JULY 27, 2021
The ATF’s Acting Assistant Director for Field Operations issued a memorandum on July 14, 2021 directing the ATF to seek to revoke an FFL for situations that previously would not have likely justified revocation. The subject of the memorandum is “Implementation of the Administration’s Comprehensive Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gun Crime and Ensure Public Safety.” The bias towards initial revocation of an FFL for certain violations in this memorandum is in response to direction from President Biden. The new policy applies whenever a compliance inspection of a FFL shows that the dealer willfully: (1) transferred a firearm to a prohibited person; (2) failed to conduct a required background check; (3) falsified records such as a 4473 form; (4) failed to respond to a trace request; or (5) refused to allow the ATF to conduct a legally authorized inspection.
Pursuant to the new Administration’s policy, the Director of Industry Operations will be required to recommend revocation in response to a first time occurrence of any of the above violations. The only exception is for “extraordinary circumstances,” and such exceptions must be approved by the Deputy Assistant Director for Industry Operations, and briefed to the Director of the ATF on a monthly basis.
Although the specified violations sound (and can be) serious, they could be construed to apply to any of the following situations, that would arguably not justify an initial notice of revocation. For example, this new policy could require a notice of revocation be issued if a customer mistakenly answered “yes” to Questions 21(b)-(k) on the 4473 form (which relate to prohibitions for reasons such as felony convictions, illegal drug use, etc.) even though the customer passed a background check. It could similarly require the issuance of a notice of revocation if an employee of the FFL failed to conduct a background check based on the mistaken belief that the state’s concealed carry permit served as an exception. A dealer innocently correcting the customer’s section of the 4473 form to fix an error in the date where the customer switched the month and day, or listed U.S.A. in response to their county of residence could be considered falsification that would require a notice of revocation under this policy. Not responding to a trace request within 24 hours, or not allowing the ATF to conduct a compliance inspection during the stated business hours, because the dealer is going on vacation could all be used to justify the revocation of an FFL based on the Administration’s new policy. The ATF would usually not issue a notice of revocation for a first time violation of the above nature, and is normally flexible in scheduling compliance inspections. Based on the direction of the Biden Administration and the potential confirmation of an ATF Director who most recently worked for a gun control organization, the good working relationship between the ATF and the firearms industry could be compromised.
If you have any questions regarding the ATF’s new enforcement policies, or best practices for preventing potential errors that could now be used as the basis to revoke your FFL, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.