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FFL License Revocation Criteria |Avoiding Public Safety Violations

By: JR Valdes

FFL License revocation. Repeated public safety violations is cause for revocation of your FFL.  Learn to identfy and avoid ATF public safety violations.

Revocation of a federal firearms license is an infrequent occurrence. In FY 2012 ATF sought revocation on approximately 97 occasions, equaling less than 1 percent of inspections conducted. As noted in the OIG report of April 2013  (Fig. 3 pg 28), the number of administrative actions that were revocations has steadily decreased since 2004. One can argue about the reasons for this decrease and the corresponding increase in “FFL compliance”; nevertheless, as FFLs it serves us well to educate ourselves about the ATF revocation process and how we can avoid being on the wrong side of that statistic.

Revocation Case Law and Minor GCA Violations

It’s been established by case law that there are no “minor” or “insignificant” violations of the Gun Control Act (Garner v. Lambert ). It’s also been established that one violation of the GCA is enough to support the revocation of a license if ATF can show “willfulness”. Examination of revocation cases tells us that in general, ATF will initiate revocation proceedings after multiple documented and repeated violations of the GCA. According to an ATF Public Affairs Fact Sheet (Feb 2013), revocation is “seldom initiated”, but necessary when the FFL has been educated, had a chance to comply, and has failed to comply. It’s clear that ATF will work with licensees to achieve compliance, but acts or failures to act by licensees that impact “public safety” will compel ATF to take action.

As previously stated, case law has established that there are no violations of the Gun Control Act which are considered less relevant to the administration of the Act than any other violation. So with this in mind, the standard for FFLs to achieve is absolute compliance and perfect record keeping. As a practical matter, it’s understood that human beings are imperfect and make mistakes. Therefore, meeting the “willfulness” standard imposed on ATF has historically obligated the agency to document a pattern of similar violations, education of the FFL, counseling and repeated violations to establish “willfulness”.

Public Safety Violations and Revocation Standards

Avoidance of the above scenario is critical for the FFL who wants to remain in business for any length of time. ATF Publication 5300.15, “Best Practices Guide” lists 10 of the “more common issues encountered by licensees”; basically a Top Ten list of violation types having an impact on public safety. Becoming familiar with these types of violations, and implementing strategies to avoid them will ensure your firearms business lives a long, productive and profitable life.

In this upcoming series of articles, the “Top Ten” violations commonly cited, and having an impact on public safety will be broken down and examined. The intent is to understand the typical causes of FFL failures in these areas and propose strategies that tend to minimize the chances of occurrence. Periodically, additions to the series will be published until the entire list is addressed.

Please check back for the first violation to be examined:

1) “Failure to Obtain a Form 4473–Firearms Transaction Record When Required”

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