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Despite overseeing an industry that includes machine guns and other deadly weapons, ATF regulations for the manufacture of weapons are often unclear, leading to reliance on a secretive system by which firearms manufacturers can submit proposed weapons for testing and find out one at a time whether they comply with the law, critics say.
Robert E. Sanders, an ATF official for 24 years who is now a North Carolina lawyer specializing in firearms matters, said letter rulings are often “definitely contradictory and inconsistent,” but are necessary because the regulations being applied are ill-defined.