At the direction of the Biden administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) appears to be revoking the licenses of firearm dealers for even minor paperwork violations.
On June 23, 2021, the “Biden-Harris Administration” announced a new policy of “zero tolerance for rogue gun dealers that willfully violate the law.” The policy further specified that “[a]bsent extraordinary circumstances that would need to be justified to the Director, ATF will seek to revoke the licenses of dealers the first time that they violate federal law . . .” for certain specified violations.
Despite changing decades of agency practice regarding when license revocation is appropriate, this policy was never made available to the public for comment or published in the federal register. It simply appeared on the White House’s website.
Then, last December, ATF updated its Federal Firearms Licensee Quick Reference and Best Practices Guide. The updated guide makes clear that “ATF will, absent extraordinary circumstances, initiate proceedings to revoke the license of any dealer that has committed a willful regulatory violation of the Gun Control Act (GCA) for specified violations.”
The Quick Reference Guide goes on to outline circumstances for revocation.
Absent extraordinary circumstances, ATF will issue a notice of revocation whenever it determines an FFL has willfully committed a single act of one of the following violations:
- Transferring a firearm to a prohibited person
- Failing to conduct a required background check
- Falsifying records, such as a firearms transaction form
- Failing to respond to a trace request
- Refusing to permit ATF to conduct an inspection
Other willful violations that may result in the issuance of a notice of revocation include but are not limited to failure to:
- Account for firearms
- Verify and document buyer eligibility
- Maintain records needed for successful firearms tracing
- Report multiple sales of handguns
While some of these may be serious violations that warrant revocation, many will be simple paperwork errors. Notably, “falsifying records” is a very broad category that can include making simple errors on the Form 4473, and “failing to respond to a trace request” could result from simply missing an attempted contact by ATF.
The new “zero tolerance” policy has a clear aim of reducing the number of federally licensed dealers, which will in turn make it more difficult for law-abiding Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
If you are a licensed dealer, and you believe that you have been targeted under the Biden Administration’s new policy, please contact NRA at [email protected].