Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Director B. Todd Jones today announced that he is resigning.

Jones was nominated by President Barack Obama for the position of ATF director on Jan. 24, 2013. On July 31, 2013, Jones became the first ATF director in history to receive Senate confirmation. Prior to becoming ATF’s permanent Director, Jones served as the acting ATF Director starting Aug. 31, 2011. While serving as the acting director of ATF, Jones was also the U. S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, a post he held from Aug. 7, 2009, until his confirmation as ATF Director.

ATF Deputy Director Thomas E. Brandon will serve as Acting Director after Jones departs. Brandon was appointed Deputy Director of ATF in October 2011. Brandon has more than 26 years of experience with ATF. Prior to his appointment as Deputy Director, Brandon served as the special agent in charge of the Phoenix field division beginning in March 2011, and special agent in charge of the Detroit field division from January 2008 until his assignment to Phoenix.

By Bill Brassard, National Shooting Sports Foundation

The holidays are just around the corner. As hunters, shooters, collectors or just plain plinkers, it’s a natural instinct to want to share our enjoyment of firearms with others. What better way to do that than to make a gift of a firearm to a family member, close friend or relative?

The first thing to remember if you’re thinking about giving someone a gun is that . . . it’s a gun! You already know that ownership of a firearm brings with it some serious legal and ethical obligations that other consumer products don’t. So let’s look at some questions you may have about giving a firearm as a gift.

The first question you have to ask is whether the intended recipient can legally own the firearm where he or she lives. More than 20,000 different gun laws on the books, even the kinds of firearms that law-abiding citizens can own vary from place to place; for example, juveniles (under age 18) generally speaking are precluded by law from possessing a handgun. Check out the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) website for an overview of local laws and, whatever you do, don’t forget that you can never under any circumstances transfer a firearm to someone you know — or have reasonable cause to believe — legally can’t own one. That’s a federal felony, so be careful.

There’s no federal law that prohibits a gift of a firearm to a relative or friend that lives in your home state. Abramski v. United States, a recent Supreme Court decision involving a “straw purchase” of a firearm did not change the law regarding firearms as gifts. Some states—California, Connecticut, Colorado and New York for example—require you to transfer the gun through a local firearms dealer so an instant background check will be performed to make sure the recipient is not legally prohibited from owning the gun.

The ATF recommends that if you want to give someone a new firearm, rather than going to a gun store, buying it on your own and giving it to, say your father, consider instead purchasing a gift certificate from that retailer and giving it to Dad as his present. That way he’ll get the exact gun he wants, and there’s no question about who is “the actual buyer of the firearm,” which is a question any purchaser must certify on the Federal Form 4473 at the time of purchase.

You can only ship a handgun by common carrier (but not U.S. Mail) and a long gun by U.S. Mail or common carrier to a federally licensed dealer, but not to a non-licensed individual. With all carriers, federal law requires you to declare that your package contains an unloaded firearm. To be safe, always consult your carrier in advance about its regulations for shipping firearms.

What if you want to give “Old Betsy,” your favorite old deer rifle, to your son or daughter as a college graduation gift? Again, in most states, there’s no law that says you can’t, but some states require even inter-family transfers to go through a licensed dealer. Remember, you can never transfer a firearm directly to another person who is a resident of a different state. In that case, you must transfer the firearm through a licensed dealer in the state where the person receiving the gift resides. Using a gift certificate from a firearms retailer near where the recipient lives might be a good solution. Pre-1898 antique firearms are generally exempt from the dealer requirement. Be safe and check with your dealer or local law enforcement before you hand over your prized possession.

It’s often an emotional moment when a treasured family heirloom is passed down to the next generation. These moments are part of what our cherished enjoyment of firearms is all about and represent that unique bond that sportsmen have with their fellow enthusiasts.

So enjoy the holidays and do it right!

suppressors disassembled showing bafflesOnce the fodder of Hollywood spy movies and pulp fiction novels, the NFA-compliant suppressor is becoming ever more common in its use and adoption with numbers at an all-time high.

No matter whether you call it a silencer, a suppressor, or just a can, the mechanism defined by the National Firearms Act of 1934 as any device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a portable firearm, is shedding decades of misinformation and rapidly becoming more and more mainstream. According to figures released by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives earlier this year, there were, as of March 2014, no less than 571,750 legal suppressors listed in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR).

As benchmark in the increase in the number of yearly transfers done on NFA items, such as suppressors, in 1984 the ATF collected just $666,000 in transfer and making taxes on these items. Three decades later, with no increase in the tax rate, the ATF collected almost $18.2 million in transfers, according to its 2013 figures, an increase of over 2,700 percent.

“Suppressors are in much the same position as ARs were ten years ago,” Knox Williams, president and executive director of the non-profit American Suppressor Association, told Guns.com.

“When the Assault Weapons Ban sunset in 2004, there were a lot of popular misconceptions surrounding ‘black rifles.’ A large segment of the pro-gun community thought that all ARs were machine guns, and that they had no place amongst hunters,” said Williams. “Now, ten years later, the tables have turned. The AR is perhaps the most prolific symbol of the gun community, synonymous with the basic right to keep and bear arms. This is not because the rifles themselves have changed, but because over time people have become educated about the true merits and characteristics of the semi-automatic platform.”

First patented by Hiram Maxim in 1909, the suppressor was an over-the-counter item until 1934. (Photo: Forgotten Weapons)

Patented in 1909, suppressors have never been illegal under federal law, but since 1934 are required to be registered with Washington. However, states have the authority to pass local laws governing otherwise legal ownership and use of NFA-compliant devices.

As such, suppressors are legal in 39 states. The five states with the highest number of devices are Texas, (86,579), Georgia (43,958), Florida (39,613), Ohio (26,566) and Indiana (22,223) and account for about 40 percent of the total.

Barring the 11 states that do not allow individuals, corporations, and trusts to own suppressors, the five states with the lowest numbers of ownership are population-low but sportsmen-rich West Virginia (3,357), Alaska (2,919), North Dakota (2,834), Wyoming (2,040) and Maine (1,728).

This increase in ownership has seen the production of suppressors mushroom as well in an attempt by the industry to keep up. The ATF listed some 3,020 manufacturers with Special Occupation Tax FFLs needed to produce Title II weapons, such as suppressors, across the nation in 2013, with at least one in every state. When compared to the U.S. population, that is approximately one manufacturer per 100,000 residents. While many traditional firearms companies such as Winchester, Smith and Wesson and Colt have legacies that stretch back to the 19th Century, today’s household names in the supperssor market, makers such asAWC, Remington-owned AAC, and SilencerCo, have all sprouted up in the past three decades.

A big point in the increase in popularity of these devices comes from a removal of the stigma associated with their use.

“Similarly, to most Americans, suppressors are shrouded in mystery,” Williams said. “It is not the devices themselves that baffle people, but rather a general misunderstanding of the unknown. Because most people have never seen or shot with a suppressor, they generally assume that they are actually silent. Because many people have not purchased a suppressor, they generally assume that they are illegal, or require a permit.”

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade group for the firearms industry, has long held that legal suppressors can help prevent hearing loss, help make shooting ranges better neighbors, make great tools for hunting, and do not increase crime in states that allow their possession.

In the past several years, more sportsmen have been turning to legal suppressors as legislative and regulatory changes have made these Title II items more available.  (Photo: ASA)

In recent years, pro-suppressor legislation has gained traction nationwide. So far in 2014, bothLouisiana and Georgia have seen lawmakers responding to increased pressure from sportsmen and hobbyists to expand protections and use for suppressors. This came while Alabama saw regulatory changes that paved the way for hunters to use their suppressors for the first time in generations.

In addition to this, a number of states are streamlining the Chief Law Enforcement Officer signature requirement on suppressor transfers to individuals by requiring these law enforcement officers to process applications through a new breed of “shall sign” or “shall certify” legislation. This year alone, lawmakers in UtahKentuckyKansas andArizona passed legislation that mandates CLEOs to approve paperwork within a limited period of time, unless the applicant is found to be a prohibited person, such as a felon, mental defective, minor or domestic abuser. This removes the possibility for law enforcement chiefs to approve or deny suppressor applications for arbitrary reasons.

Lawmakers, in fact, approved so much of shall-sign legislation that when Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed such a bill in May, the state legislature overrode it within just 10 days.

Besides industry groups such as ASA and NSSF, gun-rights organizations such as the National Rifle Association have vowed to move forward with a new emphasis on NFA regulation.

“Over time, as the market continues to expand, and as grassroots efforts continue to have success, more and more people will become wise to the fact that there is no such thing as an item that completely silences a firearm, and that in 39 states suppressors are legal to own and possess,” Williams said.

“Will they become the next symbol of the Second Amendment? Only time will tell,” Williams said. “They have already cemented their role within the ever-changing firearms community.”