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Joint Statement by the Presidents of TRA and NAR

Trip Barber

March 8, 2011 Meeting with BATFE

On Tuesday March 8, 2011, representatives from NAR and TRA met with representatives of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives at BATFE Headquarters in Washington, DC.

Burl Finkelstein, an attorney who is a member of both NAR and TRA, requested and helped arrange this meeting. Although ammonium perchlorate composite propellant was removed from the "Orange Book" explosives list almost two years ago, there still remain some items widely used by rocketeers which are regulated by law and which can and have generated legal questions during inspections by local BATFE agents. The purpose of this meeting was simply to open a dialogue with BATFE so that standing issues arising from inspections might be addressed, and so that future issues might have a defined channel of communication to facilitate resolution.

Attendees from the rocketry organizations included: Burl Finkelstein; Dr. John Hochheimer, NAR trustee; Dr. Terry McCreary, TRA president; Pat Gordzelik, TRA vice-president; and Ken Good, TRA board member and former TRA president. In attendance from BATFE were: Chad Yoder, Chief, Firearms & Explosives Industry Division; Debra Satkowiak, Deputy Chief, Firearms & Explosives Industry Division; William Miller, Chief, Explosives Industry Programs Branch; William O'Brien, Explosives Industry Liaison Specialist; Laurie Hausch and Mike O'Lena, Program Managers; Larysa Simms, Office of Chief Counsel; and Gary Bangs, Director, Industry Operations, Field Operations.

The meeting was both cordial and positive in nature. Much of the dialogue was intended to educate each group on the nature of the activities and limitations of the other group. The rocketry representatives emphasized the excellent working relationship between that community and other organizations such as the FAA and the NFPA, and cultivation of such a relationship with the BATFE would undoubtedly be of benefit to everyone concerned. The Bureau representatives agreed, and conveyed some legalities that are beyond their powers. For example, it was pointed out that igniters are specifically mentioned as being regulated by law, and that it is not the Bureau's prerogative to change that law. It was noted that a LEUP holder's magazine must be inspected periodically, whether the magazine contains regulated material or not, and regardless of the quantity of regulated material. Nonetheless, it was clear that some changes in the policing of use of igniters and electric matches may be practical from the standpoint of both groups, and will certainly warrant further discussion.

BATFE made it clear that they did not have any near-term plans for drafting or publishing detailed regulations or instructions to their field agents on hobby rocket igniters, but that situations where local agents took unusual positions on enforcement could continue to be brought to the attention of BATFE Headquarters staff for resolution. The rocketry organizations offered to provide hands-on demonstrations for BATFE staff at local launches and to assist with the development of educational materials to help them understand the nature of igniters and materials used in hobby rocketry. The BATFE staff offered to also share educational information with the rocketry organizations. NAR and TRA leadership believes that this was a very positive interaction with ATF. We are optimistic that the meeting set the stage for longer-term improved relations between the rocketry hobby and the agency. We believe that achieving this is in the best interests of our members and our hobby.

Terry McCreary
TRA President

Trip Barber
NAR President

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