Preparing for your next ATF inspection

When Was The Last Time the ATF Inspected Your FFL?

Last year, the year before, longer than that, or never? Whatever the answer, the one thing that is as certain as the sun rising in the East and setting in the West is that you will have one in the future. It is only a matter of time until it is your “turn.”

In the past few years, ATF compliance inspections have taken on a new meaning. There was a time, prior to the current administration, that an ATF inspection would most likely result in a notification of violations, which was treated as a learning document, with your local ATF IOI providing you with feedback on best practices and how to avoid those violations in the future. Additionally, you could expect the same IOI to do all your inspections and even be there to assist you if you need assistance or guidance.

That is no longer the case.  While before, the goal was to achieve actual compliance in the industry, there are many that would say the current administration’s goal is to use compliance as a weapon against the industry.

What You Need to Know About ATF Inspections

The regulatory environment you face as an FFL is:

  • More scrutiny of your compliance practices and results.
    • Just because you were not cited for a violation previously, doesn’t mean you won’t be cited for that same conduct the next time ATF inspects your store.
    • One IOI’s opinion or interpretation of the regulations may not be the same as the next IOI—and today’s IOIs are not empowered to use common sense or fairness to be flexible in determining if something should be included in their report of violations.
    • Your commitment should be to the regulations and rulings and what those documents tell you. Not to what your previous IOI told you.
  • Previous ATF inspection results are NOT an endorsement of your compliance.
    • Conduct that was acceptable or ignored in the past may now result in a violation.
    • Conduct that was considered a violation in the past will now be treated as willful, even if the violation was years ago and even if it only occurs a single time among many transactions.
    • If you were in violation previously but were not cited, that is not a get out of jail free card.
    • Not only will you be cited for the violation on your next inspection, but ATF can go back to your older records and cite you for violations on forms/records previously reviewed during a past inspection.
  • ATF discussed at SHOT Show in January, that they are now purposefully rotating IOIs on inspections.
    • If you have had “John” at all your previous compliance audits, do not count on him conducting your next one!
    • ATF seems to be taking steps to actually avoid forming cooperative, trusting relationships between agency and industry.
  • Revocations are at an all-time high.
    • FFLs are being revoked at an unprecedented rate.
    • ANY repeat violation can cause ATF to revoke your FFL.

FFLs must understand the very real threat revocations have on our industry and on your business. 90% of the violations cited by ATF are due to FFLs improperly completing and maintaining their records. Your Bound Book (officially, your A&D record), ATF F 4473s and related, required documentation such as Multiple Handgun Sales Forms (ATF F 3310.4) are littered with compliance risks. Every line on every form, every line in your Bound Book, every bit of information you provide in your records, are a risk.

Going Digital Could Save Your Business

Using paper, handwritten documents could be a revocation waiting to happen.

Recently at an industry show an FFL dealer was convinced he was the exception to that rule. He was adamant that not only was paper faster than electronic bound books and 4473s but that his stores were more compliant with paper. This company has a team of 3 people who look at every form before a customer leaves with a firearm and they catch “everything”.

He may be right that his store is the exception, but we know two things to be true: not everyone can be an exception and ATF is currently revoking licenses at an unprecedented rate.

  1. Computers aren’t good at everything but they are good at doing repetitive tasks with superhuman speed and superhuman accuracy.
  2. Humans are . . . human. Not one of us is perfect, and the more forms you review, the higher the chance you miss a mistake.  Computers do not become complacent, or have “off days” because they had too much fun the night before.
  3.  Adding “sets of eyes” to the process is great—and recommended—but it slows the process down, and is very expensive compared to using software.

We are not saying you should not have an ATF compliance expert in your store. In fact, we believe to the contrary, every FFL should employ a compliance expert and that individual should lead the business’s decision-making when it comes to selecting the software that best meets your FFL’s needs.

Software is significantly cheaper than adding payroll and is infinitely more accurate in identifying compliance concerns. The quality of compliance software to mitigate your compliance risk continues to evolve and improve. Many of these software solutions provide over a 95% reduction in errors that are commonly cited by ATF. Many start with payments as low as $9/month. There is no reason to wait. You can be up and running with digital records and digital record retention today!


The first step is acknowledging that previous ATF inspections have no bearing on how your next inspection will go. Step two is acknowledging that you need to take every reasonable action to ensure your next inspection goes as smoothly as possible and concludes as quickly as possible. And, that software is the solution you need to protect your business and livelihood.

Have questions about where to start, and where to look? We have your back. Simply click here and we will be happy to get you started on the technological path to protecting your FFL.

Get started today - It's free for the first 30 days!

Travis Glover Mar. 14th, 2024

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