How to Handle Firearm Inventory and Abide by ATF Regulations
Anyone operating a business that sells modern firearms in the United States must abide by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) regulations governing such sales. This includes both gun manufacturers and retailers. Firearm sales are strictly controlled, and numerous federal laws dictate how shop owners handle gun inventory management.
Understanding these controls is essential, and those who fail to do so may find themselves facing a bevy of federal charges, as well as the loss of their business licenses. Proper tracking and preparation in response to an ATF audit can help you prevent such problems in the future.
Firearm Inventory Challenges
nventory tracking must comply with all applicable ATF regulations, and Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations applies to all who trade in firearms in the United States. The laws, bylaws, and various clauses of this code are extremely serious, but not always easy to understand. Many companies turn to software that tracks the serial numbers and lot numbers of firearms to maintain compliance with these regulations.
Basic tracking software is likely to meet some of these requirements, but most store owners quickly come to realize that more advanced features are necessary. This is because not only must a clear paper trail exist for every firearm sold at the location, but the following details must always be tracked in at least one hard-printed format (and often multiple digital formats):
- Original manufacturer
- Model number
- Serial number
- Federal firearms license number
- Date In/Out
- Purchaser's name
This tracking must be done in conjunction with regulations concerning inventory display, advertising, and all other sales regulations.
ATF Bound Book Requirements
The hard-printed copy containing all of these details is often referred to as the ATF bound book or A&D bound book. Despite its name, the bound book does not have to be handwritten or manually typed out. Approved inventory management software will automatically populate the details of acquisitions and dispositions, allowing you to simply print these details and add them to your bound book. The most common ATF bound book requirements include those listed above as well as:
- Serial and lot number tracking for individual parts and whole firearms.
- Assembly work orders for safety and tracking purposes.
- Vendor tracking as required by law.
- Custom fields that help you comply with state and/or county regulations.
State and county regulations also likely come into play when it comes to background checks or age limitations. Being able to pull up that data quickly and efficiently can save both time and frustration when such fine details are needed.
How to Handle an ATF Audit
The almost inevitable ATF audit of federal firearm licensees (FFL) isn’t as scary as it may sound. The compliance investigation is typically handled by unassuming men and women who will simply request required documentation. They review all store records to ensure that the laws governing each FFL and their vendors are followed to the letter. Willful noncompliance can result in consequences, but the ATF maintains that the purpose of the audit is to educate license holders first and foremost, not raid their inventories and customer lists.
Store owners can breathe easier if they use a full-featured inventory tracking suite for firearms vendors. While a printed A&D bound book is still necessary, all other information may be stored online for these audits. This is the reason a firearm-specific tracking suite is best, as those designed for other industries may not meet compliance requirements. Most store owners receive education and time to repair any failures before the ATF revokes their FFL. However, the data tracked in the inventory management software can become vital if ATF officials choose to begin the revocation process.
This process is not the end, however, and your inventory management software is key to proving your case. Upon announcement of revocation, FFLs can make a request within 15 days for a hearing. This lets you present your case and show that you are have been compliant and still deserve your license. If you have a legal team, they’ll sift through the data in your software to present the best possible case for confirming your license and changing the verdict of the compliance inspection.