If you want to buy and sell modern firearms, you need an FFL – Federal Firearms License. You can download the application from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
You will need to determine what type of Federal Firearm License you need and there is a handful that breakdown into three basic groups – Manufacturing, buying/selling/collecting, and importing. They further break down into guns, ammo, and destructive devices.
Here is a list of the license types and their numbers.
- Type 01 – Firearm dealer but not authorized to sell destructive devices.
- Type 02 – Pawnbroker in firearms but not authorized to sell or buy destructive devices.
- Type 03 – Gun Collectors of curios and relics
- Type 06 – Manufacturer of ammunition but not for those ammo types that are armor piercing or for destructive devices.
- Type 07 – Manufacturer of firearms but not for the creation of destructive devices
- Type 08 – Importer of firearms but not for ammo or destructive devices
- Type 09 – Dealer of destructive devices
- Type 10 – Manufacturer of destructive devices, ammo for destructive devices, and ammo that is armor piercing.
- Type 11 – Importer of destructive devices, ammo for destructive devices, and armor piercing ammunition.
A Federal Firearm licensee can hold several of these FFLs
The application process is not overly complicated. You mail in the completed application along with the fee. There are restrictions and not everyone can hold an FFL. Each applicant will undergo a federal background check and you must not be in any of the categories that are restrictive to the process.
Make Sure You Meet the FFL Requirements
Generally, when we are discussing FFL requirements, we are discussing the federal requirements. However, each state may have different requirements for holding an FFL.
For the federal portion of an FFL, the basic requirements for the government are that you will be law-abiding, free of felonies, free of drug and narcotic convictions,
The steps to get an FFL are as follows.
Step 1 – Download the application and read through it. Make sure that you meet the general requirements of an FFL holder and that you do not have a conviction that will bar you from being an FFL holder.
Step 2 – Choose Your FFL License Type. This can be tricky because the license types are restrictive, and one type may not cover all that you want to do in your business. FFLs are for businesses, though Type 03 is for collectors, and even it has some restrictions.
Step 3 – Apply for the FFL – Fill out the application. The form will ask you for your legal name, the type of IRS business filing you opt for, and the location of your business. For example, if your business is a sole proprietor, you would indicate that on the application. You may also be required to have a business license issued by your local county, city, or state. Additionally, your business will need to be free of any of the complex local zoning issues that pertain to firearms.
While the seemingly heavy-handed government regulations that you find within the initial application can be harsh, they are there to prevent guns from falling into the hands of criminals, those people who have felony narcotic offenses, who are mentally ill, and who may not be the person they claim to be on the application. Firearms licensing is a serious process and if you have all of your ducks in a row and are an upstanding citizen, you should have nothing to fear from the application.
You will choose your FFL type from their list on the form and note the fee for that type of FFL. The fees range from $30 to $3,000 and you can apply for more than one type. In the following section of the application, you would tally up all of your fees – each FFL has its own licensing fee, and then include the payment total for your total application fee along with either credit card info or you can insert a check or money order.
Information about Your Business and Residential Area
Before you fill out the application, you would need to know a lot about your firearm business such as how it was formed, if you purchased it from someone else and who the seller of the business is, if the business is new or if there was a different FFL number, etc. As you read through the form, you can gather the data they want. Printing out the application and using it as a worksheet may make the process easier.
Each Owner of the Business Will Be Investigated
The ATF form will have a space where every member of your business, including key workers, will need to supply personal information about themselves for a federal background check. The form follows the laws of the United States under the Gun Control Act of 1968.
The Application and Past History
The application will want to know your past addresses and will ask you questions to determine who you are if you’ve had a past FFL, even employment history where that history involved a corporation that held an FFL. For example, if you worked for Ruger, you would have to disclose that information whether you are applying to make your ammo and sell it or as an FFL dealer.
The Reputable Character
There are rules and regulations from the Gun Control Act of 1968. One of those is that you must be at least aged 21 to have an FFL.
Another set of questions will involve criminal history. It is still illegal to use marijuana on the federal level. If you live in a state where marijuana or cannabis is legal, and you are involved in a legalized cannabis business, you may be denied an FFL. Other narcotic use and a history of dealing or arrest can also cause you to lose your opportunity to be an FFL holder.
In addition to federal law, you will need to be an upstanding citizen on the local law level too.
Citizenship and FFLs
You do not necessarily have to be a citizen of the United States if you are importing guns to the US. Nationalized citizens are accepted if they meet all of the other rules and regulations. Certain members of the US here on a visa may also qualify. People who are a citizen of foreign countries but not US citizens may also be approved depending on the type of business they are establishing, how heavy the importation of firearms is, and what their country of origin is.
For each member of your business and significant non-owners, the Form B – questionnaire along with fingerprint cards and a photo, such as that used for a passport, will need to be submitted. There is also an additional fee involved for each fingerprint card you send in with your application. The exception for fingerprint cards and the photo is applications for a Type 03 collector of curios and relics.
The In-person Interview
Except for Type 03 FFL applications, an in-person interview will occur generally at your place of business where the field officer will go over all the regulations that apply to you. They will want to see that your business is set up and in compliance with all governmental agencies, including federal, state, and local laws before any sales or firearm transfers begin.
The Paper Trail
Part of being a responsible FFL holder, regardless of which type of FFL you hold, is understanding the paper trail involved with every transaction. Before 2022, all of the forms you would use, such as form 4473 were to be kept for 20 years. Recently the laws have been relaxed enough to allow for the electronic storage of 4473 forms so long as the electronic forms meet the storage and data safety standards issued by the ATF.
The application for an FFL is much easier if your business model is just you. You will only have to supply information on yourself and your business. When more people are involved, the process is much more time-consuming and costly.
Overall, the initial application is not overly difficult to complete if you have all of the information available. You want to make sure that all of your business facts are handy and in compliance with local, state, and federal laws.
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