Reading through many of the internet posts about FFL related matters, I’ve come to at least two conclusions; 1) there is an incredible amount of misinformation on the internet about FFL zoning restrictions, and 2) some people will believe anything they read on the internet.
FFL zoning restrictions should be of particular interest to you as an applicant for a FFL. That is if you expect to get approved by ATF. However, there is no one answer, or a set of answers that apply to every situation or circumstance. The answer to the majority of questions about FFLs and zoning restrictions is “it depends”. Are you a gunsmith who wants to work out of his garage in Omaha or in Los Angeles? Are you within the city limits or close to a school? These things make a big, big difference.
FFL Zoning Restrictions Differ
Every state as well as every local municipality will in general have different procedures and rules for qualifying a firearms business, or any business for that matter. It would be a mistake to assume that obtaining a “Home Office” permit in an urban area is similar to obtaining one in a rural area of your state.
Furthermore, the terms used by planning departments do not always have the same definition. For example, one municipality may consider all “commercially zoned areas” as viable locations for a retail firearms business; and another municipality may distinguish between one “commercial” area and another by specific commercial designators.
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Good News For Potential FFLs
The good news is that ATF has made this issue fairly easy for applicants to deal with. The ATF Form 7 (Application for a Federal Firearms License) requires the applicant to certify that “The business to be conducted…is not prohibited by State or local law…This includes compliance with zoning ordinances”. By implication, as an applicant for a federal firearms license, you should have already determined if the business you intend to conduct violates state or local law, including zoning ordinances prior to applying.
Therefore, the best approach is to contact the local agency having jurisdiction in zoning matters directly. Follow their procedures and advise them of your particular plans for your particular business. Determine if your business will comply, or if you must alter your business plans to comply. Ensure that you receive documentation indicating that the firearms business you propose is allowed by zoning ordinance
ATF Will Verify
As part of ATF’s authority to conduct an investigation prior to issuing the FFL, it is very likely that ATF Industry Operations Investigators will contact local authorities and ensure that the activity you propose does not violate local zoning or other ordinances. Therefore, ensure that all concerned parties are on the same page, and you will have no issues.
Make it Easy For ATF To Approve The FFL Application
Do not adhere to generalizations about this matter. Local jurisdictions all have different zoning ordinances, and many times even similar terminology used in ordinances may mean different things. Contact your jurisdiction and ensure that you will be in compliance prior to applying for a FFL. In essence, make it easy for ATF to approve the application.
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