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FFL License Requirements | Responsible Persons

FFL License Requirements | Responsible Persons


What’s a good starting point to find out about the requirements for obtaining a Federal Firearms License?

FFL license applicants should become familiar with some basic facts about the FFL license prior to applying. FFL requirements should be examined by applicants for a Federal Firearms License beginning with 27 CFR §478.41. This particular section of the regulations lays out the basic FFL requirements, as well as additional information on specific licenses (Curio and Relic, Manufacturing, etc.)

It’s also important for applicants to understand exactly what information is required by ATF prior to submitting the ATF F 7 to the FFLC. It is always preferable and ideally desirable for ATF to receive an application package which is complete to the greatest extent possible. Having a complete and perfected application streamlines the process, and eliminates possible barriers to licensing before ATF receives the FFL application.

One of the most important things for a FFL applicant to determine is what persons within the company will qualify as Responsible Persons (RPs).

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Who is a Responsible Person in your business as defined by the Gun Control Act (GCA)?

Applicants for a Federal Firearms License must indicate all “Responsible Persons” (RP) on the ATF Form 7 (Application for a Federal Firearms License). In general, a RP is a person who has “authority” with respect to the daily activity of the firearms business. The definition usually includes corporate officers and owners or companies, but not in every case.

It’s important to you as an applicant to determine the members of your business who
may qualify as Responsible Persons under the law. Under some scenarios, this task can become a difficult problem for the prospective licensee. Responsible Persons will have to submit fingerprints and personal information to ATF for a background investigation.

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How and where does ATF define a “Responsible Person”?

The ATF F 7 (Application for a Federal Firearms License) states the definition of a Responsible Person in the instructions section of the form.

“A responsible Person is:
In the case of a corporation, partnership, or association, any individual possessing, directly or indirectly, the power to direct or cause the direction of the management, policies, and practices of the corporation, partnership, or association, insofar as they pertain to firearms.”

As you can see, the definition does not specifically include the term “Corporate Officer”, and for a very good reason. Larger companies with multiple divisions and corporate officers would have to list all of them, even if they had nothing to do with firearms.

Also, the definition seems to be somewhat ambiguous. Using the words “indirectly” and phrases such as “power to direct or cause the direction”, leaves lots of room for interpretation of who exactly will fall under the definition.

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Federal Firearms License - Responsible Person

Who makes the determination of what persons should be included as Responsible Persons (RP)?

Under most circumstances, it’s absolutely clear as to who should be included as a RP in ATF records. Usually, FFL applicants will list all corporate officers or in the case of a partnership, all partners.

The determination as to who shall be included as a RP is in effect made by ATF. As part of ATFs investigation process, applicants may be asked questions regarding persons who are associated with the firearms business. Depending on an applicants particular situation, ATF may determine that some persons will have to be included or excluded as RPs.

Should I just wait for ATF to tell me who to include as Responsible Persons?

It is to the FFL applicants advantage to identify and include in the original application, all persons who qualify as Responsible Persons. It’s very important that applicants for a Federal Firearms License get this right. One of the key strategies in getting approved for a FFL is to have a complete and perfected application received by ATF; an application which will be approved without making any material changes to the ATF Form 7.

Discovering that additional persons must be added as Responsible Persons entails a delay of processing time; sometimes a significant delay. The delay sometimes becomes a secondary issue. More significant and problematic issues may arise in this scenario, like problems with the added person’s background investigation. Applicants must deal with and resolve these types of issues prior to applying for a FFL. Waiting for ATF to direct you may be an alternative that works, but should never be a strategy you should adopt.

How can I ensure that I add the proper persons as Responsible Persons on the ATF Form 7 (Application for a Federal Firearms License)?

Applicants for a FFL should consult an attorney for a proper interpretation of the definition of “Responsible Person” in the event of an ambiguity. This concept is difficult to understand and more difficult to explain in this format.

It may be beneficial to look at the problem from the perspective of “authority” and “responsibility”. Does the person have authority over others in the company with respect to the acquisition and disposition of firearms? If something goes wrong in the business, will the person be accountable financially or personally over and above an “employee”.

Will the person answer questions during ATF compliance inspections and have the authority to implement corrective action and solve compliance problems?

A General Manager of a store or group stores may be considered a Responsible Person in some instances; such as in the case of an absentee owner, or owners who reside outside of the United States.

It is extremely difficult to deal with every scenario, asking yourself the questions above and keeping the words “authority” and “responsibility” in your mind will generally guide you in the right direction.

Always consult an attorney if you have questions along these lines.

One of our corporate officers just keeps the books and handles other financial issues, should they be included as a Responsible Person?

That depends on what their exact duties entail, and the findings of the ATF Officer (IOI) conducting the investigation and qualification inspection. The IOI may ask specific detailed questions regarding the activities of the particular corporate officer. If the IOI believes the person qualifies as a Responsible Person, they will have to submit fingerprint cards and personal information. ATF may ask the applicant to submit in writing, a detailed explanation of the duties of the person in question so they can make a determination.

One solution to an ambiguous situation is for the applicant to clearly state in writing that a particular persons duties do not qualify them as a Responsible Person. The applicant should detail the person’s duties and position within the company, as well as state in the letter the reasons why the person should not be considered a Responsible Person.

On the other hand, if a FFL applicant believes that a person should be included as a Responsible Person who appears at first glance to be exempt, the FFL applicant should detail their duties and the reasons they should be included as a Responsible Person.

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