During the 2020 fiscal year, the ATF conducted 5,827 firearm compliance inspections. This situation is stressful – so being able to quickly find A&D records and 4473s is essential. In this post, we’ll explain how to create a foolproof audit trail so you don’t have to sweat it even if the ATF comes knocking at your door.
The Old Way of Doing Things
First, let’s break down the way gun sellers often went about storing and archiving firearms transactions. Typically, they would store paper records in cardboard boxes and place them in the back of their store, or if they were a small-time collector, at home. If they ever needed to find a particular record, they would have to sift through those boxes.
Assuming they were relatively organized or didn’t have a vast stash of records, this may have been fairly straightforward. If, however, they were unorganized or had a huge pile of documents in boxes (records of transactions are supposed to be kept for at least 20 years), this was often a frustrating, meticulous process. And if they were in a situation where an ATF special agent or investigator needed them to produce a specific record, they were in a bind.
Not to mention storing records the “old-fashioned” way created other issues like having the potential for records to be lost, stolen, or damaged. While this was understandably the way FFLs went about it back in the day because it was the only option, it created problems for countless firearms sellers.
The New Way of Doing Things
Fortunately, technology has evolved significantly in recent years, and there are now robust solutions that can help gun sellers manage nearly every aspect of their business, including their audit trail. FFL software like FastBound, for example, is designed to not only make it simple to complete A&Ds and 4473s while ensuring compliance but also make it easy to retrieve them when needed.
Here are a few key features that allow you to create a foolproof audit trail.
Rather than filling out A&Ds and 4473s on paper by hand and storing them in cardboard boxes, FFL software lets you process transactions digitally through electronic, cloud-based storage. Most gun sellers find this to be drastically better than traditional methods because A) you can record the information you need without having to manually fill out paperwork while ensuring everything is 100% legible and B) everything can easily be archived for convenient retrieval.
If you’ve ever searched through mountains of documents to find a specific transaction, you know how painstaking it can be. But with FFL software, everything is saved electronically so you don’t have to print and store documents. And because these solutions are continually updated based on the most recent ATF rulings, you know you’re always including essential information.
FastBound provides instant alerts of potential compliance violations if anything looks incorrect and has autocomplete which automatically fills out license numbers, expiration, and address. It will even suggest the current license number to help save time. This can come in handy when it’s busy and you’re trying to move a customer through the point-of-sale without holding up the line and need to tend to other customers.
Because data is stored in the cloud, it means you can retrieve transactions from any Mac, PC, tablet, or smartphone. That way you’re not tethered to a single physical location like your office or home, and you can locate information from anywhere in the world with a web browser and internet access. So even if you’re traveling, you can still find the information you need just as easily as if you were in your office.
To streamline the retrieval process, there are Smart Searches which allow you to quickly perform custom searches to find the exact information you need. Say there’s a particular file you’ve saved but you have no clue where you put it. With Smart Searches, it’s easy to find with zero frustration. All you have to do is enter information like contact name, license number, or firearm serial number, and you’ve got it. When compared to sifting through mountains of paperwork scattered throughout cardboard boxes, this is a serious game-changer.
And to streamline the search process even more, there are Smart Lists that let you organize your data so that you see the information you use most frequently. Say, for example, you only need to save a few manufacturers. You can select them and archive everything else and even hide contacts you don’t usually acquire or dispose. This can be a huge time saver and helps filter out irrelevant information.
When it comes to finding particular contacts, this feature simplifies that without having to dig through cluttered lists or having to re-enter information again and again. With it, you can conveniently store attachments with your contacts’ information along with copies of licenses, identifications, or anything else you need. That way you don’t have to worry about lost paperwork, and you can even condense contacts if you’ve created multiple records.
Another way FFL software creates a foolproof audit trail is with automated backups. Unlike older software that had to be periodically backed up manually to keep records intact, newer solutions like FastBound automate the process. So rather than taking time out of your day and expending cognitive energy, everything is taken care of for you while not only meeting but exceeding ATF compliance requirements. That way you can focus on core operations and growing your business rather than dealing with backups.
Guaranteed Legal Defense
Although not offered by all FFL software systems, it should be noted that FastBound comes with guaranteed legal defense. So if you receive an ATF inspection that results in administrative action, you have instant access to a legal professional who specializes in firearms compliance for FFLs(Related to the use of our software). These subject matter experts know the ins and outs of the firearms industry and will represent you for unlimited legal defense with no hidden hourly fees. As a result, you have complete peace of mind that you’re covered even in a worst-case scenario.
Foolproofing Your Audit Trail
Given the compliant-centric nature of gun selling, the threat of an ATF inspection is a constant source of anxiety for many people. Firearms dealers get inspected each year, it’s certainly something to take seriously. If you even find yourself in this situation, you need a surefire way of locating A&Ds and 4473s in a hurry.
Fortunately, innovative technology like FFL software makes it simple to create a foolproof audit trail. By leveraging features like electronic, cloud-based storage, Smart Searches, Smart Lists, and automated backups, you can find what you need at a moment’s notice. You can learn more about FastBound and the full range of features here.