ATF Proposes New Rule: FFL’s Must Report Lost in Transit Firearms in 48 Hours

The ATF has published a proposed rule that if a firearm is lost in transit, the FFL who shipped a firearm must report its loss within 48 hours of discovery.

The NSSF is opposed to the rule, declaring it to be a burden to FFLs.

Out of the millions of guns shipped each year, the number lost in transit is minimal, said Larry Keane, a senior vice president for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry. What this proposed rule will do is add increased burden and cost on the dealers who ship the guns, leading to fewer jobs and higher prices on the consumers who want to purchase the firearms, he said.

“There’s already in place voluntary reporting when guns are lost or stolen in transit, and ATF has never said members aren’t cooperating or this is even a problem,” Mr. Keane said. “Manufactures work very closely with ATF when situations arise to help in the investigation — which usually ends up to be someone in the common carrier — but these cases are exceedingly rare.

The ATF disagrees:

The 1,500 figure is likely a conservative estimate as it only represents guns used in crimes that were recovered and traced by local authorities — the total number of guns lost and stolen in transit but not reported is likely much higher, said ATF spokeswoman Dannette Seward.

The proposed rule is not designed to place more regulatory burden dealers, but rather to clarify that shippers are the responsible party when a firearm is lost in transit, Ms. Seward said.

“The proposed regulation makes clear who must report, but does not add any additional reporting requirements,” Ms. Seward said. “The proposed regulation does not require universal tracking by shippers. The requirement to report kicks in only when the shipper becomes aware that the receiver did not receive the firearm, which could occur in a number of ways, including when the receiver notifies the shipper that the firearm never arrived, the common carrier advises its clients of a theft or loss, or through other means.”

The rule is open for public commentary. You can find it and comment here:

Personally as a FFL, I have no issue with the rule. Its good practice to report the theft or loss of a weapon when it was already on my books. It avoids issues in the future when it is later traced and gives the ATF or investigating agency the chance to catch a criminal or two before the weapon is used in a crime.

Read more:

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • stephenfshaw

    This is really a no-brainer. If the issue is really as minimal as the NSSF says, then the corresponding impact of the reporting requirement will also be minimal. It is not like ATF is going so far as to extend strict liability to the outbound-FFL for lost weapons – arguably, the FFL has a responsibility to safeguard the weapon until received by the inbound party. Loss of a weapon (like allowing a child unfettered access) should be considered per se negligence. Passing the buck onto the “common carrier” is pretty weak. I think a mandatory reporting requirement makes a lot of sense, and I’m surprised this isn’t already in place.

    • UnrepentantLib

      My thoughts exactly. You can’t have it both ways, a burden and almost a non-problem. The only quibble I would have is placing more onus on the carriers to determine if something is lost more quickly.

      • stephenfshaw

        I’ve said for a while that we should treat all in the chain of custody as responsible parties. If you don’t want to be responsible for your weapon, then don’t own one (or make one, sell one, ship one, etc.) These are serious tools, and we should take them seriously and have appropriate safeguards in place. Like in the Marine Corps, if your gear gets stolen it is your fault for not locking it up / watching it, taking care. The Second Amendment and the rest of our Constitution invests the people of this country with extraordinary rights, and extraordinary rights are accompanied by an extraordinary measure of responsibility.

        • Yellow Devil

          I personally don’t view 2A or the rest of the Bill of Rights as “extraordinary” rights.

          • stephenfshaw

            Concur – I used the term “extraordinary” in the historical and geographic sense, as you are unlikely to find such rights elsewhere in time or place other than in the existence of America.

  • Raoul O’Shaugnessy

    The requirement is to report within 48 hours of a shipment being lost. Who determines when that 48 hours starts? If I ship on Monday and its supposed to be there Friday, and Joe at UPS steals it on Tuesday that would seem to suggest that I can’t report it missing any later than Thursday. But how am I supposed to know its lost unless I wait until Friday? Is the FFL now supposed to check the tracking of their package every day to make sure there are no delivery exceptions? Is ‘lost’ defined as being simply ‘overdue’ or must the status of ‘lost’ (as opposed to ‘delayed’) come from the carrier? It would make more sense to require the carrier to to make the determination of lost and have to notify the FFL of that determination, then the clock starts ticking from when the FFL gets the notification from the carrier.

    • Adam

      They specifically say that it’s 48 hours after notification of loss, not actual time of loss. It’s specifically when the shipper becomes aware of the loss, so it wouldn’t matter when it got ‘lost’, only when the shipper is notified.

      • Dave The Great

        48 hours after notification should not be a problem. Sounds pretty reasonable. I would like to see them fine-tune it a bit so some poor FFL doesn’t get caught on the wrong side of a three-day weekend or winds up “notified” by mail while he is on vacation.

        But overall? Not a bad idea.

    • Xaun Loc

      Apparently you are one of the FFLs for whom reading a regulation would be an excessive burden. The requirement is described as “within 48 hours of discovery” as the FFL shipping a firearm you would “discover” that it was lost in transit when UPS tells you they can’t find it. In your example of a long gun being shipped UPS Ground coast-to-coast leaving on Monday due to be delivered on Friday, you would probably not “discover” that it was “lost in transit” until the following Monday or even Tuesday — at which point you would have two full days after the UPS clerk told you “we lost it” before you had to have your report on its way to the ATF.

  • M.M.D.C.

    What about guns lost in boating accidents. Would that be considered “lost in transit?”

    • Dave The Great

      My guess (just a guess) is that it would be more like losing a weapon in a housefire or some such thing. Not currently a federal matter, though some states have rules they are working on for it.

      Personally, as a responsible gun owner, I would happily alert the cops the instant a gun of mine was ever removed from my control through loss, theft or accident. My guns are not to be used by criminals and I will do anything to prevent that.

  • Mystick

    The problem being that most carriers take much longer than 48 hours to make a determination of why a package wasn’t delivered when scheduled. I have a friend who is still waiting after 13 weeks for a straight answer from the carrier for a package he never received.

    So if you report the loss when the package doesn’t show up within a reasonable time after the expected scheduled delivery, contact the carrier and ask what’s going on, do you wait for an answer for the carrier, and if so, does the reporting period begin when you suspected the loss, when you receive a reply from the carrier, or what? Too ambiguous. When does the ATF start “counting”?

    What if the carrier screws up, delivers the package to the wrong address, and marks it as “delivered”(this has happened to me)… is the carrier then responsible for the loss? As far as they are concerned, the package has been delivered(and won’t “deliver” on the insurance).

    What if you report the loss, then some indeterminate time later, have the package show up, are you then liable for making a “false report” to the ATF?

    Too many complications.

  • USMC03Vet

    Give an inch they’ll take a mile.

    Yes, this seems minimal and legit, but we know where the road leads in the name of safety.

  • avconsumer2

    K – trade ya? Pass this one & do away with a moronic one or two (or 20)?


    Actually…..any regulation…is a bad idea. When the ATF abuses this

    and you no longer have an FFL (and they WILL abuse this…) I am
    sure the tune will be far far different.

  • AK™ does this apply to Fast & Furious (not the movie franchise..)

  • Xaun Loc

    If the number lost in transit is so minimal, then it shouldn’t be much of a burden for the FFL who has one lost in his lifetime to report that loss promptly. The only way this requirement would become a burden would be if a particular FFL just happened to frequently have firearms “lost” in transit. I might understand if NSSF wanted the deadline extended from 48 hours to 72 hours, or perhaps to close of business two business days after discovery, the notion that voluntary reporting is sufficient is ridiculous. Reporting firearms lost in transit from an FFL needs to be mandatory, and needs to have some specified time limit, If “48 hours” is a problem, then NSSF needs to explain why and offer some alternative. The idea that a FFL once in a very rare while needing to do slightly more work is somehow going to reduce the number of jobs in the firearms industry makes no sense at all.

  • gunslinger

    on one hand, i agree with this. yes it is nice to know where firearms are (in the sense of FFL tracking, not the feds). and we don’t want any “lost” firearms out in the wild

    i can see this becoming a problem. “after notification” does me checking on my UPS tracking web page count as “notification”? is it a phone call? email? registered letter from the carrier? i can see the downside of this