To the objective of following the law, keeping guns out of criminals hands, and aiding AFT and other law enforcement officers with preventing or investigating gun crimes, ATF has the ability to do a compliance check (with a cause, such as a firearm sold from a store winding up used in a crime) no more than once a year of an FFL’s A&D Book, 4473s, inventory, and multiple handgun transfer forms.
In this blog post, the five most common Report of Violation issues found by ATF on compliance checks are discussed, remedies, and civil/criminal implications. The most important point to take from this blog is that AFT expectation is not significant compliance but perfect compliance, which can be achieved with the right processes.
The first violation is not following NICS procedures, ranging from calling in a customer who is purchasing a firearm to transfer before approval is obtained or the delay time passed. Nevertheless, if a purchaser is disqualified by his or her answers on the 4473, the dealer must not transfer to the purchaser regardless of the NICS check. This can be remedied by a specific second check of the 4473 and NICS process that completely accounts for approvals and delays.
The second and perhaps most common mistake is incomplete information about the purchaser or firearm listed on the 4473 or AD book or not tracking multiple handgun transfers within the days’ limited. This is remedied almost always by a complete double check system by a different person or “set of eyes.” Automation of the process may help with good software. This is allowed by ATF rule.
The third type of violation is missing or unaccounted for firearms. Lost or stolen firearms must be reported in accordance with AFT procedures, as well as state or local law. This is a serious issue for dealers as this impedes or eliminates ATF’s ability to conduct traces. Automation, double checks, and periodic checks of inventory by the dealer are the fail safe.
The fourth violation is straw purchases. This is where a lawful firearms customer purchases a firearm for a disqualified person whom the dealer suspects is doing so. So a husband who is declined may not have the same firearm purchased by his wife. Knowing and understanding the “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” campaign of ATF will help eliminate this risk.
The fifth violation is not logging trades and selling them without “paperwork.” Controlled buys at gun stores for cause is one of the many ways ATF or other law enforcement may learn of this. This is a strong basis for revocation as with the prior two violations. In fact, a willful violation may also lead to criminal prosecution in the right circumstance.
We hope this blog post helps you as a dealer understand likely and easy-to-make violations, consequences, and implement policies to avoid such. If you face an AFT inspection and it or your exist interview or prior warning letters have issued, you should consult with an attorney knowledgeable in firearms to assist you instead of ignoring issues.
This blog post is written to provide general information. It is not intended as specific legal advice. Attorney Bryan Ciyou practices firearms law (state and federal) in Indiana and consults with FFLs and attorneys across the United States. In addition, he is active in shooting sports and writes and teaches extensively in the field.