The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) is the agency that regulates any entity that sells or manufactures a firearm. Those businesses need a Federal Firearms License (FFL) to operate legally. You may have thought about getting an FFL, but had questions and concerns. This post discusses the top four reasons people cite for not getting their FFL, and how to overcome them.
On the Concealed Carry Podcast a couple of years ago, we spoke to Attorney Ryan Cleckner. Besides being an attorney that represents FFLs when they need an attorney, Cleckner runs Rocket FFL. Cleckner wanted to help existing FFL holders before they got in trouble with the ATF by providing them with online training through Rocket FFL. But one of the most well-known products offered by Rocket FFL is their course for those interested in getting their FFL.
Top 4 Reasons People Are Scared to Get an FFL—
Before investing in a course to help you file and set up your FFL, you may have some of the common fears others have about the process. Let's address the top reasons and dispel inaccurate information.
“I Don't Want to Deal With the ATF”
It's true that if you have an FFL, you will have to deal with the BATF, and this scares some people. After all, who wants the ATF poking around in your business any time they feel like it? And how much more invasive would these inspections feel if you have a home-based FFL? But how valid are these concerns?
If you have a Federal Firearms License, the law restricts ATF inspections to only once in 12 months. While the law allows an inspection every 12 months, the ATF says the FFL can typically expect an inspection every 3-5 years. Cleckner says his experience with his personal FFL and his clients is an inspection frequency around 7-9 years.
It's important to realize that the ATF's inspection is also narrowly focused on the records and items associated with the FFL business. The ATF doesn't have access to everything inside your business or home. Anytime an inspector from the Government comes to your home or business, it's unsettling, but we should know the truth about the inspections.
The ATF can perform an inspection without providing prior notice to the FFL holder. However, there are some limitations. The inspection has to take place during your business's normal hours. If you have a home-based FFL and you're on vacation, then your business is closed and thus the ATF can't demand you return to perform their inspection. Many FFL holders report that the ATF often schedules their inspections, however you shouldn't assume they will.
In summary, yes, you will have to deal with the ATF if you get a Federal Firearms License. However, hopefully you have more information on what that interaction might look like so you can accurately judge if it's something you can deal with.
“Isn't The FFL Application Complicated?”
It seems that the Federal Government takes a simple process and overcomplicates it. Anyone who has been to the DMV to register a vehicle, or get a passport, knows this to be true. So it follows that a license to sell or manufacture firearms would be a nightmare! Somehow the FFL licensing process isn't terrible, go figure.
Figuring out what type of license is most appropriate for your business, and how to set up your business, might be more confusing than the application itself. This is where Cleckner's $50 course would come in handy. But Cleckner says if you've done the research and already know the answers to these questions, completing the application shouldn't be a problem.
Cleckner says not only is the application not complicated, but getting your FFL typically takes only 2 months once you submit the application.
“The Record Keeping is a Nightmare”
If you're not good at staying organized and keeping processes, this might be a legitimate concern. How many records you need to maintain and keep organized depends on your business. Some FFLs don't need to worry about keeping many records at all because they don't transfer firearms. Transfers require the ATF form 4473, which you completed if you bought a firearm at a gun shop.
Cleckner says that when an FFL gets in trouble, it's typically a record keeping issue, and that seven of the ten most common issues are typos on from 4473. If you are transferring guns which requires that you to keep 4473s, there are systems you can put in place to help you stay organized. If you're not especially organized, you may also consider a trustworthy business partner or helper who can organize, and who can help with this aspect of the business.
In summary, the record keeping and completing paperwork is not that bad, but it is important you remain disciplined enough to stay organized and do it the right way.
“Getting a Federal Firearms License is Too Expensive”
Getting a Federal Firearms License is probably not as expensive as one might think. Cleckner says the of an FFL is anywhere between 30-200 dollars, based on three factors: the initial license fee, the renewal fee and the cost of registering as an SOT (Special Occupational Taxpayer) if you want to do this.
Here are the flat costs for each license type:
- Type 01 FFL – $200
- Type 02 FFL – $200
- Type 03 FFL – $30
- Type 06 FFL – $30
- Type 07 FFL – $150
- Type 08 FFL – $150
- Type 09 FFL – $3,000
- Type 10 FFL – $3,000
- Type 11 FFL – $3,000
Licenses are good for 3 years, and renewal fees depend on the license type. The renewal fee for a type 01 or 02 FFL is $90 and 03 and 06 types cost $30 to renew for another 3 years.
This fee table is a good starting point you can use in determining if you can afford an FFL.
Hopefully, the information in this post cleared up some confusion on the most commonly cited barriers to getting an FFL. If this post renewed your desire to get your FFL, I encourage you to continue your research so you can go into the process with as much knowledge as possible.
I know it can be difficult to sort through all the advice offered on various websites. I am confident in Cleckner's experience on this topic and think while Rocket FFL isn't necessary, getting his advice is well worth the $50 price tag.