Part 6: Getting a Home-Based FFL: The Interview

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Author’s Note: First off, my apologies to our readership for the delays getting this series going again and completed. To spoil the story, I have received my FFL and operate from it daily. 

Its been an exciting year for me personally, with the move into the industry and a move over to Cincinnati for my role at Faxon. As such, the series will be expanded a bit to include moving an FFL to a new location. I will keep up posting in the series at one per week until it reaches its conclusion. Thank you so much for your support and its always a blast writing for you and TFB!

Finally clear of last-minute municipal delays, I was able to work with Erick the IOI (name changed for his privacy’s sake) to schedule a day. Unfortunately, he was tied up in a large cast and bust so I had to wait two weeks until a solid time lined up with his and my schedule, which was a random Wednesday morning.

Erick arrived promptly and surprisingly was in fully civilian clothing. I fully expected a full suit and tie (boy was I overdressed), but he was in an untucked button-down shirt and some old blue jeans. Expecting my reaction, he apologized that we did not speak on the dress code and explained that the IOI’s are supposed to keep a low-profile, especially when walking in on surprise checks at FFLs. Makes sense.

Erick was surprisingly young (I would estimate late 20’s, early 30’s at the latest) but was confident in himself and position (he was former Army). We immediately sat down at the kitchen counter and Erick took the lead on the discussions and what we needed to cover for the day.

  1. Inspect the place of business to ensure it met requirements.
  2. Review the FFL application & check for errors or make changes as needed
  3. Go over all ATF rules and regulations
  4. 30 days to be fully compliant with all local, state, and federal laws.

That’s it, but it was going to take more than 4 hours to cover everything.

The Inspection Portion

This was simple, and to be honest, I was expecting more.

Per ATF requirements, there basically must be a lock that controls access to the premises and the ability for the FFL to lock up firearms further. In short, your keyed deadbolt on the front door and a lock on a closet counts statutorily, but the IOI’s like to see a bit more security if one can swing it. In my case, I had the front door, a lock on the closet in my office, and a gun safe.

Author’s Note: IOI’s have discretion to require more depending on your situation. While the closet is sufficient, take the step to get a gun safe. While they may not deny your FFL based on your storage solution, they can find other reasons if they do not feel comfortable with your safety, storage, and competence. 

Check.

Reviewing the FFL Application

While approved from BATFE headquarters, the IOI’s job is to conduct a full and complete evaluation of the application. They are looking to ensure completeness, that you have gone through all the right steps (approvals from municipalities, distances from schools (if applicable), landlord approval, plans for shipping and receiving firearms, etc).

In my case, I submitted with the application all the POC’s and relevant statutes highlighted from the local government and certified letters from my landlord (in duplicate, no less). As such, the IOI had already been able to verify that I was in full compliance and complimented myself on “the easiest and most thorough application they had seen”. This went a long way to establish my competence to manage firearms (which is an unwritten metric they will gauge the applicant on).

My application did have an error on my LLC’s name, but with the IOI we were able to correct it quickly and easily, which would not have an effect on processing (thank gosh, as that would mean starting the application from scratch!). Outside of this, the application itself was good to go.

Note on Open Hours:

The ATF only requires that an FFL have two open hours available each calendar week where an agent is able to stop by for a yearly inspection. However, my IOI had an issue with this and while he did not require me to change my hours, he did strongly request that I do so for their convenience. I agreed, leaving two hours open M-F and the full day Saturday technically “open” for the ATF. However, as it was my home, I could say that I was “closed” if they did choose to stop by so long as I set a reasonable time for the inspection.

This is useful if you ever go out on vacation, grocery store, etc. You do not have to be present, during those hours, just reachable via your designated phone number. One is not tied to the property during these hours.

An FFL can also file for changed hours at any time. So if you sign up for 5 days a week, you can submit changed hours after a completed application and move back down to 2 hours, if needed. However, it is not a big deal to leave extra hours and I would encourage it to keep your IOI’s happy (they are your gate-keepers and inspectors). Its not an inconvenience.

Note on Applied FFL Type

During the interview, the IOI is able to change the FFL type you are applying for. My application for was for a Class 07 (manufacturer) and they will gauge if you intend to operate taking full advantage to manufacture firearms. The ATF does not want random 07 FFLs with 02 SOT’s, as they do not want extra NFA items manufactured than needed to fulfill the government’s purpose

*Technically, one can only manufacture a machine gun if it is to be used for Government purposes (ie selling). Technically, one cannot manufacture a machine gun solely for the purpose of testing, etc.

In my case, I explained that I was going to purchase AR-15 and 1911 components, assemble them, and sell them on, which an 07 FFL is required to do so. This will put you in the ITAR quandry, so only sign up for an 07 FFL if you are truly going to be using it. Getting it just to own machine guns is highly illegal and will only hurt other FFLs if/when you are caught.

Of note, my good friend’s FFL (which Faxon Firearms bought) took his FFL with him to Ohio and after speaking with the ATF agent, opted not to keep his 07 dropping to an 01. 

Simply put, if you do not have a legitimate reason to have an 07, don’t get it. Its not worth the hassle and extra paperwork (more on that later in the series). 

Going over ATF Rules, Regulations, and Paperwork

This was the vast majority of the time spend during the inspection. For the four hours the IOI was at my home, we spent nearly 3.5 hours going over everything.

Brace yourself for this section, the IOI’s are required to go over each and every regulation, form, piece of paperwork, etc. While you may have worked for an FFL, know the paperwork from your own SBRs, or even been an FFL, the ATF will go over everything again to ensure that you are knowledgeable (and on the flip side, if you screw up, they can say they told you so).

There is a base amount of information that all FFL’s will go through including a full and detailed overview of the FFL’s handbook and the proper filling out of the 4473 (this is a big deal to the ATF, as anyone who has worked at a local gun shop can attest). From there, its details on the myriad of topics that they look through and is part of the daily operation of the FFL. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Bound books
  • ATF Forms 1, 2, 3, 4 & more
  • NICS checks (signing up, how to do them, their validity, etc.)
  • & More

A scan of the full checklist is below. Each one has to be fully initialed by the FFL after you have covered the topic. Failure to initial a single box will result in the IOI having to stop by again and cover the topic.

I paid close attention and asked lots of questions, especially on manufacturing firearms and the various items that must be reported on a yearly basis. This came in handy at year-end for the reporting and TTB forms for paying taxes on manufactured firearms or the FET (Federal Excise Tax).

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30 Days

While it is not the IOI’s job at the initial inspection to ensure that the FFL is in full compliance with all local, state, and federal regulations, Erick was adamant that I had to ensure I was good to go. As part of the FFL process, you sign a form stating that you will ensure full compliance within 30 days of granting of the FFL. Violation would be considered fraud and lying on a Federal form, which is punishable with a hefty fine and serious jail time if the prosecutor is so inclined.

I agreed and took the steps to show Erick how far I was along in each of the individual steps. The only one that would be an issue was Indiana’s requirement that an FFL be registered with the State Police to sell handguns. I could not apply until I had my FFL (an annoying catch-22).

Wrap-Up

After going through the document in exhaustive detail, that’s it! Erick let me know that I satisfied the requirements and that I should be seeing my FFL sent to this premises within 4 weeks.

Now, to wait impatiently for the FFL to arrive.



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.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

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


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  • Bear The Grizzly

    This is by far the most interesting series I’ve ever read on a gun blog. Thank you so much for sharing this information with us.

  • Otm Shooter

    Nathan, so it seems as though you went through with the type 07. Did you end up registering with ITAR and paying the big bucks. I’ve heard that you can side-shift that if you get a commodities jurisdiction ruling stating that you’re products are not defense articles, but I’ve heard that you have to have a ruling for each product and that the ruling can be revoked.

    • tt_ttf

      getting a CJ on an AR would be interested – you might get points for style but you are not going to get it – DoS sees any weapon manufacture as an ITAR function unless you have a specific CJ for the specific model (each variation will need its own CJ) or its specifically exempted item on their list (like shotguns). Their stance is that ALL 07’s must be registered with ITAR irrespective of what you make.

      Frankly you will spend more on legal fees complying with the CJ requirements that just doing the ITAR registration.

      • Otm Shooter

        I hear yah. I had heard that CJ’s are required for each model of a product. I’ve only heard that some small suppressor manufacturers get CJ’s for the handful of models they carry, thus shaking the ITAR. This is all hearsay of course, which is why I asked if Nathan had any knowledge on the subject. If its possible to get a CJ for suppressors, its very possible to get one for AR models.

  • SuperJ

    “The ATF only requires that an FFL have two open hours available each
    calendar week where an agent is able to stop by for a yearly inspection.
    However, my IOI had an issue with this and while he did not require me
    to change my hours, he did strongly request that I do so for their
    convenience.”

    This is exactly why I have zero respect for most .gov employees and those at the ATF especially. In general, I assume most folks have general good intentions and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, but the ATF no way.

    I appreciate that spending all the time and money obviously was a great motivator to go along and get along, but his request was 100% inappropriate and disgusting. Contrary to his world view, being an agent of a Govt. agency doesn’t give him any special rights to make demands above the law in order to cater to his convenience.

    I personally wouldn’t lose even a minutes sleep over what “Erick” the jack booted thug had an issue with. If the law requires 2 hours a week and you’re satisfying that requirement he’s free to go stick his “ego” (word changed for courtesy sake) in an industrial shredder. My fist instinct (and I would have certainly

    I’ll second the other views that the series has been a really interesting read…

    • USMC03Vet

      It sounds like what a lot of countries use for gun control.

    • Bill

      Dude, you don’t get the reasoning behind it – it’s as much to the permit holder’s benefit as the agency’s, otherwise your are stuck with those 2 hours. And if they happened to coincide with your wedding, or vacation, or spouse’s funeral, tough cookies. Also note that the inspector DIDNT require it, he suggested it.

      Go ahead and apply, and make sure that the 2 hours you pick are from like 3:00 AM to 5:00 AM, that’ll show them. Jeez, even the author said it wasn’t an inconvenience.

      I’ll bet you’re a hoot when you have to take a day off work for the cable guy.

  • claymore

    Very good article on the trials and trivializations involved in this business.

  • Tim U

    My FFL inspection and interview didn’t even leave the living room off the front door. Anything I said I had was taken at face value.

    And they said odds are if an inspection ever came, they’d call to set an appointment. I chose to have evening hours when apparently their agents don’t work. Your office may vary, but that’s what I heard from my local officer.

    So far, the rewards have outweighed the hassle. I’ll keep at it unless I have a reason to stop.

  • Mike Price

    Please explain what IOI abbreviation stands for.

    • Industry Operations Investigator

      • Mike Price

        Thanks. Doesn’t sound anything like ATF officer.

        • Bill

          They aren’t Special Agents or criminal investigators. I don’t even think they have powers of arrest or are armed.