Most Frequently Cited ATF Violations In 2021

The United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms released ATF records for Fiscal Year 2021, indicates that ATF inspectors conducted 15,181 application inspections. Of which 69% *(10,545) were approved and 20 were denied. 30% (4,616 applications) were abandoned or withdrawn.

U.S. ATF inspectors conducted 6,639 firearm compliance inspections. 64% of the ATF inspections resulted in no regulatory violations; 15% resulted in a report of violations (or a single violation); 12% of licenses were discontinued; 7% received warning letters; 2% resulted in a warning conference; less than 1% resulted in license revocation or other outcomes.

6,639 ATF inspections for 136,846 firearms licensees shows how limited resources are at ATF as it falls far short of the “compliance inspection, per federal firearms licensee, per year” goal set by ATF officials.

During the same time, the National Tracing Center (NTC) processed 548,000 firearms trace requests for 8,900 law enforcement agencies, including 49 agencies from 48 foreign countries.

The ATF recommended 16,497 defendants for criminal prosecution.

During gun dealer inspections, the most frequently cited violations include:

  1. 27 CFR 478.21(a) Failure to complete forms as prescribed moved up the list from third most common violation in 2020 to first in 2021. While Form 4473 is fairly straightforward, it’s not hard to make mistakes. Even with the best of intentions, gun dealers or buyers may inadvertently fail to follow directions as required by the ATF. It’s especially common for new firearms licensees or gun shops with high volume. That’s why it’s important to be thorough when filling out this form and double-check everything. FastBound’s Electronic Form 4473 can help here as well because it saves time on follow-ups for buyers who fill out information incorrectly and can identify a prohibited person (active restraining order, convicted felon, domestic abusers, buyer who makes a false statement, etc.) or help identify a possible straw purchase.
  2. 27 CFR 478.125(e) Failure to maintain an accurate/complete/timely acquisition and disposition (A&D) record of firearms dropped from first in 2020 to second in 2021. Federal regulations state that a dealer is required to record each receipt and disposition of firearms, noting the date, name and address or name and license number of who’s purchasing the firearm, the manufacturer, serial number, and so on. You can find full information under section (e), firearms receipt and disposition by dealers. FastBound electronic A&D is the most compliant available and its use is backed by guaranteed legal defense. 
  3. 27 CFR 478.123(a) Failure to maintain an accurate/complete/timely manufacture or acquisition record is also up two spots from fifth in 2020 to third in 2021. The ATF states that “Each licensed manufacturer shall record the type, model, caliber, or gauge, and serial number of each complete firearm manufactured or otherwise acquired, and the date such manufacture or other acquisition was made.” Further, the information should be recorded within seven days of the date of the manufacture or acquisition.” Once again, being thorough with your record-keeping is critical, and you need to be sure you’re keeping track of all required information. 
  4. 27 CFR 478.124(c)(1) Failure to obtain a completed ATF F 4473 moves from second down to fourth most common. Properly completing Form 4473 is a critical part of selling firearms. Given its recurrence on the most frequently cited list proves that many gun dealers need help with this process. FastBound’s Electronic Form 4473 allows buyers to submit complete, correct, and compliant Forms 4473 using any desktop, tablet, or smartphone. There are no special hardware requirements, and it comes with digital signature support and electronic storage support. Besides ensuring compliance, this can also streamline customer service, helping you complete the information you need so you can move on to the next sale, confident than nothing on the form was missed.
  5. 27 CFR 478.124(c)(3)(iv) Failure to record NICS contact information on an ATF F 4473 is down one spot from 2020 at fifth. Keeping accurate record of the buyer’s contact information and performing a background check is crucial to public safety and keeping firearms out of the wrong hands or from being used in a violent crime. Unfortunately, being the fifth most commonly cited violation measure there are a lot of failures to do so. With a series of questions on form 4473 used in the background check process, you must be diligent about each field.
  6. 27 CFR 478.123(b) Failure to maintain an accurate/complete/timely licensee disposition record is up three spots from ninth in 2020. This is another ATF violation that simply boils down to improper record-keeping. And it’s understandable. Even seasoned firearms sellers make mistakes from time to time. Software like FastBound has so many time-savers built right into the software to help along the way.
  7. 27 CFR 478.124(c)(5) Failure by transferor to sign and/or date an ATF F 4473 didn’t make the top ten violations in 2020. This is one thing a FastBound firearm dealer doesn’t have to worry about because our compliant, electronic form 4473 doesn’t even allow this.
  8. 27 CFR 478.124(c)(3)(i) Failure to verify or record identification document on ATF F 4473 keeps its eighth place. ATF regulations state “After the transferee has executed the Form 4473, the licensee shall verify the identity of the transferee by examining the identification document presented and shall note on the Form 4473 the type of identification used.” Simply put, to avoid this violation, make sure you verify the buyer’s identity and immediately record it on the 4473. 
  9. 27 CFR 478.126a Failure to report multiple sales or other dispositions of pistols and revolvers moves up one spot from tenth in 2020. This final regulation can, admittedly, be a little confusing. Because of the rise in firearm trafficking, law enforcement and the ATF are very particular about how they require a firearms dealer to report multiple sales, so things can get murky in a hurry. FastBound has the most compliant multiple sale reporting available.
  10. 27 CFR 478.124(c)(4) Failure to record firearm information on an ATF F 4473 is down from seventh place in 2020. “The licensee shall identify the firearm to be transferred by listing on the Form 4473 the name of the manufacturer, the name of the importer (if any), the type, model, caliber or gauge, and the serial number of the firearm,” the ATF states. This is pretty straightforward information, but it’s not hard to overlook a piece of it. So it’s important to familiarize yourself with all of the information requirements and check them off one by one. 

ATF field divisions, ATF inspectors, and ATF agents have a lot of discretion at their disposal. A Federal Firearms Licensee who takes the care to implement controls to mitigate risks before even a single inspection has taken place is heavily considered. Absent extraordinary circumstances, this precaution can sometimes make all the difference when ATF inspectors, and ATF agents exercise that discretion to recommend a corrective actions or cite for a willful violation, or criminal activity with serious punishment.

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