As Hurricane Irene makes a bee-line on course to race up the East coast of the United States, everyone is scrambling to be prepared. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. counsels represent a wide array of entities in the firearms’ community within their licensed legal practice state.
In this course of or our work, we sometimes receive questions about damage or destruction of the premises of Licensees through natural or man-made disasters and events like fire or theft. A Hurricane certainly fits the bill and has the potential to wreak wide-scale destruction.
Obviously, there are a number of unique and technical legal duties Licensees must adhere to under local, state and federal law. All FFLs must understand the controlling laws and strictly follow such. On August 25, 2011, ATF issued a News Release addressed to Licensees holding explosives licenses, given their sensitivity to water.
However, FFLs too face a wide range of issues from a Hurricane as well. In the past, in an Open Letter to All FFLs posted on August 29, 2008, ATF provided guidance for the situation of an FFLs preparedness for natural disasters, such applicable to the potential devastating impact of Hurricane Irene.
Some of those recommendations and tips are summarized in this blog post to help with FFL compliance. It is only through responsible gun importation, manufacture, distribution, sales and/or ownership that this right may be further maintained. Disaster preparedness and response is a crucial part. Have you considered the following:
- Always Protect and Preserve Life. Some disasters come on suddenly. The central element of all disaster preparation and reaction to any such cataclysmic event is to protect and preserve life. The law and policy of our society puts this first and foremost. The rest can be sorted out after the fact. An FFL should not necessarily “ride out the storm” and should follow all evacuation orders.
- Lost or Stolen Firearms. Hopefully, all licensed businesses and their premises are built, reinforced and secured such that firearms are not lost or stolen during a disaster. A part of ATF’s site inspection is to assess this. Nevertheless, sometimes, all reasonable and prudent measures notwithstanding, made in the face of a storm to prevent loss or theft of firearms from inventory, may fail. If so, an FFL must properly report lost or stolen firearms to local law enforcement and the ATF (by phone and in writing) within 48 hours of discovery of the loss or theft. Lost or stolen firearms must be reported as dispositions in the A&D record.
- Inventory Control. An effective (and recommended) way to determine if firearms have been lost or stolen during a disaster is to have periodic complete inventories to square up with the A&D log (whether it is paper or e-format). In the event a disaster strikes, the A&D may be quickly consulted to determine theft and/or loss. In addition, such records are likely required as a part of any insurance claim. The key to this is to ensure the A&D book is completely secure from the elements. But remember, it must stay at the licensed business premises.
- Keep ATF Advised of Contact Information. In the event of a pending potential disaster, ATF recommends providing its local office with a current cell phone number and other contact information to use in the event it is necessary. This may be used by ATF for official communications with the FFL, such as if emergency responders need to access the facility or move inventory. In addition, the National Tracing Center should be provided with any such contact information for purposes of a trace request.
- Maintain Firearms at Licensed Premises. It is critical to remember during the stress of an emergency, the FFL and business is indexed to a location. The ATF does not allow firearms to be moved or business conducted at a different location (except certain gun shows) unless approved. However, in certain emergency situations, local field offices may be granted the authority to do what is necessary to secure firearms, such as verbally approve a business relocation or removal of firearms inventory and records to a safe alternate location. The key is communication with ATF.
- Damaged Records. Despite prudent measures, if the required records are damaged (i.e., FFLs; A&D log; multiple transfers, etc.), they should be maintained until written approval has been obtained from ATF to destroy or remove or otherwise dispose of these records.
- Damaged Firearms. Damaged firearms that are in need of repair or that must be destroyed or otherwise disposed of must be done in accordance with the legal requirements and recorded in the A&D record.
Please ensure your safety during any natural disaster otherwise. Have a disaster plan prepared in advance as it relates to your FFL premises, inventory and records. Know what AFT suggests and how it applies in such a circumstance is a good place to start. At Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. we hope this blog post helps you weather Hurricane Irene and the events of the future. Be safe.