Are you up late at night, losing sleep; waiting, wondering, and fearing your next ATF compliance inspection? If so, we are here to ease your fears by explaining the process in which ATF inspections may be assigned. While there may not be a hard, fast rule for their assignments, there are a few indicators that can help to decipher when your next inspection might be.
Length of Time Between Inspections
If you haven’t been inspected in a while or if you never have been inspected since you were issued your Federal Firearm License; it may be time. There are approximately 75,000 active FFLs in the country right now (excluding C&R Licensees). In contrast there are less than 1,000 IOIs to conduct all of those inspections. ATF’s goal is to see as many FFLs as possible per year, but clearly their manpower won’t allow them to see everyone.
As a result they consider the time it has been from their last visit and determine who hasn’t been seen in a while. Their goal is to try and conduct a compliance inspection on all FFLs at least every three to five years. Obviously, this is easier said then done, and a few of the other indicators listed below will explain why. Regardless, check your calendar and always keep note of your last inspection date.
Past Inspection History:
The next question to ask yourself if you were inspected previously; is what were the results of that inspection? Did you “pass” with flying colors; no violations cited? Or did you struggle and were cited for several violations? If you were cited for multiple violations, most likely your inspection ended with a Report of Violations and possibly a Warning Letter or Warning Conference.
As part of your closing conference and toward the end of your inspection you were likely told how to correct your mistakes. You may have been issued a “warning” concerning repeat violations in the future and were informed of how important your responsibilities as an FFL are. With all of this ATF instruction comes a follow-up inspection to gauge your progress towards compliance. These “Recall” inspections carefully compare your last inspection to the current inspection to document signs of improvement (or lack of).
If you have previously cited violations, the probability of a follow-up inspection has increased; don’t wait to get prepared.
Geographic Locations/ ATF Resources:
As mentioned above there are far more FFLs than there are ATF IOIs. Now add in factors such as the geography of our country and the wide spread locations of FFL businesses. There are areas of our country where all you need to do is walk around the block and you will come across multiple FFLs. Then there are areas where hundreds of miles separate the closet to firearms businesses. That’s not even taking into account those super remote locations such as Alaska and Hawaii where at times a plane ride is required just to get to the FFL. These geographic considerations as well as the number of IOIs assigned to the closet ATF office do affect how often an FFL may be inspected. ATF IOIs are known to travel, some will only need to travel within an hour or two of there office, others will travel several weeks out of the year to be able to inspect the FFLs in their territory.
There are currently 26 different field divisions that are assigned specific areas. It often is segregated by states but we all know some states are much larger than others. Therefore, they will need to also take into account the distance needed to be travelled and the number of Federal Firearm and Federal Explosive Licensees that need to be inspected. If you are in a remote area or are part of an ATF location with very few assigned IOIs, the time may be greater between your inspections. Conversely, if you are in an area where there is an abundance of FFLs or very large FFLs and not a large number of IOIs, you may be waiting a bit longer too. Consider your distance to the closet ATF IO office and then consider how many other FFLs are waiting for their inspections too.
Priorities of ATF:
One last thing to consider is what is going on in our country and with the Bureau of ATF themselves. As with all Government Agencies, they are overseen by various levels of decision makers. Being part of the Department of Justice and having to report their activities to Congress, they may look at what our nation is facing and then decide what the priorities of each agency should be. An example of this is seen through the Safe Explosive Act of 2003, which mandated that ATF conduct compliance inspections of Federal Explosive Licensees and Permittees. These explosive inspections must be conducted every three years, which can create a strain on ATF IOI resources from the beginning of the fiscal year. This could affect how many FFLs are inspected that same year. The ATF has specific strategic goals and a mission that dictate their priorities and focus. If their time is focused elsewhere, your inspection may be “placed on the back burner”.
While there is no sure way to determine when your next inspection will be, the best way to alleviate the fear and concern is to prepare today, regardless. Work each day to become more compliant and build it into your everyday processes; then it really doesn’t matter when the ATF comes to inspect, you’re ready! For best practice suggestions and all the tools you need to get and stay in compliance, visit Orchid Advisors’ website at https://www.orchidadvisors.com
For more information from the ATF, check out the links below:
ATF Publication 5300.4
FFLs by State and Type
Contact the ATF