Editor's Update: Readers please see the related after-publication update from NSSF at the end of this article.
U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) has started a phone outreach program to Federal Firearms License holders (FFLs) because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
In an email obtained by AmmoLand News, ATF Field Management Staff Deputy Chief Kyle Lallenstack ask Industry Operations Investigators (IOIs) to start calling FFLs and engage in “outreach” to meet inspection targets. The email references the need for social distancing protocols as well as dealing with state-mandated business closures and stay at home orders. Lallenstack states that the ATF foresees these restrictions on personal contact lasting weeks, if not months.
The email reads: “We recognize that in-person contact during inspections and outreach initiatives will likely be severely constrained for weeks if not months, and that limited in-person contacts IOIs must engage in as the crisis continues (e.g., responding to FFL thefts) must employ maximum safety protocols to limit the potential exposure of industry, the public, and the IOIs.”
The target of these phone calls will be firearms stores that the ATF has not inspected in years. The IOIs will need to inform the FFL holders that the phone conversation is strictly voluntary. Gun rights advocates who have seen the emails worry that FFL holders that refuse to speak over the phone to the ATF IOI will be moved to the top of the inspection list once inspections resume. There is also no way for the FFL holder to verify the person they are talking to is an actual ATF employee and not someone trying to get information on the firearms stored at the business.
The ATF developed a ATF Telephone Outreach Initiative Script and survey to use on the phone calls. The guide gives the IOI a script to initiate the call with the FFL. The script reads:
“Your participation in this call is voluntary, and this is NOT an inspection. Given the current pandemic, we are attempting to limit your and our exposure to COVID 19 by limiting our in-person, face-to-face interaction to the extent possible while still accomplishing our mission of protecting the public and reducing violent crime. As you may be aware, ATF frequently conducts FFL seminars to informally communicate with licensees in which we engage in discussions about current issues in the industry, relevant regulations, and suggestions of best practices. These seminars help ensure we all work together to enhance the safety of our communities. Since we cannot do that type of outreach under existing circumstances, we are calling you today to reassure you that ATF is accessible and available to answer your questions throughout this challenging time. We would like to spend a few minutes providing you our contact information and an opportunity to ask any questions you may have. We’d also like to ask a few questions about your current operations to help us assess how to best support you and apply ATF resources towards public safety in these challenging times.”
The guide asks the IOI to verify all information about the business, including the business name, address, email, and responsible person. The inspector will then ask the FFL to give them a summary of the company. The ATF is trying to figure out if the FFL is a traditional gun store, an internet vendor, or sells firearms at gun shows.
ATF Telephone Outreach Initiative Script 2020
The IOI will then ask the FFL holder to explain to them how they are using their license. They will go further and ask the business owner if they have any questions on the 4473 form or their acquisition and deposition records. The IOI will upload all the information they collect into the ATF’s system.
Gun rights advocates worry that not only can the questions the IOI ask the licensees about the FFL's operations be used against them in the future, but the questions the FFL holder asks the IOI can be used by the ATF to target them during future inspections. If an FFL has a question on how to log a specific firearm into their A&D book, then that can lead the IOI to the conclusion that there might be errors in the logbook. Nowhere in the document does it tell the IOI to inform the FFL holder that they will log their responses into the ATF system
Gun right groups worry that the ATF could be on a “fishing” expedition. Calls to the ATF for comment were not returned by the time of publication.
Editor's Note: after the initial publication of this article we received this related update from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
NSSF ATF Reaching Out to Firearm Retailers
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives will be reaching out to firearm retailers by phone starting next week to ensure licensed dealers have all necessary information during the pandemic.
Retailers will be reminded their participation is voluntary and the calls are not a compliance inspection or a prelude to one.
The calls are to reassure firearm retailers the ATF is available to assist with regulatory compliance, including answering new or unique questions that may arise during these unusual circumstances.
Firearm retailers will be provided ATF contact information and website resources for ready assistance. NSSF® thanks the ATF for the outreach and the continued positive relationship with the industry.
Together, the ATF and NSSF helps prevent crime and wrongful possession of firearms through partnership programs including Don’t Lie for the Other Guy™, Operation Secure Store®, and matching reward programs.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. He is the former CEO of Veritas Firearms, LLC and is the co-host of The Patriot News Podcast which can be found at www.blogtalkradio.com/patriotnews. John has written extensively on the patriot movement including 3%'ers, Oath Keepers, and Militias. In addition to the Patriot movement, John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and is currently working on a book on leftist deplatforming methods and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, on Facebook at realjohncrump, or at www.crumpy.com.