How to Check the ATF Record Flow

Have you ever wondered why the ATF IOIs request so many different records and documents for review during your compliance inspection?  What are they looking for?  Why do they need more than just your A&D Book or ATF F 4473s?  Today, we are going to discuss the  “Record Flow” that ATF tests to make sure that you are in compliance with the Federal Firearms Regulations.

We all know that record keeping is a big responsibility for Federal Firearm Licensees.  From the very beginning, during the first application inspection, ATF explains that there are many required records that an FFL must keep.  These include the Book of Acquisitions and Dispositions, the ATF Form 4473 for sales to non-licensees, Theft/Loss Reports, and many more.  While these forms themselves are independently analyzed for accuracy and completeness; they are also compared to other forms to check on whether the information stays consistent and is populated timely from one required record to another. Let’s look at a few examples:

Commercial Invoice compared to A&D Book:

27 CFR 478.123 and 27 CFR 478.125 tell us that acquisitions entered into the A&D Book must be made by the close of the next business day.  However, if you maintain a commercial document that contains the required acquisition information, you are authorized up to seven days to enter this information. 

So how would an IOI know if you have entered within the seven days?  They compare the dates on the commercial documents to the “Acquisition Date” entered into your A&D Book.  If you have exceeded your seven-day grace period, you have potentially committed a violation. 

Be sure to develop a process that proactively helps you stay comfortably within the seven days.  For example, set aside one employee that handles all incoming shipments and is responsible for checking the shipment itself and then making entry into the A&D Book in real time or by the end of the day.

A&D Book compared to the ATF F 4473:

Most FFL sales clerks first complete the ATF F 4473 when selling firearms over the counter to non-licensees.  Once they have completed the form and conducted the NICS background check, they then use the information on the 4473 to populate the disposition into the A&D Book. 

That may be a quick simple process for some, but for high volume retail stores that may be next to impossible.  Instead, they may opt to collect the forms in a bin by the counter to populate the A&D Book at the end of the night or even the next day.

Once again the regulations (27 CFR 478. 123 and 27 CFR 478.125) dictate when the dispositions must be made in your A&D Book.  When ATF IOIs are reviewing your ATF F 4473s they will compare the forms to the A&D Book. Were the entries made timely?  Does the A&D Book reflect the proper non-licensee name? Does the firearm information match?

The question to ask yourself is “does the information flow properly from one source to another”.  Does my A&D Book accurately reflect my on-hand inventory?  Do both my ATF F 4473s and A&D Book allow me to complete firearm traces with ease.

ATF Theft/Loss Reports compared to the A&D Book:

If you’ve ever had an inventory discrepancy you know that there is a specific ATF required form that guides you through the reporting process (ATF F 3310.11).  Once you’ve contacted the local law enforcement, the ATF, and were issued an “incident number”; it’s now time to make the corresponding disposition in your A&D Book. 

If you fail to disposition the reported firearms out of the A&D Book, the IOIs may believe that they are still part of your current inventory and cite you for a violation.  They will want to validate that the information listed on the Theft/Loss Form matches the A&D Book information. Were the firearm reported to ATF and dispositioned out of the A&D Book on the same day?  How about those firearms found after the fact and re-acquired into your A&D Book?  Were those entries made timely?

There is a good chance that the ATF IOIs already know what firearms you have reported to the National Tracing Center; this information is often made available to the local ATF offices.  They will want to test onsite to see if your records are all telling the same story by comparison.

Good practice suggestions to reduce error and risk for all of the scenarios mentioned above would be to populate your records as quickly as possible.  The longer things lay around the shop, the less likely they are to make it into your A&D Book properly.  We also recommend double-checking all of your forms and if possible, having two separate people review them.

Try checking your record flow from the first commercial document or record of manufacture all the way to its final disposition. Doe the data stay consistent?  Are entries timely?  How can you tighten up?