How to Legally Transport Firearms to Trade Shows

Written by Orchid


August 17, 2021


White text atop red background next to display of Savage Arms rifles

It’s almost that time of year again – trade show season. Kicking off the season are the rescheduled NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits, followed by the NASGW Expo, the SHOT Show and a dozen other industry and consumer shows. To say it’s a busy time for the firearms industry would be an understatement, but between travel arrangements, booth designs and product launches, FFL compliance must not be forgotten.

Perhaps the most important component of any firearms trade show are the firearms themselves. With thousands of guns on display and even more people in attendance, shows go through extensive lengths to ensure firearms on display have their firing pins removed or other alterations made to prevent firing. But how does an FFL get guns from their facility to their trade show booth without risk of violation?

Temporary Assignment

The first step in preparing trade show firearms is understanding the federal controls on interstate commerce. Under the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), it is unlawful to ship or transport any firearm to a person other than an FFL and sell or deliver a firearm to an out-of-state resident. The GCA also requires FFLs maintain records of importation, production, shipment, receipt, sale or other disposition of firearms on site, including the completion of an ATF Form 4473 when required.

However, per ATF Ruling 2010-1, FFLs may lawfully ship or transport firearms to unlicensed employees for bona fide business purposes, such as a trade show, and for a limited period via a temporary assignment. Under temporary assignment, the title and ultimate control of the firearms remains with the licensee, meaning no Form 4473, NICS background check or disposition record is required – though the latter is recommended.

In case of theft or loss, FFLs should track firearms assigned, when they were assigned and who they were assigned to, as well as the same information when returned. Orchid eBound™ includes temporary assignment and assignment return features to track such movement, displaying the person(s) and dates in a firearm’s disposition history.

Packing & Transport

Now that you’ve assigned trade show firearms to an employee, you need to physically package and deliver them to your booth.

Depending on the mode of transportation, firearms should be securely packaged in inconspicuous boxes, cases or containers free of descriptive labels and recognizable logos and names. Federal regulations (27 CFR 478.38) also require firearms be unloaded and neither firearms nor ammunition transported be readily accessible.

Similarly, TSA requires firearms and ammunition be stored unloaded in locked, hard-case checked baggage and declared with airline representatives. Policies can vary, so be sure to check your airline’s policies for specific restrictions regarding the transport of guns and ammunition.

Upon arriving at and returning from a trade show, firearm inventory should be reconciled for accuracy. If necessary, report any unaccounted for firearms on an ATF Theft/Loss Report within 48 hours using ATF Form 3310.11 and reflect the theft/loss as a disposition record within seven days.

Trade shows are an opportunity for the entire shooting sports industry to come together. Don’t let a lapse in compliance prevent you from exhibiting; take time to create a transport plan before your next show and ensure your products are on display for all to see. We hope to see you, and your firearms, at your booth!

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