April 13, 2020
As noted in our April 10, 2020 blast, some states have closed down firearms dealers based on their non-essential business designation. The majority of states, however, have allowed firearms dealers to remain open for business and demand for firearms is at a record high. Open firearms dealers, like all other businesses, are being urged to practice social distancing. Federal law generally requires firearms sales to be made at the licensed premises of the firearms dealer (with an exception for gun shows), and the instructions to the Form 4473 state that the sale must be completed at the firearms dealer’s licensed premises
The ATF issued an open letter just before the close of business on April 10, 2020, confirming that a firearms dealer’s licensed premises is the property on which the dealer’s store is located, the store’s parking lot, and areas outside of the building, provided they have the same address as the property. These areas must be under the control of the dealer so the ATF can access the location for inspections. Based on guidance provided by the ATF, a firearms dealer could allow a customer who is located on the store’s property to complete the purchase of a firearm through a drive-up or walk-up window. Although these conveniences are common in fast food restaurants and banks, firearms dealers are unlikely to have them. The letter also clarifies that a dealer may set up a table outside of its building to conduct firearm sales (like a sidewalk sale), and that customers may purchase firearms while in their cars in a lot on the dealer’s licensed premises. The latter option should prove of particular benefit to dealers that sell firearms through an Internet website. It would allow the dealer to bring the Form 4473 to the customer to complete in their car, after which the dealer could take the customer’s identification, complete the Form 4473, and conduct the NICS check inside its store. If the transfer is approved, the dealer could then take payment from the customer and bring the firearm out to the customer’s vehicle.
The ATF’s letter further clarified that dealers may not transfer firearms at a nearby location that is not part of its licensed premises. Dealers that sell out of locations with shared parking lots, such as strip malls, do not have exclusive control of the outside location and would be prohibited from transferring firearms in those exterior locations. However, these dealers’ customers should be able to complete the Form 4473 at the doorway where the dealer can then transfer the firearms.