Alert – ATF Ruling 2013-5

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On December 17, 2013, the ATF approved Ruling 2013-5, clarifying the requirements of those Federal Firearms License Holders (FFLs) seeking to maintain their A&D records electronically. These clarifications seek to refine those made in prior regulation and rulings, especially 2008-2, which was introduced to address an exponential increase in the number of businesses using computerized records.

Although it does not introduce as many changes as one might expect for a revised ruling, 2013-5 does require FFL holders to re-apply for any existing record keeping variances if their methods do not meet the requirements of 2013-5. This is something that all FFL holders using electronic record keeping measures should take note of.

There are some important changes of which it is advised you be aware. The following is a synopsis of key changes from the prior ruling and should not be viewed as a legal interpretation. All other requirements specified within ATF 5300.4 (such as the content of the records and format) remain the same.

  • It clarifies the necessary methods of correcting ones records. It defines that your electronic records system must retain any correction of errors as an entirely new entry, while keeping and unmodified original entry. Or, and unlike Ruling 2008-2 which provided vague and conflicting information, ATF Ruling 2013-5 states your viable alternatives. Namely, it allows for entries in the “notes” section of your software system to explain any correction. This should include things like what was changed, by whom, when, and why the change was necessary.
  • It infers permission to use Microsoft Excel (or similar spreadsheet / database oriented tools). ATF specifically refers to a “protect workbook function” in suggesting that your record keeping system be capable of blocking certain fields from correction. The “protect workbook function” is a feature of Excel, hence where we draw the inference. ATF does not explicitly state the name of such software packages.
  • It states that a licensee must be capable of printing (or downloading) his or her records within 24 hours of request from the ATF.
  • It states that a business’s electronic records must be stored on a server owned and operated solely by the person who holds the respective Federal Firearms License. In addition, it poses that this server must be located within the United States.

As with all Federal and State laws and ruling, we recommend that you read, interpret and fully understand the entire ruling before taking action. That being said, addressing the requirements of a new ruling should be performed timely.

Orchid Advisors provides electronic newsletter (“Advisory and Alert”) and blogs for general informational purposes only. It should not be considered a formal or informal interpretation of law. It is not intended as professional counsel, should not be considered legal advice and should not be used as such.