For many gun shops old habits can be tough to break! We all know this is true. Just look around your shop. How many paper 4473s do you have on your counter, or collecting dust in you back room? How many times have you heard the statement “this is how we have always done it.” That statement is the killer of innovation, and the reason businesses don’t grow and succeed the way they should. This mentality can be particularly destructive when it causes a company to ignore new technology. In the heavily-regulated firearms industry, there’s another risk to consider: federal agencies are continually upgrading their enforcement technology.
We’ve seen this with ATF leveraging technology to implement data-based enforcement policies (such as using “time to crime” tracing metrics to target certain dealers). In this industry, failing to adopt useful new technology not only gives your competitors a business advantage, it can deprive you of one of your best defenses against compliance infractions and enforcement.
You may have also heard someone say, “doing things this way is why we are where we are and our customers love that we operate like we do.” Do they? That is the question. Businesses and customers evolve. Well, better stated, customers evolve and business must as well or they will eventually not be in business. No one is too big not to fail.
History is littered with companies that did it their way for far too long and are no longer cornerstones of the US economy. K-Mart, anyone? They were the biggest until they weren’t, right? There is no better time to look at how your FFL operates and how you can improve efficiencies and operational effectiveness than today.
Yes, it’s the 4th quarter, and yes you are busy. However, looking into next year and how your business will grow in the coming year should always be on your mind and at the top of your to-do list. Are there new product categories you can add to your shop? Are there things you can do to ensure you have the right product at the right time to maximize floor sales? Can you increase your backstock position, so you aren’t ever out of stock on your core products?
While I cannot definitively speak to the first question above, I can speak directly to the last two. And it is going to take many of you reading this to stop yourself from saying “this is how we have always done it.” Clear space for more inventory and empty those file rooms full of 4473s. How? Well, you can stop doing manual, mistake-prone handwritten 4473s for each firearm transaction at your FFL. Your level of risk in today’s regulatory environment is through the roof with handwritten 4473s. If you already do an e4473, you can stop printing those 4473s and spending money on printers, paper, ink, filing cabinets and storage containers.
On August 17th, 2022, ATF published ATF Ruling 2022-1 which allows FFLs to now store electronically completed 4473s, digitally, without the need for an approved variance. What’s that mean? Simple. You must use a software that meets the 16 specific conditions of the Ruling, and you can start storing 4473s digitally today.
What this does NOT mean is that you can now save a PDF copy of a 4473 on your desktop or laptop or server in your store. That in no way meets the requirements ATF put in place on approved digital storage. You will need to do your research, especially if you are still using paper handwritten 4473s prior to transitioning to paperless.
First, you need to make sure you have read and understand the ATF Rulings that govern FFL’s use of eBound Book, e4473 and eStorage of 4473s. Those rulings are ATF Ruling 2016-1, 2016-2 and 2022-1.
Step 2 is determining which e4473/eBound Book provider best fits your business’s needs. There are a lot of them out there, and this blog post will get you started. There is no one size fits all, and what is important to you may not be important to another FFL. However, the one thing that has to be right, is that the software you pick is compliant. Do your diligence and pick the one that works best for you. Then…
Step 3, go fully digital by storing your 4473s in an approved, attorney-backed, electronic storage solution. 4473 Cloud is integrated with the largest and best e4473 software platforms in the market today and we are the only digital storage solution that exceeds the ATF’s expectations for compliance and usability that is attorney-backed and certified. And, the best part, beyond having the piece of mind that you selected the best e4473/eBound Book and eStorage solution, is that there are no long-term, messy and delayed IT implementations with 4473 Cloud. Within 15 minutes, you can have notified ATF of your intent to store 4473s digitally and have your account created and integration turned on. Simple as that.
As we quickly approach 2023, there is no reason to wait. You can notify ATF today and right as we welcome in the New Year, you can start fresh with less clutter, new competitive advantages, and better compliance defenses. To be clear, you have to notify ATF 60 days prior to fully storing your 4473s digitally. So, don’t wait—let’s get that started today. How you did things before, and may be currently doing them, is not what will lead you into the future. Take the first step today and schedule a demo or get started with creating your 4473 Cloud account!
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