A sweeping new rule by federal gun regulators was published early Tuesday, with possible far-ranging implications for popular firearms and related items. 

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives published the controversial new "Definition of 'Frame or Receiver' and Identification of Firearms'" rule in the Federal Register on April 26. During its public comment period last year, the changes as originally proposed drew some 300,000 comments, a rarity for a process that typically sees little feedback. 

The final 98-page rule makes changes under federal law to the definition of not only a "Frame or Receiver," but also to the definitions for a "Firearm Muffler or Silencer Frame or Receiver," a "‘Split or Modular Frame or Receiver," a "Partially Complete, Disassembled, or Inoperable Frame or Receiver," a "Destroyed Frame or Receiver," as well as adding a definition for the term "Readily" as in ‘"may readily be converted to expel a projectile" and other steps. 

Also buried in the Byzantine new regulations are mandates expanding the record-making and keeping requirements for federally licensed firearms dealers along with increased scrutiny on suppressors and suppressor parts. 

Largely opposed by Second Amendment and firearms industry groups along with Republican lawmakers, the often confusing new rules go into effect on Aug. 24, barring successful legal or legislative action.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation on Tuesday issued the following statement on the rule, noting it differs significantly from the original one proposed last year, but still leaves lots of questions and concerns: 

NSSF is pleased that ATF listened to comments submitted by industry members and have revised the Final Rule to adopt many of the comments submitted by NSSF and our members. We look forward to engaging with ATF to obtain more concrete guidance and elaboration on issues that remain. For example, there are unanswered questions of when something constitutes a “new design” or “new configuration” and when is an object “clearly identifiable” as an unfinished frame or receiver such that the requirements of the Final Rule apply.

We remain concerned ATF is imposing upon retailers and gunsmiths an obligation to serialize personally-made firearms that come into their inventory even though the Gun Control Act only requires manufacturers and importers to serialize firearms. 

We are also concerned ATF will now require firearm retailers to maintain old Form 4473s permanently and will not allow those retailers to dispose of old Form 4473s or send them to the Out of Business Record Center. This raises the greater issue of why ATF maintains ancient records that provide no actionable intelligence of a firearm trace.