How to Obtain an FFL
While the sale and manufacture of guns and ammunition in the United States has been regulated at the federal level since 1938, the requirement to hold a Federal Firearms License (FFL) to be able to perform these activities within one state and between customers in other states has been in place since 1968. The Gun Control Act of 1968 radically revamped the federal licensing laws in response to the assassinations of Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Kennedy, the latter of which was committed with a surplus military rifle lawfully imported from Italy.
The Act established the FFL to ensure that only individuals or businesses who had been vetted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) and granted an FFL could manufacture, import, and/or sell guns and ammunition in the country. The FFL program is still administered through the BATFE which is commonly referred to as the ATF.
Step 1: Determine What Type of FFL Should You Apply For
Currently there are nine (9) different types of licenses available, of which eight (8) are licenses to conduct business or manufacture. The ninth license known as Type 3, is for collectors only and does not require the level of disclosure as the other licenses. The license types cover different groups of businesses – dealers, importers, pawnbrokers, and manufacturers – and different types of products – firearms other than destructive devices, destructive devices, ammunition other than armor-piercing ammunition, ammunition for destructive devices, and armor-piercing ammunition. Depending on the activity and destructive nature of the object, the fees range from $30 to $3,000. It is possible to get multiple different licenses, but all are valid for a period of three years. Note that the sale of ammunition alone does not require an FFL.
A great place to start in determining what type of license you need is with the courses offered by RocketFFL, which specializes in online step-by-step guidance in applying for an FFL. As a brief overview, here are the three most common types of licenses and fees. Type 1 licenses deal with sales of firearms other than destructive devices for gun dealers. Type 2 licenses also deal with sales of firearms other than destructive devices but for pawnbrokers. Both licenses cost $200 each. Type 7 licenses deal with manufacturing firearms other than destructive devices and cost $150. More information can be found in our FFL section.
Step 2: Considerations Before You Apply
Now that you have decided on what type of FFL you want to apply for, you are still not ready to start filling out the application. There are several issues you need to address before you can file with the ATF. The most important of these is whether the business location you have chosen in which to operate complies with local and state zoning laws. It is not uncommon for gun stores to be prohibited near schools, parks, hospitals, and other potentially vulnerable locations. You need to know that your location is zoned correctly for what you are looking to do before you apply. You must also certify under penalty of perjury to the ATF in the application that the business is not prohibited by any applicable state or local laws.
Step 3: Start Your Application
The next step is to prepare your application. You must provide information about the physical location of your business, the zoning of the area where the business is located, and the hours of operation of the business with at least one hour in which you could be contacted by ATF personnel. You must submit a properly prepared fingerprint card and 2” x 2” photo taken within the last six months. Finally, you must provide the name of the Chief Law Enforcement Office (CLEO) of your area so that you can send them a copy of the FFL application. The CLEO will be local chief of police, county sheriff, chief of the state police, or the local or state district attorney. For FFL applicants that are entities such as a partnership or corporation, the copy should be sent to the CLEO of the location of the principal place of business. Once you have filed the application, you must send a copy to the CLEO so that if the CLEO has information that may disqualify you from holding the FFL license, they can share it with the ATF.
In addition to your application, you may also have to submit a questionnaire/ATF form for any Responsible Person who directly or indirectly has the power to direct or cause the direction of the management, policies, and practices of your firearms business. Typically, a Responsible Person is someone associated with the corporation, partnership or association that is seeking to hold the FFL. These individuals must also submit a properly prepared fingerprint card and appropriate photo.
Be sure to review the required certifications in the application including that you will provide secure gun storage or safety devices at any place in which firearms are sold to any person who is not a licensee and that you have submitted a copy of the FFL application to the CLEO of your locality.
Step 4: File Your Application and Interview
When you submit your completed application, you must also pay the application fee which is determined by the type of license you are seeking. This fee is refunded if the license is not granted. The application must be submitted by mail. It cannot be filed online.
Once the application is filed, you are required to submit to an in-person interview with an Industry Operations Investigator who will discuss with you your obligations under federal, state, and local law as well as review your application for accuracy. They will submit a report about the interview with their recommendations for approval or denial and the ATF field office supervisor for the area will make the final determination. The process should take 60 days from receipt of a properly completed application.
If you want assistance in this process, look no further than RocketFFL, which specializes in providing online assistance for obtaining an FFL.
RocketFFL offers online courses designed to easily walk you through the FFL application proccess step-by-step. Using RocketFFL to receive your FFL license enables access to a community of other FFL owners. For peace of mind, RocketFFL also offers a no questions asked 60-day money back guarantee. For more information on RocketFFL, visit their about page.