The requirements for getting an FFL can be broken-down into two major categories: requirements that apply to the person and those that apply to the business/entity.

FFL Requirements for Individuals

If you can possess a firearm and you are at least 21 years old, then you can get an FFL. It’s just about that easy.

A little known fact about FFL requirements is that the ATF must issue you an FFL if you meet the requirements.  Unlike some other licenses which are “may issue,” an FFL is a “shall issue” license.  This means that the ATF doesn’t get to decide if someone who meets the requirements will get an FFL.  Instead, once the requirements are met, the ATF shall (must) issue a Federal Firearms License.

Once the basic FFL requirements are met, the ATF must issue an FFL Click To Tweet

When explaining who is eligible for a firearms license, the ATF acknowledges the issuance of a license if the applicant meets the basic requirements for an FFL:

An application for a Federal firearms license will be approved if the applicant:

  • Is 21 years of age or over;
  • Is not prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition, nor in the case of a corporation, partnership, or association, is any individual possessing, directly or indirectly, the power to direct or cause the direction of the management and policies of the corporation, partnership, or association prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition;
  • Has not willfully violated the Gun Control Act (GCA) or its regulations;
  • Has not willfully failed to disclose material information or has not made false statements concerning material facts in connection with his or her application;
  • Has premises for conducting business or collecting; and
  • The applicant certifies that:
  1. the business to be conducted under the license is not prohibited by State or local law in the place where the licensed premises is located;
  2. within 30 days after the application is approved the business will comply with the requirements of State and local law applicable to the conduct of the business;
  3. the business will not be conducted under the license until the requirements of State and local law applicable to the business have been met;
  4. the applicant has sent or delivered a form to the chief law enforcement officer where the premises is located notifying the officer that the applicant intends to apply for a license; and

* if the applicant is to be a licensed dealer, the applicant certifies that secure gun storage or safety devices will be available at any place in which firearms are sold under the license to persons who are not licensees (“secure gun storage or safety device” is defined in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(34)).

[18 U.S.C. 923(d)(1); 27 CFR 478.47(b)]

The second bullet-point above from the ATF refers to persons who are prohibited from handling firearms or ammunition. These people are considered “prohibited persons” by the ATF and they include anyone who:

  • is a felon
  • has been convicted of any crime punishable by more than a year in prison (whether or not they were ever sentenced to or served a day in prison)
  • is under indictment for any crime punishable by more than a year in prison
  • is a fugitive
  • is an unlawful user of any controlled substance
  • has been adjudicated as a mental defective
  • has been committed to a mental institution
  • is an illegal alien
  • has a dishonorable discharge from the military
  • has renounced their U.S. citizenship
  • is the subject of a restraining order restraining the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or the child of an intimate partner, or
  • who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence

There’s a few nuances that you might need to be aware of if you think that any of these apply to you – especially the “convicted of any crime punishable by more than a year,” “unlawful user of a controlled substance,” and “restraining order” provisions. If you’d like to learn more about these prohibited person categories, see Prohibited Persons / Firearm Possession.

FFL Requirements for Businesses/Entities

In addition to the FFL requirements above, your business/entity must also meet some basic requirements.

The simplest requirements are that your business/entity must be properly formed – i.e registered with your state, an employer identification number (EIN) if not a sole-proprietor, etc.

The biggest requirement, and the most difficult for some, is the business/entity’s location. Simply, you must be permitted to conduct the business activity at the location you’ve chosen.  These FFL location requirements vary depending on your state of residence.

Yes, you can get a home based FFL under federal law but your state may have special rules that prohibit it. For example, if you’re living in an apartment building in New York city, you probably aren’t going to get an FFL.

Yes, you can get a home-based FFL! Click To Tweet

As long as your local zoning approves of you having a firearms license at the address you choose, then the ATF will give you a home based FFL! There are a few tricks to getting your FFL at your home – I share all of these and more in the Get Your FFL Guide.

State-level Requirements for FFLs

There are various state requirements for getting your FFL and also how you must run your FFL’s day-to-day operations.  Both of these requirements are covered in the Get Your FFL guide.