So many things have changed in my lifetime. Over the last thirty to forty years, small independent businesses have declined in numbers and market share. Online retailers have been eating away at the market share of local brick and mortar stores at a rapid pace. If you buy a gun online, it still has to ship to an FFL for a background check and transfer. So what does the future hold for our local gun stores?
The Covid Pandemic has transformed the landscape in more ways than one. The news this morning was all about the decrease in Life Expectantcy by one and one-half years in the United States. This was the largest decline since World War II and the first time we've seen it drop two years in a row in over 100 years. I've seen reports that more than 1 million small businesses were shuttered by Covid-19. That's businesses that closed and are not coming back.
Store owners that have the capability to diversify their offerings to more than just guns and ammunition sales stand the best chance of survival. Related products and services might include such things as training classes, indoor and outdoor ranges, clothing, hunting and camping gear and even gun rentals. There are barriers to market entry for certain of these. I recently spoke to a local gun store owner who told me he wanted to open an indoor range but his insurance agent quoted the liability insurance premiums at $30,000 annually, which were out of his reach.
My eight year-old granddaughter accompanied me on a recent trip to one of the local gun stores and she came home with a pair of Sig Sauer Binoculars. She's used them on every visit to Papa's house since. Exploring and spying on squirrels and birds has become a new adventure.
These Zulu 3 binoculars are wide field of view, 8x32mm 7.5 degrees, 10x32mm 6.5 degrees. Given as the first number in a binocular description (e.g., 7×35, 10×50), magnification is the ratio of the focal length of the objective divided by the focal length of the eyepiece. This gives the magnifying power of binoculars (sometimes expressed as "diameters"). A magnification factor of 7, for example, produces an image 7 times larger than the original seen from that distance.
It seems to me, that over the years, Local Gun Stores and Pawn Shops have almost become synonymous. There are also stores that sell only used guns, only new guns or both. Many gun stores today sell both in store and online.
By the way, just in case you are wondering what's up with the photos... My (almost 9 year-old) assistant took and chose the photos for this article. Grandkids are so much fun!
The juxtaposition of my online product links and my calling for my readers to support their local gun store is not lost on me. There really is no reason that you can't be an online buyer of goods and support your LGS. I do. In fact, I go out of my way to support the local businesses and have often paid more for items, just to give them my business.
A very interesting email arrived in my inbox as I was preparing to write this article encouraging everyone to support their local gun store. The subject of the email message read ATF FFL ALERT - Federal Firearms Licensee Seminar August 2022. After reading my invitation to this FFL Seminar, I decided to delay writing my article and attend this conference to see what I might learn about the future of the gun industry. Continue reading below.
The seminar will be held on Wednesday, August 31, 09:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the Priceville Town Hall, located at 242 Marco Drive, Decatur, AL 35603. You and your employees are invited and encouraged to attend the seminar. This seminar is for licensees, their employees, and authorized representatives only. This event is not open to the public.
The purpose of the seminar is to acquaint you with the most recent firearms regulations, give you an opportunity to ask questions, and get to know some of the ATF personnel.
At the seminar, you will:
You will also hear presentations from representatives from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and the ATF Criminal Enforcement Groups responsible for Northern Alabama. If your business has never been inspected by ATF, it is strongly suggested that you and/or one of your representatives attend the seminar.
With only one week advance notice, I had to reorganize my schedule. Actually, I was very excited to have the learning opportunity and responded to my email invitation in the affirmitive immediately. When I arrived at the seminar 20 minutes early, it was standing room only with more than 190 attendees. Fortunately they were able to bring in extra folding chairs.
Certain recent changes to gun regulations went into force just last week. One of those new changes had to do with who is a gunsmith by definition. Since people have started 3-D printing guns which are defined as Privately Made Firearms, portions of the regulations were updated to address this new activity.
The speaker had no slides to present so I did not take a photo. He talked about "straw purchases", which is the criminal act where a firearm is bought by one person on behalf of another who is legally unable to make the purchase themselves. The speaker also discussed the fact that gun traffickers can buy guns in Alabama and take them to New York and sell them for twice what they paid for them.
Absent extraordinary circumstances... ATF will seek to revoke the licenses of dealers the first time that they violate federal law by willfully
The presenter described these five violations as Zero Tolerance violations in which the ATF has no option other than to revoke the license of the offender.
Those 5 violations that will result in the immediate revocation of a Dealer's license seem fair and straight-forward on the face of things, right? Ah, but the devil is in the details, as the agent explained. He gave an example of a dealer running a background check on a buyer, then the dealer calls the buyer to come pick up their gun. The buyer says "I'm on vacation and will come in when I return." If too many days elapse before the buyer picks up his or her gun, the dealer is required to perform the check again.
In addition to that example where an FFL might inadvertantly be guilty of violating rule #2, he gave this example of a rule #3 violation. If a dealer subsequently discovers an error on the gun sale paperwork, the dealer may not be able to simply make the correction on the original paperwork. The FFL may be required to call the customer back in, make a copy of the original paperwork, make the correction on the copy and staple it to the incorrect original document.
The speaker stated that 236,000 checks were performed in a 17 hour period recently. In 2022 year-to-date, there have been 79,694 Denials out of the 18 million checks.
When a person tries to buy a firearm, the seller, known as a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL), contacts NICS electronically or by phone. The prospective buyer fills out the ATF form, and the FFL relays that information to the NICS. The NICS staff performs a background check on the buyer. That background check verifies the buyer does not have a criminal record or isn't otherwise ineligible to purchase or own a firearm.
Since it's inception in 1998, the Average Denial Rate is 1.26%.
Databases shared by NICS:
It is interesting to note, that often times it is State Laws that govern the denial of a handgun purchase. The speaker informed us that in the State of Massachusetts there is a 2 1/2 year jail sentence for a First DUI Conviction which will result in no guns for that person for the rest of their life. An Assault Conviction as a result of a bar fight in Maryland can also have the same result.
There are approximately 6 million people prohibited from gun ownership because of Mental Health Records. One new development, is a 10-Day Hold (business days) on any person between the Ages of 18-20 attempting to buy a long gun.
Once again, state laws can be the over-riding factor on a potential gun buyer being denied or delayed. The example he gave, is in Florida the law says the buyer must be Age 21 to buy a gun. Even if an 18 year-old travels across state lines to Alabama to make the purchase, his home state rules still apply.
In the objectives they laid out for the seminar the ATF stated we would learn about the inspection process. They never really addressed the topic. I expected one of the speakers to tell us how we would be notified of an inspection, i.e., mail, telephone call or email. I also expected to learn what to expect, perhaps how to prepare for an audit. Maybe ATF inspections are supposed to be unannounced, if so, they could have told us that.
Nor did they cover the most common violations found by ATF investigators during compliance investigations, as promised in the outline. I believe that I've reported the single most important take-away from the seminar, which is the Zero Tolerance or 5 Deadly Sins as I will call them.
The first speaker was from the FBI (the Liaison Officer between FBI and ATF). That guy talked for 2 out of the 3 hours. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was mentioned as an aside or after-thought in the announcement, but took more time than everyone else combined.
The FBI Liaison guy was there with one mission, he wants everyone to do NICS checks online instead of by telephone. I totally understand why. I have an online appointment scheduler at my office and if a client calls my office to make an appointment, one of my front office ladies uses that same online scheduler to schedule the appointment for the client. This guy said that is what happens at his call center, his people are doing the online request for the caller.
Disclaimer: As a Private Collector, I've never been a dealer or worked for one, so perhaps I'm not in the best position to evaluate a lot of the information the ATF presented today. Still, I give them A+ for effort. I counted at least 5 businesses that had 3 or more people there. If the facility won't hold the people, they should limit dealers to 2 representatives attending. There were several people standing throughout the seminar due to lack of seating.
The subject of boating accidents never came up.
After I realized my article did not include a single photo of a gun, I felt I should randomly insert at least one. So here's my 1962 Colt Python. I feel better now.
The presenters at this seminar all did an excellent job of conveying important information to the Federal Firearm Licensees in attendance. More than 190 people attended this event and gave the speakers their full attention for more than 3 hours. There are many Rules and Regulations that your local gun store owner must strictly adhere to.
If you receive an email invitation out of the blue to a seminar being put on by the ATF, no it's not a scam. And no, it's not a set-up. They're not laying a trap to arrest you. I encourage you to go. It was well worth the time.
The potential liabilities that every local gun store (LGS) owner faces are tremendous. So the next time you're driving by that store, stop in and thank him or her for taking on those responsibilities and give them some of your business.