February 11, 2023 As you have heard. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recently released its annual report that found gun store revocations are at the highest rate in 16 years. The report provides an overview of the ATF’s efforts to ensure that gun stores are compliant with firearms regulations. Let’s take a closer look into the specifics of this new data and what it means for gun dealers. Why is this important? The ATF is a federal law enforcement agency that works within the United States Department of Justice. It is responsible for enforcing laws related to firearms, explosives, and arson. Furthermore, the ATF oversees all aspects of licensing and regulating firearm dealers, manufacturers, importers, and collectors in accordance with federal laws. LEARN THESE LAWS OR THEY WILL MAKE INSPECTION RULES UP AS THEY GO. Don't assume inspectors/agents know every firearm law related to your FFL, they don't. The Annual Report and its problems for you the FFL. The recent annual report released by the ATF found that gun store revocations are at their highest rate since 2005. The number of revocations increased from 22 in 2018 to 34 in 2019—an increase of 54%. In addition, 3% more gun dealers were inspected in 2019 than in 2018. These statistics demonstrate how seriously the ATF takes its role in ensuring compliance among firearm owners, dealers, and manufacturers alike. This more serious (hassle) approach will get your FFL revoked if you are not prepared for an inspection. As a dealer, you know you must keep good books and 4473 records. These are the items most likely that will hem you up and cause a revocation. If your books are not correct and you want to stay in business FIX THEM TODAY, NOT TOMORROW. I have been through this with my first and second inspections. It takes very little for them to site a violation. Again self audit your 4473s and bound book, even if it is an electric bound book you must make sure it's correct ASAP. Do not trust that an electronic bound book will cover your ass and that all information is correct. Ask me how I found out. There are no employees you can blame for clerical mistakes as the responsible party on the FFL. You will be held responsible for every employee's actions. Don't leave the self-audit up to any employee without direct oversight by ownership. I suggest you do a self-audit quarterly. This allows you plenty of time to inspect the A&D book, audit 4473s, and file any missing firearms reports or multiple pistol sales records that you might find in error. You don't want to be spending the first night of the inspection trying to fix problems after they leave for the day. Things that can help you in an inspection.
This is one of the most stressful times you will face as an FFL. Stay calm and if you did your self-inspection and corrected any signatures or items you should make it through ok.
Learn what they can and can't do in an inspection. Your first contact will be inspectors (who are not agents but they can be a pain in your ass). They are less knowledgeable about firearms and the laws than you would think.
You must be able to pull up and print your bound books for the last year.
Do not print anything or give anything more than they require.
The less conversation between you and the inspector the better.
Do NOT consider their politeness as an indication they will be easy on you.
Don't worry or ask about how it's going, you won't get a truthful answer anyway.
Practice retrieving all information before your inspection, you have no idea when will happen but in my experience, it's usually before license renewals or in my case nearly every year because of volume (so they say).
Do not give them an electric copy for them to take out of your store, print your bound book and make them go through it. This isn't to be resistant but they will have electronic access to all of your customer's information and they will download it into their systems. It also keeps the focus on the last years A&D.
Only records containing material facts to support violations can be removed or copied. Do not let them take uninspected or inspected 4473s out of your store without documentation and receipt. By law, they are not supposed to inspect off-premises. The inspection process should take place in your store. You are responsible for these documents and you should keep them in your custody. Rember if you don't have them IN your store it's a violation.
Get a serial number list that follows the last year of A&D and mark all current inventory items with the corresponding A&D control number. Why? Because we have had inspectors transpose SNs, miss items, state they are logged in incorrectly, and add firearms that don't exist by not reading the SN correctly. All these are violations. The more inventory the more problems.
Don't volunteer that you screwed up anything or try to make an excuse around it like you were too busy or I forgot to do it or were sick with cancer, they don't care. They will consider this willful neglect of the law.
or any violation or potential violation you see come up, correct it immediately and start making a plan of action to correct your process. Do not volunteer your corrective action plan yet, you don't want to bring attention to it if there were more violations. If they suspect there is a common violation they can go back over a year. Your corrective action plan can be brought and discussed up when you get the final violations report from the inspector.
Don't try to challenge them or argue. Remember the less you say the more successful your inspection will go.
What This Means for Gun Dealers Gun dealers should be aware of the heightened scrutiny from the ATF when it comes to compliance with federal laws. As always, it’s important for them to stay up-to-date on all relevant regulations so as not to risk any violations or revocations from occurring. By staying informed about these rules and regulations you can help ensure your legal rights are protected while remaining compliant with state and federal laws at all times. You must keep good books and 4473 records. Don't give the ATF any reason to revoke your license. Conclusion: It is clear that the ATF is taking an increasingly proactive stance toward revoking FFL licenses to eliminate access to firearms. Gun dealers need to stay up-to-date on all relevant regulations and take proactive compliance auditing. Doing so will help keeps you from excess scrutiny and ensures your FFL remains open! You are an essential part of the 2A community and we all need you for your services to acquire firearms.