Now that my ATF license to manufacture explosives has been successfully renewed I’m going to take a chance and poke a little fun at them.
First off let me say that the people I dealt with were all very professional and went out of their way to help resolve the problem with far less hassle than they could have had they just wanted to be bureaucratic jerks. I find no fault whatsoever with the ATF people I dealt with. The problem is with the regulations. Regulations sometimes aren’t really applicable to every situation. But that doesn’t mean that the bureaucrats enforcing the regulations or the peons subject to those regulations can decide to ignore them. We are mostly just stuck with them.
With those caveats imagine my surprise when after several years of using the Taj Mahal for storage of explosives as a “Type 1” explosives magazine I was told it was actually an “indoor magazine” and hence a “Type 2” magazine. See the applicable regulations here.
The Taj Mahal looks like this:
The door you see inside the metal shed is the theft and bullet resistant portion of the magazine and is 3’x6’x6′. The metal shed is 10’x14’xHeadScalpingHeight. I considered the shed part of the magazine. The shed provides protection from the rain and snow and the heavy steel and locks provides the theft and bullet resistance. For several years the ATF inspectors apparently saw it the same way.
The new inspector and her supervisor didn’t see it that way:
It is not considered a permanent structure because it is a shed that can be moved. Am I correct in the fact that the building is not attached to the ground (with cement, etc)?
It is attached to the concrete with bolts. But that wasn’t good enough:
I have reviewed the report and photographs of the magazine and have determined it to be an indoor Type II magazine. Even though the magazine is bolted into the concrete, does not make it permanent and the shed is not incidental. For purposes of establishing an indoor magazine, ATF has determined that the building or structure in which the magazine is placed:
1. Is of suitable, stable construction to provide protection from wind and other inclement weather conditions.
2. The structure’s walls and roof are constructed of metal, wood, brick, cement or concrete and makes the structure unsusceptible to mobility or intrusion.
3. The base or floor of the structure consists of earth or other flat, level material which can sustain the weight of the magazine.
4. The doors are secured to provide additional security and theft-resistance to the magazine.
In my review, I have determined that the shed meets the requirements, as stated above, for a building or structure. Even though the magazine may weigh 3000 lbs and is bolted to the concrete it still does not meet the definition of a Type 01 magazine. As it is currently constructed, this magazine is classified as a Type 2 indoor magazine. Thus it can only hold a maximum of 50 lbs of explosives materials.
Okay, so what?
The issue is that the maximum amount of explosives you can store in an “Type 2 Indoor Magazine” is 50 pounds. For a “Type 1” magazine it is determined by the distance to the nearest inhabited building or public road or railway. With a distance of 1950 feet to the nearest inhabited building I was previously allowed to store up to 18,000 pounds of high explosives at that site (sorry Barron, I was mistaken, it has to be 2000 feet before we could store 180,000 pounds). The Taj couldn’t hold that much because it was too small but it was nice to know I could pack it full without worrying about getting in trouble with the ATF.
A 50 pound limit just doesn’t work for our situation. We store about 1600 pounds at the Taj on the Saturday night before Boomershoot.
After getting the bad news from the ATF I started asking questions:
Would it become a Type I magazine, and hence be allowed more than 50 pounds of explosives material, if the shed were removed and the magazine were exposed?
I didn’t get a reply so some time later I sent another email:
I would like to know if a solution to Type I/Type II problem is for me to remove the metal shed.
It would also be useful for me to find out the definition you are using for the word “permanent” in this sentence:
Even though the magazine is bolted into the concrete, does not make it permanent and the shed is not incidental.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary (used by the ATF in ATF Ruling 2005-3) permanent means:
1. Lasting or remaining without essential change: “the universal human yearning for something permanent, enduring, without shadow of change” (Willa Cather).
2. Not expected to change in status, condition, or place: a permanent address; permanent secretary to the president.
By that definition the shed and magazine are permanent. I am having difficulty in imaging how it can be considered a Type II magazine because according to 555.208, “A Type II magazine is a box, trailer, semitrailer, or other mobile facility”. Below is a picture of the base of the magazine and shed while it was under construction:
Four inches of concrete were poured into the forms above and the shed and magazine was bolted to it. I am unable to find any definition of “mobile” for which the concrete slab and attached structures qualifies. If it would make a difference I would be glad to weld the magazine to the slab instead of just bolting it.
If necessary what I can also do is only use it to store materials “In the process of manufacture” as per 555.205 since if it is “In the process of manufacture” the materials don’t need to be kept in a locked magazine.
In response the story changed just a little bit:
Just to make sure that I have classified this magazine correctly, I am forwarding your e-mail to our Explosives Industry Programs Branch for review. They will make a classification of your magazine.
I have one question, I agree that the shed would be permanent but it is not part of the magazine. The shed is what makes it an indoor magazine. Since the regulations do not have a description of an indoor Type 1 we must classify this as a Type II. Even though difficult, can the bolts be removed and thus making the magazine mobile?
Less than hour later (I’m impressed the bureaucracy could move this fast) I received the following email:
The Explosives Industry Programs Branch (EIPB) also has classified this as an indoor magazine. Since there is no definition for a Type I indoor magazine, it must be classified as a Type II. EIPB stated that you can remove the shed and that would resolve the 50 lb limitation. The limitation for the magazine would be 18,000 lbs. The other possible solution is that you can apply for a variance to store in excess of 50 lbs in an indoor magazine. The magazine must meet the Tables of Distance and construction requirements. I am not sure it will be approved but you may want to make that request before taking down the shed.
So it’s the existence of the shed and not the “mobility” of the shed that makes it a Type 2! That give me an opening for more questions:
ng I remove the shed I would then need to cover the magazine with a more weather resistant covering such as the metal from the shed. What would the maximum spacing between the magazine and the metal covering before it would become an indoor magazine again?
You can see where I’m going with this, right? Apparently so could the ATF because they responded with:
I am trying to find a simpler solution to the problem. I have a few suggestions into our EIPB that may not be an extensive as building a new structure but changing the old one. I should have an answer in the morning.
Early the next morning I received the following email:
Here is the easiest solution that we could come up with. Empty the shed of all materials except the magazine, remove the doors or a wall of the shed. Since the magazine is not totally enclosed in the shed it would no longer be an indoor magazine. I think that would resolve all of the issues. Let me know what you think.
So the bottom line is that if I remove the doors from the shed I can store 18,000 pounds of explosives. If I put the doors on I can only store 50 pounds.
It doesn’t have to make sense. It’s just a government rule.