November 20, 2020

U.S. Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) and U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) recently introduced S. 4841, the ATF Improvement and Modernization Act of 2020 (“AIM Act”) which would repeal numerous restrictions on the ATF that have been added to federal law through appropriations bills over the years.  Among other provisions, the AIM Act would repeal the “Tiahrt Amendment” that prohibits the ATF from disclosing information from the National Trace Center except to law enforcement agencies, and makes such trace data, as well as information that federal firearms licensees (“FFLs”) are required to maintain and report pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 923(g), such as 4473 forms and acquisition and disposition (“A&D”) records, immune from discovery in civil litigation. 

Other provisions in the AIM Act would remove the provisions in federal law prohibiting the ATF from creating a registry of firearms using information from A&D records and conducting computerized searches on the records of out-of-business dealers.  It would eliminate the requirement that the results of approved NICS background checks be destroyed within 24 hours and make trace requests subject to disclosure pursuant to FOIA requests.  The AIM Act would also eliminate restrictions on the import of surplus military firearms and curios and relics, and allow the ATF to impose restrictions on the import of shotguns.  It would repeal the provisions prohibiting the ATF from denying an application for a federal firearms license based on lack of business activity, from requiring FFLs to conduct a physical inventory of their firearms and would remove the provision limiting the ATF to one compliance inspection per year.  It would also change the standard for revoking a federal firearms license from a willful violation of federal firearms laws to a knowing violation and eliminate an FFL’s right to a de novo review by a federal court of a decision by the ATF to revoke its license.  The restriction on the functions of the ATF being transferred to other agencies would also be eliminated.

The proposed revisions would make it easier for plaintiffs to obtain documents and information for use in civil lawsuits against FFLs, allow for the creation of a national registry of firearms, and make it easier for the ATF to revoke licenses.  The AIM Act has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.  Unless the Democrats take control of the Senate based on the results of the special elections to be held in Georgia in January 2021, the AIM Act is unlikely to be passed in the Senate.

If you have any questions regarding the AIM Act or federal law governing the manufacture, import, and/or sale of firearms, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.