Operating a firearms business means handling and keeping track of serialized inventory. Every day, tens of thousands of firearms are manufactured, shipped, acquired, sold, transferred, and taken in for gunsmith work, but occasionally, some are lost or stolen.
Though careful recordkeeping can prevent firearms from being lost, theft can be much more difficult to prevent. In 2021, over 10,000 firearms were reported stolen or lost – half that of 2017 and the lowest annual total in the last decade. However, under the Biden administration’s new zero tolerance policy, even one firearm is too many.
Regardless of how a firearm is lost or stolen, FFLs have a legal obligation to report missing firearms within 48 hours of discovering the theft or loss. Below, we explain the difference between firearm theft and loss and how to report when firearms are expected of being lost or stolen while staying compliant.
Defining Loss vs. Theft
The term “loss” refers to firearms in which an FFL has a record of acquiring the firearm into their inventory but later cannot account for its disposition, while “theft” refers to firearms unlawfully taken via burglary, robbery or larceny.
Loss is also commonly referred to as “missing” from inventory. Missing firearms are generally discovered by ATF during a compliance inspection, but they can also be discovered by the FFL during an internal audit.
Burglary involves breaking into a structure to commit a crime, such as stealing firearms, whereas robbery refers to taking property from a person through force or the threat of force. Larceny is the taking of property without breaking into a structure or the threat/use of force to do so.
While firearms are typically lost or stolen from a licensee’s place of business, it’s important to note firearm theft/loss can also occur in the transit of firearms between FFLs.
Firearm Theft/Loss Regulations
ATF regulation states FFLs shall report the theft or loss of a firearm from the licensee’s inventory within 48 hours after the theft or loss is discovered.
Each licensee shall report the firearm theft/loss by telephoning ATF at 1 (888) 930-9275 and by preparing and submitting an FFL Theft/Loss Report (ATF Form 3310.11) to the ATF. In 2016, ATF amended the regulation to clarify that when a licensee has a loss incident involving an NFA weapon, the loss must also be reported on a Form 3310.11. The original report shall be retained by the licensee as part of the licensee’s required records.
In addition, theft/loss should also be reported to the appropriate local law enforcement agency of either the licensee’s location or where the theft or loss occurred.
FFLs must then reflect the firearm theft/loss as a disposition entry in the Record of Acquisition and Disposition no later than 7 days following discovery of the theft or loss. The disposition entry shall record whether the incident is a theft or loss, the ATF-Issued Incident Number, and the Incident Number provided by the local law enforcement agency.
When a firearm is stolen or lost in transit on a common or contract carrier, it is considered stolen or lost from the transferor/sender licensee’s inventory for reporting purposes. Therefore, the transferor/sender of the stolen or lost firearm shall report the theft/loss of the firearm within 48 hours after the transferor/sender discovers the theft or loss.
Licensees who later discover a lost or stolen firearm shall advise ATF that the firearm has been located and re-enter the firearm in their Bound Book as an acquisition or disposition entry.
ATF does not take reports of stolen firearms from private citizens.
Reporting Firearm Theft/Loss
FFLs should take the following steps to report a firearm theft or loss within 48 hours of discovery:
- Contact local law enforcement to report the theft/loss.
- Contact ATF’s Stolen Firearms Program Manager at 1 (888) 930-9275.
- Complete an FFL Theft/Loss Report (ATF Form 3310.11) and submit via listed mail, email or fax. A separate form is required for each theft/loss incident. Reports should be maintained as part of the licensee’s permanent records.
- Record a firearm disposition within 7 days. Dispositions should indicate whether the incident is a theft or loss, the ATF Issued Incident Number, and the incident number provided by the local law enforcement agency.
How to Stay Compliant
While little can be done to prevent illegal activities and violent actions of others, you can control how your FFL manages ATF compliance. Contact Orchid today to speak with our expert operations and legal professionals about leading Bound Book software, security implementation, proactive compliance programs, and firearm theft/loss requirements to keep your business running efficiently, profitably, and safely with the utmost compliance.