Maintaining firearms compliance is no easy task. Between federal, state, and local laws, rules and regulations dictating detailed processes for everything from firearm serialization to sales transactions, it’s no wonder ATF finds violations in roughly half of all FFL inspections. And with violations – specifically those made “willfully” – the target of the Biden administration’s zero tolerance policy, revocation is a real risk.
Across the country, thousands of FFLs still rely on paper forms and logbooks to run their firearms operations. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with paper-based compliance, the more you put pen to paper to complete documents, record transactions, track serialization status, and manage inventory, the greater the likelihood for errors and, if not corrected, dreaded violations.
In an ideal FFL compliance program, every regulated activity would be reviewed multiple times by multiple persons to ensure no error goes unmissed. However, that’s not always possible – or practical. And as much as we try, no one is perfect; mistakes happen. But you don’t have to manage compliance alone.
FFL Compliance Technology
For over a decade, technology has introduced new solutions to manage firearms businesses and their compliance. Unlike paper-based FFLs, which require constant human interaction, new software applications have eased the burden of ATF compliance, effectively eliminating violations to better protect firearms businesses from corrective action.
The biggest drawback to paper is the inability to review submitted information for noncompliance before its written. This requires mistakes to be corrected, muddling records, and presenting yet another opportunity for error. One of the biggest benefits to compliance technology, software can quickly check submissions against allowed responses or requirements and notify when an error has been made so it can be corrected before entering records. Unfortunately, technology can’t read your mind, so incorrect but allowed data can still be input, but it can ease your mind knowing less errors should be made.
Of course, FFLs will always rely on some form of human involvement and oversight when it comes to compliance. After all, software is not a crutch that can be relied on blindly, but rather a tool – like firearms themselves. If implemented and used correctly, technology can protect your license from revocation.
Below are three compliance technologies your firearms business can use to limit violations:
Electronic Bound Book
Every FFL must track acquisitions and dispositions in a bound book. Though manageable on paper for home or small FFLs, high-volume FFLs demand technology that can keep up at scale. This is where electronic bound books shine.
Armed with an electronic bound book, firearms can often be acquired and disposed of via barcode scanners, records updated and corrected in bulk, and firearms assigned to orders for easy distribution. For retailers, many digital bound books also include electronic ATF Forms 4473, or e4473, with licensee and customer-facing modes for digital completion and review. In addition, bound books can often interface with point-of-sale systems for seamless transactions. This functionality can automate otherwise time-consuming and regulated processes with low risk for error.
While every firearm manufacturer must use a bound book, not all use an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Rather than independently manage separate tools for financing, accounting, manufacturing, serialization, inventory, supply chains, and marketing, an effective ERP can connect applications to streamline operations.
Forget manually entering firearm serial numbers and acquiring firearms in your bound book. Instead, connect your laser hardware and electronic A&D to your ERP to assign serial number blocks by multiple attributes, manage third-party reservations, track live marking status, and automatically acquire firearms after they’ve been serialized. Simply set up and watch as your software does the work for you, optimizing manufacturing with the utmost compliance.
State Firearm Law Database
Part of the reason why firearms compliance is so challenging at times is how often laws, rules and regulations change. Though federal updates are less common, state- and local-level regulations are more susceptible to change, making it even more difficult to stay up to date – especially for manufacturers and online-based retail FFLs who conduct business nationwide.
But why waste your time researching local laws to stay compliant when a state firearm legal database application can do it for you? From magazine capacity restrictions to bans on assault weapons and NFA firearms, get a real-time response as to whether a firearm is prohibited in a particular jurisdiction for consumer purchase or possession. Ecommerce retailers can also restrict by firearm attribute or UPC to limit what users can see and purchase, further preventing a chance of selling a prohibited item to a person.
Whether manufacturer, importer, distributor, or retailer, compliance software can keep your FFL compliant with the added bonus of saving you and your employees time and money – a win-win scenario.
Orchid Zero Tolerance Protection
At Orchid, our team of operations, technology and legal professionals understand the risks of today’s firearm businesses. For over a decade, we’ve worked with FFLs big and small to implement leading compliance best practices and software solutions to eliminate violations and protect licenses from revocation.
Continuing our Zero Tolerance Protection series, we’ll share our expertise and experience in proactive compliance as we look closer at Biden’s policy and its impact on the firearms industry, review how to avoid and correct violations, and suggest ways to protect your FFL from the risk of revocation. Next, we’ll review why FFL compliance is only as good as your data.
In the meantime, learn more about a Zero Tolerance Rapid Assessment of prior ATF Reports of Violations, your A&D Bound Book, and recent ATF Forms 4473. We also encourage you to watch our webinar on ATF zero tolerance enforcement, schedule an in-person or remote mock ATF inspection, and implement leading compliance software in your retail FFL. Contact Orchid today to protect your FFL from a zero tolerance revocation.