David Codrea gives a rundown of the recent actions by the ATF on the ammunition supply chain.
“ATF was recently asked about the status of nitrocellulose under the Federal explosives laws and regulations,” the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives noted in its… industry newsletter. “‘Nitrocellulose explosive’ is on ATF’s List of Explosive Materials.”
Who did the asking—and what their motives were—was left unsaid.
“ATF has determined that nitrocellulose containing greater than 12.6 percent nitrogen is a high explosive under 27 CFR, Part 555 (nitrocellulose containing 12.6 percent or less nitrogen is generally not an explosive material under Part 555),” the release explained. “Therefore, it must be stored in a type 1 or type 2 magazine.
“We are aware that the US Department of Transportation may assign a nonexplosive classification to nitrocellulose when it has been wetted with water or alcohol,” the advisory acknowledged. “This is based, in part, on the diminished likelihood of explosion in a transportation accident.
“Because the nitrocellulose retains its explosive characteristics when the water or alcohol is removed, the wetted nitrocellulose remains a nitrocellulose explosive, subject to the licensing, safety and security requirements of the Federal explosives regulations,” the post concluded. “However, based upon the diminished likelihood of wetted nitrocellulose exploding, ATF will consider variance requests to store the wetted material under an alternative arrangement.”
David continues with the potential affects of said ruling.
So what’s the impact of ATF coming up with new rules for wetted nitrocellulose?
“Manufacturers and importers of smokeless propellant have relied on ATF private letter rulings issued prior to 2016 stating that nitrocellulose wetted with water not less than 25 percent by mass is not subject to regulation under the federal explosives laws,” the response explained. Their entire operations have been set up “consistent with nitrocellulose not being regulated as an explosive.”
Everything from storage to record-keeping and more would be thrown for a loop. Also impacted would be “contracts to supply smokeless propellant and finished rounds of ammunition to the Department of Defense.”
Read the rest of David’s analysis for some very good questions. Bob Owens also discussed this.
There were some panicked posts earlier this week in some other firearms-focused sites which claimed the ATF had redefined wetted nitrocellulose as a high explosive, and that this redefinition would dramatically affect the availability and cost of ammunition.
Someone had a question about wetted nitrocellulose, the ATF tried to answer that question in their newsletter, and did so in a manner that drew an unintended and unexpected “the sky is falling!” response.
They’ve now issued an addendum to their newsletter which amounts to, “Dudes, chill.”
There’s a whole lot of snark in Bob’s writeup, and inappropriately so. I don’t see the post at AllOutdoor.com as a “sky is falling” assessment at all. The initial ATF answer chose a potential critical path of the logistics chain in the ammunition manufacture process and emplaced an entirely new regulatory scheme on it. It might have been catastrophic. The aborted ruling isn’t made up by any writer or commenter. The ATF said it. It’s their own words.
As regular readers know, the federal executive is out of control. The legislature is stocked with demons, pit vipers and gargoyles, and the judiciary has never seen a law or regulation, real or imagined, they didn’t love. This sounds a lot like something they would promulgate on the gun owning community.
For my part, I think there are a lot of questions that need to be asked.
Why did this come up, and who asked the question?
Who fabricated the response by the ATF, and how far up the chain of command did the approval go?
Wouldn’t something like this be considered rule making and therefore be subject to entry into the federal register, with a comment period and necessary responses, and then codified into the code of federal regulations?
Did the ATF contact and collaborate with the Department of Transportation on this aborted rule making, or did they simply assume that the DOT had no comments and had all the necessary resources to pull off control of this new regulatory scheme?
Did any Department of Justice lawyers evaluate this aborted ruling?
Is there any technical basis whatsoever for the ATF position in the aborted rule making? Has this been reviewed by a registered professional engineer and is the report he wrote available for public review? Does the Department of Justice (ATF) have a differing professional opinion (DPO) process like other departments of the federal executive, and is this process available for use by the public like other programs?
Has an economic impact study been performed?
Did anyone in the White House know about this?
This is only the beginning of the questions. You can safely rely on one thing. I will greatly increase and enhance the list of questions sent to the federal government if the ATF proposes this as formal rule making.
The reader is invited to fill in the comments with his own questions and observations.