The ATF seems to have made a change related to the legal building of homemade suppressors and it has the potential to turn millions of gun owners into felons overnight.
Earlier this year, we reported on a situation involving everyone's favorite government agency, the ATF, and a company called Diversified Machine.
What happened was that the ATF raided Diversified Machine because the ATF determined that Diversified Machine was manufacturing what the ATF felt constituted a suppressor and selling them to individuals. ATF also felt obligated to seize their website.
Here's the problem, though, Diversified Machine doesn't sell suppressors. They sell items known as "Solvent Traps."
Solvent Traps are devices that can be used when cleaning firearms to catch the cleaning solution if poured down the barrel. The Solvent Trap helps prevent mess, and if in the field can help prevent harmful chemicals from being dumped into the environment.
The ATF felt that because Diversified Machine's solvent trap had a dimpled end to it, it could be more easily drilled out and turned into a suppressor. Therefore, the ATF considered it to be a suppressor. Most solvent traps are not sold with dimpled ends.
With proper machining and tools, Solvent Traps can be manufactured into suppressors. That does not mean that they by themselves are suppressors. Communities have popped up online, namely on Facebook and Reddit, dedicated to a process called "form 1 suppressor building" these communities of individuals build their own suppressors legally by filing a Form 1 with the ATF declaring their intent to do so and submitting themselves to the process established for items regulated by the National Firearms Act.
Before the ATF raided Diversified Machine, there was no guidance from the ATF on solvent traps; they were completely legal to own. Regardless, in Jan. 2022, the ATF sent out a letter to many of those who had purchased these solvent traps accusing them of attempting to acquire suppressor parts.
Here's the important takeaway: "The part from which you intend to make a silencer already meets the NFA's definition of a silencer. The part was not registered nor transferred in compliance with the NFA." This is followed by: "NFA Division notes that it is unlawful for you to possess a silencer made or transferred in violation of the NFA."
This is a shocking admission and might seem like an error for many. But if you look across the many forums on the internet, you'll see hundreds of people reporting the same thing. Some of those people do not even have solvent traps!
Take a look at what people are saying across the internet:
There have been rumors that the ATF is planning to announce new rules related to solvent traps and suppressor home builds. Including proposing a rule change to make the hollow tube itself a silencer. This change would completely outlaw solvent traps and put companies selling them out of business.
But the consequences of that are far more reaching.
Suppose the suppressor applications are being denied because the ATF considers the metal tubing of the solvent trap to be a suppressor. What is stopping them from considering any piece of metal tubing to be a suppressor? It wouldn't be out of the question. In 2020 a Youtuber going by the name TruckMaster was visited by Homeland Security for buying diesel fuel filters.
While writing this article, QuietBore, a company that sells Solvent Trap kits, published their guidance from the ATF on Facebook (in a now-deleted post). From the looks of it, the ATF has changed their opinion on solvent traps and now considers them to be suppressors. The ATF also now seems to be considering a 6" section of metal tubing to be a suppressor based on nothing more than "intention to create/manufacture/make a silencer". Read the ATF's guidance for yourself here:
Finding this answer vague, the folks at Quietbore asked for more clarification. Here was the ATF response:
Starting to sound familiar? The ATF has a pattern of changing definitions at a whim. They did something similar recently when they declared all Rare Breed FRT-15 triggers to be machine guns.
Up until this admission from the ATF, solvent traps were completely legal as well.
Unfortunately, as with the Rare Breed situation, this change has the potential to cause many people to become felons overnight! If you are a gun owner and have a 6" section of metal pipe in your house for a child's science project or for any other reason the ATF may just declare that piece of metal to be a silencer! That is an extremely dangerous precedent to set.
This overreach probably will not come as a shock to long-time gun owners. ATF is currently moving to regulate anything that "could be made into a firearm" through their new rule on redefining what constitutes a frame or receiver. It was only a matter of time until suppressors received the same treatment.
Steph from TMGN Breaks Down How This May Affect You: