As you can see, the ticker to the left tracking how long it has taken the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to sign off on my National Firearms Act transfer is currently well past the four-month mark, and in a rather surprising turn of events for me, I have been patient with the process for this entire time. Oh, sure, I have called and emailed the folks producing the NFA-regulated item for me, just to check up on it and see how everything is going, but I have gone out of my way to not harass the paper-pushers at the BATFE, figuring that their time could be better spent actually processing the Form 4s and 1s, rather than answering my questions. However, NFATracker.com indicates the current turnaround on forms is somewhere around 4-5 months, so my patience finally ran out this afternoon, and I called up the NFA Branch at 304.616.4500.
One of those paper-pushers answered the phone, and after I explained who I was and what I wanted to do, his response was, and I quote:
"Yeah, I can’t do status checks right now. Call back tomorrow and I might be able to check for you then."
To my credit, I politely thanked him for his time and got off the phone, but allow me to make myself clear… for the two hundred frakking dollars spent getting a stupid-assed "stamp" from the federal government to remain legal and aboveboard while owning a piece of equipment that is in no way demonstrably more-dangerous than any other firearm or accessory, I should bloody well be able to log into a webpage and check the status of my application whenever I gorramed feel like it.
By their own accounting, the BATFE processed 105,373 individual Forms in 2011. Ignoring the $5 transfer tax for Any Other Weapons (simply because they are not overly common), you are looking at somewhere over $21,000,000 in revenue from NFA tax stamps. Twenty-one million dollars. And to that number, you can add the cumulative value of all of the Special Occupation Taxpayer taxes (generally $1000 per year) for corporations who import, deal, and/or manufacture NFA-regulated devices.
So where is all of that money going? Hell if I know. But I do know for absolute certain that for a scant fraction of that $21,000,000 intake the BATFE could easily have a simple web-based form wherein one enters the serial number of the device you are transferring and some other pertinent information to ensure you are who you say you are, and then spits out the status of your Form, breaking out exactly where in the process your application is, how long it has taken, average throughput time for similar applications, and so forth. For Heaven’s sake, this is the Twenty-First Century, where you can track your gorramed pizza from dough to delivery, and you are telling me that the Great and Almighty Federal Government cannot dig its head out of its own ass long enough to develop something similar for a "product" that costs at least ten times as much as your average pizza order?
Granted, we are talking about the federal government…
So on top of having to pay a fee for the not-really-privilege of having a shorter-than-an-arbitrary-length barrel or having our hearing protection on our firearms rather than on our ears, we also have to deal with layers upon layers of bureaucratic waste and incompetence. It really is starting to seem like the BATFE is the perfect, microcosmic example of everything that is wrong with the American government…
Update: Apparently, as of 19JUL11, my application is “pending, still awaiting review”, which might mean I could have the stamp back within a month, if past history is any indication of future performance.