Earlier this summer, news sources including NRA-ILA, Conservative Daily Alerts and The Outdoor Wirereported that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had issued anExplosives Industry Newsletter announcing a change in how it classifies nitrocellulose, a primary component in making smokeless gun powder. The Obama Administration's move to reclassify it as a “high explosive” under federal law would require manufacturers to change how they handle “wetted nitrocellulose,” potentially disrupting the available supply of the component and of the nation’s ammunition supply.
According to Conservative Daily Alerts, manufacturers "deliberately mix the chemical compound with water to make it less volatile." The reclassification would make it illegal for companies to store or transport the "wetted nitrocellulose" as they have for decades.
Following the newsletter’s release, NRA and the shooting sports industry took their concerns about the potential impacts on ammunition manufacturing to the ATF. Recognizing the concerns of the industry, ATF determined they needed additional information and input on the decision and issued the following addendum:
June 2016 – Addendum Nitrocellulose - Update ATF’s June 2016 Explosives Industry Newsletter included a brief discussion of Nitrocellulose, and attempted to clarify the circumstances under which wetted Nitrocellulose is considered a high explosive under 27 CFR, Part 555. As with all explosives, ATF’s focus is on the potential public safety risks associated with materials that can be misused or diverted to unlawful purposes. Subsequent contact from industry members who import, transport, store or employ wetted Nitrocellulose in the production of ammunition, however, has brought to our attention issues that were not fully addressed in the Newsletter and require further consultation and consideration with the industry. Accordingly, ATF has and will conduct further industry outreach concerning wetted Nitrocellulose. In the interim, previously authorized industry practices concerning wetted Nitrocellulose will not be affected.
While the addendum maintains the status quo, it does not permanently abandon the regulation change. For now manufacturers of smokeless powder will be able to continue operating as usual.
The NRA and other leading industry organizations will continue to monitor the situation and “…ensure that any future change to nitrocellulose regulation will not affect ammunition supply.” Hunters, shooters and other Second Amendment supporters need to be aware of this and similar efforts to change federal regulations that would impact the shooting sports industry.
About the Author Chris Chaffin has been an outdoor communicator, educator and partnership manager for more than 40 years. He has worked on the national scene representing several prominent components of the outdoor community promoting hunting, fishing, the shooting sports and conservation. He served two terms as Treasurer for the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), eventually taking on roles as vice-president, President and Chairman of the Board.
In 2007, he launched Chaffin Communications, Inc., a communications consulting company focusing on the outdoors. In 2012, with support from the Outdoor Adventure Dream Giveaway, Chaffin founded and currently manages the Outdoor Adventure Conservation Fund, a Florida non-profit established to encourage and facilitate more people participating in traditional outdoor activities. For more information, click here.