In a highly regulated industry such as ours, FFLs must comply with a long list of federal, state, and local laws, rules and regulations. Even worse, laws and regulations are often complicated, allow for gray areas, and change frequently. To say maintaining compliance is challenging would be an understatement, especially when the threat of an ATF inspection and possible revocation looms overhead.
As we’ve covered throughout our Zero Tolerance Protection series, failing to comply with specific laws and regulations under the Biden administration’s zero tolerance policy could result in losing your license. However, in most cases, violations can be remedied with ATF guidance and corrective actions by licensees. Still, there are some violations deemed “willful” that cannot be overlooked.
The fifth, and final, willful violation example cited by President Biden, refusing to permit a compliance inspection is violation of the Gun Control Act and grounds for revocation. Such refusal typically takes two forms.
Refusal to Permit Entry
In our last article, we discussed how compliance inspections are conducted. Often without advance notice, one or more ATF industry operations investigators (IOIs) will attempt to enter an FFL during licensee business hours, as required, to conduct an inspection.
Do not attempt to lock doors, turn away IOIs, or reschedule your inspection. If your FFL is open, you must allow ATF onsite to conduct an inspection. Should you refuse to permit IOI entry for an inspection, ATF will pursue revocation of your license.
In extreme cases, such as extended business closures or personal vacations where no one will be readily available to respond to an inspection, you may consider contacting your local ATF field office to inform them ahead of time. But, keep in mind, doing so may not prevent ATF from showing up at your door to inspect – even if you’re out of the country (yes – it’s happened).
Refusal to Comply
Though inspections can be inconvenient for you and your business, FFLs are obligated to comply with all requests of ATF investigators. This includes providing access to your A&D bound book records, ATF forms and documents, serialized inventory, and physical premises.
It is in the best interest of your business and license to make the IOI’s inspection as easy and efficient as possible. After all, the quicker they can complete their inspection, the soon you can get back to regular operations (assuming you maintain your license). Should you refuse to comply with requests to access firearm records or inventory, ATF will pursue revocation of your license.
While the firearms industry and ATF may have a complicated relationship, it’s important to remember maintaining compliance is as much your responsibility as an FFL as ensuring that you do is theirs. As such, it’s recommended licensees be accommodating of IOIs and their requests.
Because records and inventory should already be organized since you’ve been practicing proactive compliance, retrieving necessary files, forms and firearms should be straightforward come inspection time. If possible, provide the IOI with a table or desk in a private room away from business operations and out of view of employees and customers, and assist them in their inspection as needed.
You should also use your inspection as an opportunity to observe, ask questions, and learn preferences of your local IOIs. For example, if they prefer Forms 4473 be organized alphabetically over chronologically, consider changing your storage method to match their preference in preparation for your next inspection. Use the guidance ATF shares during or after an inspection to sure up your business and protect your license.
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 turn our attention to revocations and what that means for you and your FFL.
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.