At least one gun owner recently had their eForm 4 approved in six days, according to Silencer Shop, and the majority of applications are coming in at or below estimates issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) when it launched the system on Dec. 23, 2021. The pace is a dramatic improvement compared to last year’s hard-copy-only wait for nine months—when the paperwork was complete.
The agency's eForms streamline the application process in states where the purchase of suppressors is legal, cutting down wait time and repetitive data entry. Submissions through the system arrive at BATFE electronically.
Applications for National Firearm Act items (including suppressors) have increased significantly over the years, inundating a BATFE division historically low on the budget priority list. Each Form 4 was hand processed and when only 173,340 people submitted one in 1990, response time was a few weeks. By 2020, though, the sheer volume received by BATFE—2,409,585, to be precise—created a frustrating backlog.
An early attempt to launch eForm 4s in 2014 and 2015 failed due to outdated code that ran the the database. Funds weren’t available for the exhaustive work required for an upgrade at the time, but the division’s budget increased in 2018 and 2019. The software problem is remedied and the new system is, according to the experts, running like clockwork.
Days after the new eForm 4 launch, Brandon Maddox, CEO and founder of Silencer Central, predicted in an e-mail to American Rifleman that, “What used to be measured in months could soon be measured in days. The ATF verbally communicated during the beta testing an objective of staffing approvals at 90 days or less moving forward. ... currently [what was] 10 months is looking like 60 days.”
“Numerous Silencer Shop customers have already received their eForm 4 approvals,” Dave Matheny, CEO of Silencer Shop, said in a press release last week. “We’ve seen applications submitted on Jan 17, 2022, approved on February 11, 2022, which is less 30 days and we’ve even seen a six-day approval.”