It a government rule! It doesn’t have to make sense

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.

Please advise.

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.


23 thoughts on “It a government rule! It doesn’t have to make sense

  1. Am I correct in interpreting this as saying if you had an overly large bank vault placed out in the open with the magazine inside it, that would also be a Type 2 even though it’s basically impregnable by any sane standard?

  2. You have no idea how close you just came to getting your property taxes hiked. If you build a permanent structure with an indoors on your property, the locals want their cut. Maybe you could put the doors back on later, insure the permanent structure, take the doors off and claim a total loss.

    I would like to know their reasoning for not considering the shed incidental and de minimus. I guess the thinking is that somebody could get stuck in the shed with the doors on, and now the escape danger has been solved. The Federal Government, protecting theoretical people from theoretical problems since 1946.

  3. So the question becomes, what is the definition of a door? Could you put some sort of non metal or non wood covering over the entrance where the doors used to be?

    The ATF just made explosive storage less safe. This makes perfect sense if you are a government employee.

  4. Hmmm …

    You could alter the back wall of the shed such that the back wall of the magazine forms part of the back wall of the shed. The magazine would thus exposed directly to the outdoors, and the shed would simply form a roof and secondary door for it. If necessary, have the magazine protrude out the back of the shed a few inches.

  5. Fucking fuckety fuck, that’s retarded.

    Sorry, not my most intellectual comment ever, but damn.

  6. So according to the ATF, one can store only 50 pounds of Explosive inside a “Magazine” unless it open to the elements and more than 1800 plus feet away from a road, railway or inhabited Property?

    Uh, so how does Gander Mountain, Cabelas, Bass Pro Shop, get away with it? Awful lot of Gun Powder in those stores.

    And Police Stations sure probably have that amount for their Depts. SWAT Team use.

    Of course her referring to the EIPB for answers, and their Non-Answer saying “we don’t have a Definition” is really pretty scary. I mean, she is asking YOU for the Answer. How much do they earn a year in my Tax Dollars, btw?

    Of course, your replies should be now charged to the Feds as “Consultation.” I’d bill them for $50,000 plus $500 an hour. Bet you’d get it.

  7. Joe, I saw an interesting solution to this problem in a different context.

    Out on the Olympic peninsula near Brennon, a former neighbor to my father has what appears to be a freestanding garage.

    But is can’t be: the property is close enough to the shoreline that it falls within the obnoxious critical areas ordinance and any structures that weren’t grandfathered in cannot be built. If your house burns down, you have to rebuilt in exactly the same footprint… or you maybe you can’t rebuild at all.

    The thing is, it’s not a garage: it’s a car-port, which is allowed. The fact that a totally opaque freestanding wood fence that goes right up under the eves of the carport roof, and has full car-sized doors, doesn’t change that. The critical distinction is that the fence and the carport have a 6″ gap between them.

    So… take the roof off the Taj, put some freestanding posts inside that support the roof 3″ above the “fence”, and you’re golden.

  8. I was thinking along the same lines as Timo. Disconnect the door frames from the structure itself – just bolt and brace the frame to the floor, but leave a structural gap between the frame and the walls. Your doors aren’t part of the building the. I suppose the wind might blow some cardboard or something up against the side of the building to bridge that gap, but you can’t control Mother Nature.

  9. There are so many good jokes in here…

    – So with the doors on, it’s just a magazine, but with the doors off, it’s a high-capacity magazine that is designed to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Somebody call Mayor Mike! Sheds without doors need to be banned!

    – Nobody called it a clip?

    Oh, and I wonder how many other people picked up on the fact that Boomerite would not be possible without a company based in one of the most freedom-unfriendly states in the union, NJ!

    Truth is stranger than fiction.

  10. Ask your House Representative and Senator to add an amendment to any bill that will pass, defining a Type 1 indoor magazine as something very close to your shed’s design, and when it becomes law, all is well.

    Of course, that is playing their game instead of getting on with your life.

  11. What if you were to weld the nuts to the bolts so that the shed could not be unbolted? Wouldn’t that make the shed permanent and thus fit their definitions?

  12. Could you put an explosive (say a fire cracker) in the shed, now it is a magazine w/ a sub-magazine within it.

  13. @Those who said “make it less mobile”,

    They changed their mind part way through the process. Instead of it being a mobility issue they started saying it was strictly an “indoor” issue. I left out some of the emails but they said that a “carport” was not “indoors”. This lead to “how little do I need to modify it to make it ‘not-indoors'”? Apparently the answer is “take off the doors” which requires the removal of four screws. Not a big deal and I stopped harassing and instead thanked them for being so patient with me. But my guess is that I could just leave the doors open when I have explosives stored and it would still “qualify” as “not-indoors”.

    @Phenicks, No. A magazine has to be theft and bullet resistant. The shed does not qualify.

    @freddyboomboom, Yes. Your knife would cut through it easily. I’ve used an icepick to put holes in it for screws to fasten the solar panels to the side. One of my biggest concerns for it was that some deer would run into it or try to burnish its antlers on it and bring it down and rip it to pieces.

  14. Without the doors, isn’t security an issue? If so, then how about a chain link fencing gate across the portal?

  15. Reason? HELL, there is no reason, it’s just the law, or here, a regulation which can change with the director’s digestion.

  16. To paraphrase a somewhat famous, if un-named Russian:

    Is Government, Is Not Supposed to Make Sense!

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