Firearm Retail Security, Protecting Inventory and Profits

Firearm Retail Security, Protecting Inventory and Profits

Lost or stolen firearms can impact compliance risk, insurance premiums, customer flow and public safety. Today we’re taking a journey into retail FFL security and providing you with information to understand compliance requirements; enhance your current retail FFL security program; and to evaluate the performance of your current security investments. Additionally, we will provide you with links to helpful information from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) and other resources.

The content that follows will address four areas of retail firearm security:

  1. Retail Firearm Security Practices
  2. Security-Focused Events
  3. ATF Assistance
  4. ATF Regulatory Reporting Requirements

1) ATF Regulatory Reporting Requirements

ATF Form 3310.11 provides the requirements and means for reporting Theft / Loss that may arise from a variety of events (note: ATF Rule; Commerce in Firearms and Ammunition-Reporting Theft or Loss of Firearms in Transit (2007R-9P) effective February 16, 2016 requires all firearm Theft or Loss to be report via ATF Form 3310.11.  ATF Form 3310.6 is voluntary and, if filed, MUST accompany ATF Form 3310.11) [1].  Theft / Loss events can be grouped into three categories which include: (1) Inventory theft that has been stolen from an FFL’s facility; (2) Firearms that are missing from an FFL’s inventory (i.e., an inventory loss or discrepancy); and (3) Firearms lost or stolen during shipment.

In all cases, the ATF specifies the regulatory filing period which is triggered when a licensees is “reasonably certain” of discovering that a firearm has been lost or stolen. We encourage you to read the requirements found in 18 U.S.C. 923(g)(6) which states: “Each licensee shall report the theft or loss of a firearm from the licensee’s inventory or collection, within 48 hours after the theft or loss is discovered, to the Attorney General and to the appropriate local authorities.” The procedures for reporting are set forth in ATF Regulations, Part 478-Commerce in Firearms and Ammunition, 478.39a, Reporting Theft or Loss of Firearms.

Inventory Theft – Firearms stolen from an FFL’s inventory and reported on ATF Form 3310.11

The following are the three classifications of theft stated on the form stated in general terms.

  • Burglary – Loss event occurs when a building is illegally entered; no persons are present (i.e. after business hours)[2, p. 2].
  • Robbery – Loss event occurs when a building is occupied (i.e. during business hours; staff present)[2, p. 2].
  • Larceny – Loss event occurs when a person takes possession of property without the intent to return (i.e. successful or unsuccessful shoplifting attempt). Larcenies are often discovered after the fact [2, p. 2]. 

Inventory Loss – Firearms missing from an FFL’s inventory and reported on ATF Form 3310.11

Occurs when an FFL cannot locate a firearm (i.e. the FFL’s A&D record reflects an acquisition but no disposition but the firearm cannot be located during an inventory reconciliation).  Lost firearms are different from stolen firearms because, although they are missing from inventory, the determination of cause may not be known. [2, p. 3].

Interstate Theft/Loss –  Firearms lost or stolen during shipment and reported on ATF Form 3310.11 (ATF Form 3310.6 is voluntary; if filed must accompany ATF Form 3310.11) [1]

Occurs when a firearm in transport (i.e. via a logistics carrier) is lost or stolen while in transit.  According to ATF’s Safety & Security Information for Federal Firearms Licensees, when a firearm cannot be located by shipper, receiver, or carrier, it is considered stolen [2, p. 3].

2) ATF Assistance

Each year the ATF publishes statistics on inventory discrepancies that arise from the categories noted above. Additionally, they provide categorical information about the serialized assets that were reported on form 3310.11. For example, handgun losses are reported at a higher rate than long guns at a ratio of 3 to 1 [3].

On January 23, 2017, the ATF launched an initiative called “fflAlert.” This program will notify FFLs, who are geographically located within the proximity of an event, via telephone when a neighboring licensee has experienced a theft or burglary. A short, automated message is sent to Type 01 and Type 02 FFLs’ telephone alerting them to a robbery or burglary that has occurred within their county. These calls will be made between 9am-5pm (all time zones), seven days per week.

It is important to note that no information will be collected from FFLs during these calls, the victimized FFL will not be identified, and there is no requirement to call back or follow-up [4]. Please visit for more information on fflAlert.

3) Security Focused Events

For the fourth year in a row Orchid Advisors and NSSF will address industry-wide licensees at the annual Firearms Industry Compliance Conference (FICC). To be held this May in the Washington DC area, licensee can interact directly with the ATF during several roundtable meetings. FFLs can inquire directly about the fflAlert program, regulations, licensing and other related matters. Licensees will also be able to meet with other industry professionals and retail store security providers. Content will include: (1) Understanding prior theft patterns; (2) Risk assessment; (3) Cost effective security measures; and (4) Reporting requirements.

4) Retail Firearm Security Practices
The ATF recently issued an informational brochure called “Loss Prevention for Firearm Retailers.”We have combined several of the concepts provided in that document with our own retail security expertise to provide you with the following list of guiding principles. Please note that this list should not, in anyway be considered all inclusive.

General Concepts

  • Get to know your business neighbors and share information regarding suspicious activity and alarm activations regardless of a loss. Occasionally criminals will “test” law enforcement response times by activating a nearby store’s alarm.
  • Routinely evaluate your security program for potential gaps and technology changes.
  • Be vigilant with your security practices. Such practices might include physical barriers (inside and outside of the store), detective and monitoring devices such as cameras, deterrents such as lighting and other advisable practices.
  • Keep employees aware and trained in your security program, with necessary disciplinary actions for security program failures.

Work with Law Enforcement and ATF field offices:

Keeping your local law enforcement and ATF field office informed of real or perceived threats (not just theft/loss) is an important part of a broader community protection plan. Notwithstanding the regulatory requirements to report, you should consider sharing the following information.

  • Any burglary, robbery, or attempted burglary or robbery of your FFL location, even if firearms are not lost/stolen.
  • Burglary, robbery, or attempted burglary or robbery of neighboring businesses.
  • Suspicious activity and/or persons.
  • Any failures of your security system and anticipated date of repair.

Retail Security Program Recommendations

  • Call Tree: Sometimes referred to a call tree, call list, phone chain or text chain, it is a telecommunications chain for notifying relevant individuals of events. Develop a Call Tree for your business, consider updating it at least quarterly, and train employees on what to report and when.
  • Cable/Trigger Locks: Inexpensive and abundantly available, cable and/or trigger locks create a physical barrier to prevent firearm discharge.
  • Safe/Vault Firearm Storage: Utilization of a safe or vault to store firearms outside normal business hours can dramatically reduce the chance of theft.  Most firearm theft instances are crimes of opportunity, and a safe or vault can all but eliminate this risk.
  • Harden Steel Locks: Whether it is the firearm displays, pad locks, or door looks throughout your business, assure only harden-steal locks are utilized, and that the materials to which they are secured are capable of withstanding breach attempts.  For example, when a harden-steel lock is attached to an aluminum flip-latch anchored into plywood, the entire latch and lock will be broken from the plywood to gain access.
  • Captive Locks for Displays: Captive locks will not allow the key to be removed unless the device is in the locked position.  These locks go a long way to preventing accidentally leaving displays unsecured.
  • Monitored Security System: Although security systems are available in virtually infinite combinations of features, there are a few core recommendations:
    • Monitored: Monitor for activations and zone bypasses (i.e. a particular area or “zone” of monitoring is disabled when the system is armed).
    • Motion Sensors: Sensors to detect movement should be placed to directly monitor the areas and access points where firearms are stored.
    • Video Cameras: High quality, video should be captured, monitored off-site, and maintained for 30-60 days. This works not only for crime prevention, but can become an essential piece of evidence in the event of loss. Routinely assure cameras are functioning as required, and are positioned appropriately.
    • System Battery Back-Up: Security systems should have a back-up battery to assure the system keeps functioning in the event of a power outage. Back-Up batteries should be occasionally tested, and should be designed to notify the monitoring center should they be placed into use and/or nearing the end of their charge.
  • Bollards: Bollards work to prevent close-in vehicle access to your business. Although large, concrete cylinders are common, more visual appealing bollards like flower pots can be utilized to achieve the same results. Assure distance between the bollards is not more than the width of a compact car.
  • Secured Ventilation and Roof Access: All heating/cooling/ventilation equipment should be secured with bars or other physical barriers to prevent access, and roof access should be as limited as possible.
  • Employee Hire/Resignation/Termination Plan: Employees should be subject to an appropriate background check. With every employee resignation and/or termination, all locks, security system codes, and safe/vault access PINs should be changed.
  • Shared Walls: If your business shares any walls with other establishments, consider these as potential points of entry for a criminal.  Consider taking steps to minimize this risk such as placing large, hard to move displays on the wall, securing the area with motion detectors, and video cameras.
  • Check Your System: At least bi-annually, physically inspect physical barriers (i.e. window and door bars) for wear/tear.  Assure all technological elements of your security system are functioning properly by asking your system provider to have a tech inspect your system.
  • Do the Simple Things: Keep your employees trained on how to keep your security system functioning properly, and what expectations are for securing inventory. Do not allow the store to be closed for the night without all counter tops, smooth surfaces, and doors to be wiped clean so that, in the event of a loss, these common places for leaving fingerprints can provide necessary evidence.

Works Cited

[1]Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); Department of Justice, “Final Rule,” Washington, 2016.
[2]U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Office of Enforcement Programs and Services, “Safety and Security Information for Federal Firearm Licensees,” 02 2010. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 01 02 2017].
[3]T. Chittum, “ATF-FBI/NICS Townhall Meeting,” in SHOT Show, Sands Expo Center, Las Vegas, NV, 18 Jan 2017.
[4]Orchid Advisors, “ATF Launches Firearm Robbery fflAlert System and Loss Prevention Guidance,” 15 01 2017. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 01 02 2017].

Firearms Industry Compliance Conference: Retail Security

Join our team this May in Arlington, VA at the Firearms Industry Compliance Conference (FICC). Side by side with DDTC, FBI, ATF, NSSF, and industry leaders, you will be coached how to successfully marry compliance excellence with your business goals. The informal mixers, question and answer sessions, and educational seminars allow you to gain an in-depth understanding of how your compliance program compares to industry standards and opportunities for innovative development.

Join us for these featured discussions at this year’s Firearm Compliance Conference!

Best Practices in Retail Security Security
Risk Assessment, Cost of Breach, Preventive Controls, Detective Controls, Self-Audit, Insurance, ATF Interaction
Presented by: Tom Chittum, Chief, Special Operations Division, ATF, Travis Glover, Executive Director, Orchid Advisors Retail / Distribution Practice, and Bill Napier, NSSF Store Security Consultant.