Sweat the Details for ATF Compliance


Sweat the Details 1

Sweat the Details” is an article I wrote for the NSSF emphasizing the importance of paying attention to the details when it comes to ATF compliance. The article wasn’t meant to scare anybody – instead, it was an attempt to educate FFLs about what the ATF considers a “willful violation.” Simply, you can lose your FFL if you “willfully” violate the Gun Control Act, the National Firearms Act, or ATF rules and regulations.

The article explores how various courts have defined the term “willful” as applied to firearm law. Here’s a preview: you’ll probably be surprised that even an unintentional typo can be considered a “willful violation.” That’s right, you can have every intention to follow the law and unknowingly get yourself into trouble if you are not careful.

The good news is that you can easily comply with the law if you know exactly what the law requires, and you focus on what you’re doing.

Sweat the Details
The Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) allows the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to revoke your federal firearms license (FFL) if you have willfully violated any provision, rule or regulation under the GCA. To help ensure that your FFL is not revoked, it is important you understand what constitutes a “willful” violation of the GCA and ATF regulations. Since the term “willful” is not defined within the GCA or ATF regulations, Federal courts have defined what constitutes a willful violation. By knowing and understanding what the courts have said, you will be able to avoid committing a willful violation of the GCA and the ATF regulations and remain in business for years to come.

Minor Mistakes Count

Sweat the Details

When determining whether a record keeping error is a willful violation of the GCA or its corresponding regulations, courts are not required to consider the severity nor the effect of the error. In one case, a court clarified that even minor clerical errors may be treated as willful violations, since “failure to comply with exacting bookkeeping regulations may hinder the ATF’s ability to perform its mandated function.” Another court agreed that minor errors can be considered willful violations. “Keeping records is a technical exercise and errors, even typos, are unacceptable.”

This means that even if a minor error in failing to comply with the GCA does not result in illegal possession of a firearm, illegal use of a firearm or even an inability of the firearm to be tracked, your FFL may still be revoked for willfully violating the GCA.3 Encouraging careful attention to details, a Federal judge warned, “If ever there were a statutory scheme where a licensee would be obligated to ‘sweat the details,’ irrespective of how trifling they may appear, the [GCA] would appear to fit that bill.”

. . . [read the full article]

Take a moment to read the article for yourself, then share it with the rest of your company: Sweat the Details

Ryan Cleckner is a former special operations sniper and current attorney specializing in firearms law/ATF compliance and is a firearms industry executive (former govt. relations manager for NSSF, Vice President of Remington Outdoor Company, and a SAAMI voting board member).

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