Wednesday, September 6, 2023

ATF Proposes Significant Overhaul of "Personal Collection" Definitions

(Kelly Wilkinson/The Indianapolis Star via AP)

The newly proposed regulations by the ATF aim to dramatically revise key terms such as "personal collection," "personal collection of firearms," and "hobby." These revisions have the potential to significantly impact how the agency regulates firearms sales and ownership. Historically, there have been exemptions for individuals involved in occasional sales or trades of firearms, either to augment their own collection or as a hobby. This existing language was left untouched by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which became effective in June 2022. However, the ATF is citing this act to introduce these sweeping changes.

Legal Information Institute:

(C) as applied to a dealer in firearms as defined in section 921(a)(11)(A), a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business to predominantly earn a profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms, but such term shall not include a person who makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms.

The proposed changes would significantly narrow these exemptions. According to the new rule, "personal collection" would be limited to firearms acquired for study, display, or recreational activities like hunting and target shooting. Notably, firearms acquired primarily for self-defense or with the intent of resale for profit would be excluded from the definition of a "personal collection."

From ATF proposed rule pages 39-40:

E. Definition of “Personal collection,” “personal collection of firearms,” and “personal firearms collection”

Specifically, this rule proposes to define “personal collection,” “personal collection of firearms,” and “personal firearms collection” as “personal firearms that a person accumulates for study, comparison, exhibition, or for a hobby (e.g., noncommercial, recreational activities for personal enjoyment such as hunting, or skeet, target, or competition shooting).” This reflects a common definition of the terms  “collection” and “hobby.”85 The phrase “or for a hobby” was adopted from 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(21)(C), which excludes from the definition of “engaged in the business” firearms acquired “for” a hobby. Also expressly excluded from the definition of “personal collection” is “any firearm purchased for resale or made with the predominant intent to earn a profit” because of their inherently commercial nature. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(21)(C).

This shift in language could put people at risk of being classified as "firearms dealers," even if their activities were previously considered a hobby under the old rules. Furthermore, individuals who occasionally sell or trade firearms for personal reasons, such as needing money or wanting to change their collection, would find themselves in a precarious position under the new definitions.

It's worth noting that these proposed changes were not ratified by Congress and could have far-reaching implications. They appear to exclude self-defense as a legitimate reason for owning firearms, a purpose which has been constitutionally protected under the Second Amendment.

While the new rule is meant to standardize definitions, it grants the ATF greater flexibility in interpretation, potentially altering long-established norms in the regulation of firearms. Critics argue that these changes seem designed to narrow the scope of acceptable reasons for firearm ownership, thereby curtailing individual freedoms protected under the Second Amendment.

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