The target of the Biden administration’s new zero tolerance policy, “willful” violations put public safety as risk and are grounds for FFL revocation, but “willful” has never carried a clear definition in the context of FFLs and firearms law.
Originally, the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) did not have a “willfulness” requirement. This led to injustice and amendments to the GCA “to ensure that licenses are not revoked for inadvertent errors or technical mistakes.” In amending the law, the Senate adopted the view which rejected mere negligence as a standard for revoking an FFL license, instead endorsing the position that “willful” means “purposeful, intentional behavior,” as is its common definition.
However, words often have different connotations in legal context, and though synonyms, “willful” and “intentional” are not the same.
Today, court decisions have ruled a licensee’s acts can be considered “willful” when done repeatedly, after prior warnings, and even without any deliberate intent to violate the law, especially after warning and instruction from the ATF. The Bureau has also provided specific examples of “willful” violations, including (1) transferring a firearm to a prohibited person, (2) failing to run a required background check, (3) falsifying records, (4) failing to respond to an ATF tracing request, and (5) refusing to permit ATF to conduct an inspection. Others explicitly include failures to account for firearms, verify and document buyer eligibility, maintain records for successful firearm tracing, and report multiple sales of handguns.
While these violations may seem egregious, the danger of the administration’s zero tolerance policy is any violation could potentially be deemed “willful,” which carries dire consequences for all FFLs. Under both federal law and increased pressure by President Joe Biden, “willful” violations can, have, and will result in ATF revoking firearms licenses. And with more FFLs having been revoked in the last year than ever before, maintaining compliance is critical to protecting your business.
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.
As we continue 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 the most frequently cited ATF inspection violations by all FFLs.
In the meantime, contact us today to schedule your in-person or remote mock ATF inspection, get started with leading compliance software, and enroll in an attorney-backed FFL Protection Plan. One phone call or email could protect your FFL from a zero tolerance revocation.