A list of the top 10 strategies for your firearms business to avoid compliance inspection violations by ATF. Best practices such as those below will significantly reduce the probability of violations of the Gun Control Act and pertinent regulations. Things change, so ensure you consult 27 CFR 478 and 27 CFR 479 (NFA) for any changes.
The advice below generally pertains to ATF compliance strategies for small and medium-sized retail firearms dealers.
1) Have Another Set Of Eyes…
look at the executed ATF Form 4473 prior to transferring firearms as well as before filing the form. Have another qualified person give a second look to your ATF log book record entries. Use available technology as discussed below.
2) Follow Through On All Your Transactions Daily
Fully execute all ATF required forms immediately. For example, the ATF Form 3310.4 (Report of Multiple Sale) form must be completed by close of business on the day of transfer. You’ll get busy and forget to do it. Take a “do it now” approach. Make entries in your firearms log book immediately when you receive guns and immediately after transferring guns.
3) Conduct Periodic Inventories Of Firearms
Conduct a complete inventory of firearms and verify serial numbers with the A&D record at least each quarter. Smaller shops should consider a firearms inventory monthly. ALWAYS inventory your firearms upon return from a gun show. Further security measures are discussed below.
4) Know Applicable ATF Regulations
Become as informed as possible on ATF regulations; especially issues related to the ATF Form 4473, ATF Form 3310.4 and the acquisition / disposition record requirements. The forms have essentially all the information you will generally need written right on them. The ATF F 4473 has much more detailed explanations you should read and know well.
Read the Q &A sections of the ATF Reference Guide as a start. The information might be overwhelming at first, but it’s a must read if you want to avoid violations.
5) Never Rely On Hearsay And The Magic Question
Old established firearms dealers have all the right answers. WRONG! You’ll find out that just because someone has been in the industry a long time, does not mean they have all the right answers. Many old timers haven’t been inspected in years and have been doing the same things the same (wrong) way for a very long time; it varies. Your friends in the industry may mean well and try to help you out, but based on experience I can tell you never, never rely on hearsay.
Use the magic question: What’s the reference? Anyone who knows the answer to a regulatory question should also know the reference. Ensure that you have first hand knowledge of regulations, have thoroughly researched the issues and can prove that what you are doing is correct. You’ll sleep better if you follow this simple guideline.
6) A Dedicated ATF Compliance Officer
Some larger businesses have one dedicated employee to monitor compliance issues. In larger firearms businesses, this is a full time position at the retail level. The job would include monitoring all transactions for quality, employee training, inventory management, etc.
Attend any seminars given by ATF. There’s always good information and tips given out during these seminars. It’s also a good way to network.
7) Internal Quality Control
Ensure good business practices and policies are in place. Ensure adequate internal controls to manage firearms inventory and properly maintain ATF required records. Implement a system that uses cross referencing of serial numbers and other firearms identifiers. Create an internal numbering system that cross references to firearms serial numbers.
There are a number of excellent inventory control software systems available. Many are developed specifically for firearms dealers. The software ensures that all required data is entered and gives you a ready reference for traces and ATF inspections. Scanning technology virtually eliminates human error as a factor.
Ensure that your firearms inventory is properly secured, especially at gun shows. Always conduct firearms inventory daily after a gun show. Never leave display cases unlocked. It’s very easy for a “customer” to reach into a display case and walk out with one of your firearms. Report any missing firearms or possibly stolen firearms to ATF the same day you discover them missing. Ensure your records reflect that the firearms have been reported stolen or missing to ATF using the case number provided.
For smaller businesses, one good way of keeping informal tabs on your inventory daily, is to do a simple count every morning and evening before closing.
10) Contact ATF investigators (IOIs)
Don’t be afraid or timid about contacting ATF when you have a question. This serves multiple purposes. ATF writes and enforces firearms regulations; they are the source. ATF is there to help you with any questions you have regarding firearms regulations. If you’ve done your best to research the issue and have not been able to determine the correct course of action for yourself, contact ATF.
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