|NSSF’s FFL Compliance Consultants at their annual meeting at NSSF headquarters: Top row from left, Nick Scouffas, former ATF Area Supervisor, with 36 years of service; Wally Nelson, former ATF Deputy Assistant Director, with 33 years of service; Fred Gerlach, former ATF Liaison to FBI/NICS, with 36 years of service. Bottom row from left, Gene Baker, former ATF Explosives Industry Analyst, with 34 years of service; Jean Zabel, former Area Supervisor, with 25 years of service; and Harry McCabe, former ATF Deputy Assistant Director, with 36 years of service.|
The annual meeting of NSSF’s FFL Compliance Consultant team resulted in identification of the top issues the team ran into while conducting hundreds of in-store audits during 2013. The team of ATF compliance advisors brings a wealth of experience to the job, having conducted and supervised thousands of firearm retailer compliance inspections as former ATF officials, each with at least 25 years of experience with the bureau. From their review of the 4473 forms, A&D books and standard practices during the 2013 audits they’ve identified the top issues that may impact your FFL. Below are their findings, plus recommendations to help ensure that your retail location is compliant.
- If the buyer makes a mistake on Section A of the ATF Form 4473 and has not completed the transaction or not left the store, don’t tear up the 4473 and start over. Instead, have the customer mark a single line through the mistake, initial and date the change and complete the form.
- Errors in gunsmithing A&D books such as missing entries, inaccurate entries and incomplete entries. Pay special attention to the process of logging in firearms and transferring firearms from the retail portion of the business to the gunsmithing side of the business. If anyone other than the person who dropped off the firearm picks it up, he or she has to fill out a 4473 form and have a background check conducted prior to releasing the firearm to them.
- Conceal carry permits are only valid for firearms purchases in place of a NICS/POC background check in the state where they were issued and only if ATF has determined that the permit meets the requirements of the GCA to be an exception to the NICS check.
- Failures to sign a denied 4473. The employee who verifies section B of the 4473 form must complete questions 33, 34, and 35, whenever the NICS/POC check comes back denied or cancelled by NICS/POC.
- Failures to enter both importer and manufacturer of a firearm in both the 4473 and A&D book.
- On the 4473 form, if you have an initial response in 21C of a delayed transaction you must always complete block 21D when the follow up response comes. If you do not get a follow up response and you do transfer the firearm after the three-business-day delay, you must also complete section 21D.
- Store your firearms in a neat and organized fashion to aid in an easy inventory, which should be conducted periodically (e.g. quarterly, annually).
- Failure to enter guns from Internet sales into their A&D Books in the allotted time frame. Once a firearm is received, it must be added to your bound book by the close of business of the next business day after receipt.
- Retailers who actively develop a good relationship with the local ATF and who aren’t afraid to call them for help and advice are more regulatory compliant than stores that do not interact with the ATF. Retailers should start developing a good relationship by reaching out to their local ATF office.
- When you call ATF for advice, you should keep a record of to whom you spoke, the date and time, your question and the response. As a follow up, send a letter to that ATF official memorializing what you were told and ask them to contact you if your letter does not accurately reflect the guidance they provided. If you have a number of questions on the same issue, write a letter to ATF for written guidance on your question.
- Review your 4473s. Many easily correctable mistakes were identified, leading to the recommendation to have a second or even third person review the 4473 prior to the sale. Consider an electronic version of the 4473, similar to what Celerant offers, to help minimize mistakes. The team recommends using the NSSF’s 4473 Overlay to help identify any boxes that were missed while completing the form.
- An electronic bound book system must comply with ATF ruling 2008-2, for example your system can print off pages of your A&D Book, it can track changes to your A&D Book etc. An A&D book maintained in Excel does not quality as a computerized record if it does not comply with ATF Ruling 2008-2.
- If you sell ammunition over the Internet, have a way for customers to certify electronically that they are of legal age to purchase the ammunition and that they are not prohibited persons.
- If you operate a range, consider a way for customers who rent firearms to certify that they are not prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal or state law.
- Review the “Type” column in your bound book to make sure that you are recording the actual type of firearm (e.g. pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, etc.), not the type of action of the firearm.
Patrick Shay is Director, Retail Development for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.