you to the comments for December 2017’s proposed rule. (Ditto for the GPO PDF of the Federal Register.)

Regulations.gov is the web site where we — supposedly — get to voice those views.

Regulations.gov shows two dockets, neither of which is “Docket No. 2017R-22”.

ATF-2018-0001:
“Comments Not Accepted”
The comment I made on that, 1k2-92ad-9enm, 3/29/2018, shows “This comment was received in Regulations.gov but is not yet posted. Please contact the agency directly for more information.”

A search for comments on ATF-2018-0001 shows “35,709 results”. But the result displayed are the comments from the December 2017 NPRM, “Comment Period Closed, Jan 25, 2018 11:59 PM ET”.

Docket No. ATF-2018-0002:
This docket shows different comment counts depending on the page you look at.

  • ATF-2018-0002
    Commenting allowed, currently shows “3,673 Comments Received”.
  • ATF-2018-0002-0001
    Commenting allowed, currently shows “1,864 Comments Received”.

But no comments on ATF-2018-002 can be found: “0 results”.

My comment on this docket, 1k2-92b5-589w, 3/30/2018, also shows “This comment was received in Regulations.gov but is not yet posted. Please contact the agency directly for more information.”

Please note: While ATF-2018-0001 was published on 3/29/2018 and could be considered the NPRM referred to in the Federal Register, ATF-2018-002 was not published until 3/30/2018, after comment were closed on the 3/29 docket.

SUMMARY: The “Bump-Stock-Type Devices” is being “tracked” under three different docket numbers. The Federal Register — where rules apparently must be legally published — shows only Docket No. 2017R-22, which you might recall is also the docket number for the December 2017 NPRM.

But regulations.gov shows two dockets, neither published in the Federal Register, with different comment counts. And neither of my comments will display for any docket number.

It’s hard to tell with the ATF, but this might be bureaucratic incompetence rather than deliberate malice. Possibly some idiot did a copy/paste from the 2017 NPRM, and got the old docket number. When they tried to enter a new docket number to keep comments separated, they managed to enter two, screwing up the whole NPRM.

Or it might be deliberate machinations, with bureaucratic bumbling as plausible deniability.

Update, 4/2/2018, 11:55 AM EDT: I have received a response from the ATF. As you can see, it fails to explain why commenting closed on one docket, or why there are two other separate (and not listed in the Federal Register) dockets. Comments are still separated across dockets in counts, yet are not visible.

From: Katrina.A.Moore@usdoj.gov
Subject: FW: Comments Closed on Bump-Fire Rule

This is in response to your email to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). In your email, which you inquired why the commenting was closed on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in “Bump-Stock-Type Devices” after one day.

As you may know, ATF is responsible for enforcing the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), as well as other Federal firearms laws. A significant part of the GCA concerns the licensing and recordkeeping requirements pertaining to the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of firearms.

The direct link to comment on the subject notice is https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ATF-2018-0002-0001

If you have any further comments or concerns, they may be directed to the Office of Regulatory Affairs (202) 648-7070.

In addition, there may be State laws that pertain to this proposed activity. Contact State Police units or the office of your State Attorney General (www.naag.org) for information on any such requirements. You may also find information in ATF publication 5300.5: State Laws and Published Ordinances – Firearms.

We trust the foregoing has been responsive to your inquiry. Should you have additional questions, please contact your local ATF office. A listing of ATF office phone numbers can be found here.

Regards,

K Moore | Senior Industry Operations Investigator
U.S. Department of Justice | Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Firearms Industry Programs Branch
99 New York Avenue NE, Mail Stop 6.N-518
Washington, DC 20226

Update 2, 4/2/2018, 2:55PM EDT:
The inconsistent comment counts are the same, but 431 comments can now be seen. Visible comments include some submitted today. However, neither of my comments submitted last week can be found anywhere. Since my comments have vanished, I have submitted a third attempt to voice my opinion: 1k2-92d6-aj9o, 4/2/2018:

Comment Tracking Number Match
This comment was received in Regulations.gov but is not yet posted. Please contact the agency directly for more information.


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One thought on “[UPDATE] Bumbling Machinations on Bump Stocks?”

  1. My personal comment has been unable to be submitted via the online form, therefore I suggest individuals FAX: (202) 648-9741 ATTN: Vivian Chu

    or Mail:

    Vivian Chu, Mailstop 6N-518, Office of Regulatory Affairs, Enforcement Programs and Services, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, 99 New York Ave. NE, Washington DC 20226. ATTN: 2017R-22
    ——
    Depending on how much effort one wants to put forward a copy of the FAX receipt and Comment can/should be sent to any of their elected officials who have involvement with the oversight committee (example: House Judiciary Committee: https://judiciary.house.gov/subcommittee/full-committee/ )

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