Suppose you’re interested in operating a business that sells firearms through a brick-and-mortar store or an online site. In that case, you might wonder, “What’s an FFL?” or you may already be aware that getting an FFL is essential before you can legally sell guns, ammo, and related items. Whether you plan to operate a gun shop or a pawnbroker interested in selling firearms on a more limited basis, you still need to have the appropriate license (there are different types of FFL licenses) to comply with federal law.
Some of the answers may surprise you. For example, in answer to “How much does it cost to get an FFL?” you’ll discover that the fees are quite affordable. Likewise, you’ll also discover that, while there are nine types of FFL licenses, the first three types should apply to most applicants and merchants.
What’s an FFL?
If you’re wondering, “What’s an FFL?” the short answer is that it’s an acronym for “federal firearms license,” but it can also stand for “federal firearms licensee.” Once approved for an FFL, you’ll legally be an FFL holder or a federal firearms licensee. This designation gives you the right to be an FFL dealer, which means you’ll be able to sell a wide range of guns, ammo, and related accessories, or even work as a gunsmith, building and repairing guns.
How much does it cost to get an FFL? And are there several types of FFL licenses you should know about? If you’re wondering how to get an FFL and curious about costs and licenses, you’ll first need to know that FLL requirements involve an application process and a background check. And while the process is straightforward, you’ll need to be aware of certain issues, such as eligibility requirements, before starting the process. Also, as a merchant, you’ll want to access high-risk merchant account services that accept gun merchants.
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History of FFL Regulation
In discussing “What’s an FFL?” and how to get an FFL, it’s a good idea to first explain some of the federal laws behind gun control regulation.
In accordance with the Federal Firearms Act (FFA) of 1938, all gun manufacturers, dealers, and importers must get a federal firearms license. In addition, the FFA requires licensees to maintain updated customer records and makes firearms transfer (trading or selling a firearm between two parties) illegal to purchasers prohibited from owning a gun.
Similarly, the National Firearms Act (NFA), enacted in 1934, imposed a $200 federal tax on the manufacture, sale, and transfer of specific types of firearms, including machine guns, short-barreled rifles, shotguns, and silencers.
Decades later, the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968 reinforced certain components of the NFA to make it stronger and amended the definition of “firearm” to include machine guns and “destructive devices.”
More recently, the GCA was expanded in 1993 through the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (known as the “Brady Bill”), which requires the completion of all background checks before a gun can be purchased. It also established the 1998 creation of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Just to give you an idea of the scope of this operation, the NICS has conducted, as of 2022, more than 300 million background checks, resulting in more than 1.5 million denials of gun sales.
For a look at individual gun classifications, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 27 contains the codified Federal laws that regulate firearms under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (AFT). These laws clarify the various restrictions on specific types of guns and ammo.
What’s an FFL as it relates to your business? As you can see from the history lesson above, an FFL is essential if you want to sell firearms. And when looking at how to get an FFL, it’s important to understand that these vital regulations are part of the FFL approval process and must be followed carefully.
Once you’re ready to start your gun shop or pawnbroking business, Bankcard can help you get the payment processing services you need to streamline operations and keep customers coming back. With Bankcard, you can get approved for all types of payment methods, and have access to various invoicing and management solutions that can take your business to the next level.
How to get an FFL: Getting started
Now that we’ve answered “What’s an FFL?” it’s time to look at how to get an FFL. Once we’ve discussed the application process, we’ll answer the questions “What are the different types of FFL licenses?” and “How much does it cost to get an FFL?”
Starting with how to get an FFL, you’ll first need to check out the basic FFL eligibility requirements. To get approved for an FFL, you must:
- Be at least 21 years of age
- Be a US citizen or a legal permanent US resident
- Not use illegal drugs
- Not be a convicted felon
- Not have been convicted of a domestic violence crime
- Not be under restraining order due to threatening, harassing, or stalking an intimate partner or child
- Not be convicted of other types of offenses that would automatically disqualify you from gun ownership
- Not be declared mentally incompetent
- Not have violated federal gun laws
- Not have renounced US citizenship
- Not have been dishonorably discharged from the US military
- Must operate from a physical location, such as a home or storefront
- Must meet all the requirements for operating an FFL from your location
When discussing “What’s an FFL?” it’s important to understand that not everyone may be eligible for one. If you have any concerns about these requirements, you might want to talk to a lawyer about your rights and eligibility status.
How to get an FFL: Taking the right steps
Concerning how to get an FFL, here are the steps you’ll need to take:
- Get a license application from ATF.gov.
- Complete and mail the ATF form application and the licensing fee to the address listed on the form.
- Complete an in-person interview with an industry operations (IOI) investigator. During this interview, the investigator will answer the question “What’s an FFL?” with a comprehensive overview of the license, its regulations, and its responsibilities. This meeting also allows you to ask questions about the different types of FFL licenses and compliance for your business.
Once the IOI representative makes their report and the Federal Firearms Licensing Center (FFLC) has reviewed your application, the area supervisor will decide whether to approve or deny it. This process, from the time your application was received, should take about 60 days. Once approved and all background checks have been completed, the FFLC will issue your FFL.
We’ve discussed “What’s an FFL?” and how to get an FFL, so it’s time now to answer the questions “How much does it cost to get an FFL?” and “What are the different types of FFL license?” In addition, we’ll also want to discuss the responsibilities of having an FFL and how you can stay compliant.
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What are the different types of FFL licenses?
In looking at what’s an FFL, it’s important to know that there are different types of FFL licenses. The type you apply for will be based on the class of firearms you’re planning to sell.
According to the ATF website, the different types of FFL licenses include:
01: Dealer in firearms (other than destructive devices)
02: Pawnbroker in firearms (other than destructive devices)
03: Collector of curios and relics
06: Manufacturer of firearm ammunition (other than for destructive devices or armor piercing)
07: Firearms manufacturer (other than destructive devices)
08: Firearms/ammunition dealers or importers (other than destructive devices/ armor-piercing ammunition)
09: Dealer in destructive devices
10: Manufacturer of destructive devices, ammunition for destructive devices, or armor-piercing ammunition
11: Importer of destructive devices, ammunition for destructive devices, or armor-piercing ammunition
Type 01, 02, or 03 would be appropriate for most people when looking at the different types of FFL licenses. As the wording implies, Type 01 refers to gun shop owners or dealers, Type 02 to pawnbrokers, and Type 03 to collectors. The other types refer primarily to armaments industry manufacturers and dealers for the military.
How much does it cost to get an FFL?
As for the question “How much does it cost to get an FFL?” the answer depends upon the type of FFL you’re applying for. FFLs can cost anywhere from $30 to $3,000, but the good news is that most applicants will end up paying between $150 and $200 for their license. For this article, we’ll be discussing the cost of the first three FFL types, as these are the most common license types granted.
How much does it cost to get an FFL?
Type 01: Firearms dealer (or gunsmith): $200.
Type 02: Pawnbroker/dealer in firearms: $150
Type 03: Gun collector: $30
How much does it cost to get an FFL renewal?
Type 01: $90
Type 02: $90
Type 03: $30
When considering how much it costs to get an FFL, it’s also a good idea to factor in the renewal cost in your budget. However, the good news is that you only need to renew the license every three years.
Benefits and responsibilities of having an FFL
Here’s how an FFL can help you boost sales:
- Allows you to sell, receive, or ship firearms from your place of business (which can also be your home)
- Allows you to sell firearms at trade shows
- Allows you to repair guns and even produce your guns and gun designs
With benefits, however, come responsibilities. Here’s what you’ll need to do so your business remains compliant with ATF regulations:
- Stay updated on your license, and be sure to renew it in a timely manner.
- Stay vigilant in conducting all required age, residency, and background checks on gun purchasers.
- Operate within the boundaries of your license.
- Abide by all current gun laws in your state and city.
- Contact ATF representatives if you have any questions concerning your FFL or if you have any concerns about a gun sale.
- If you see any red flags with a customer, don’t complete the sale until you’ve spoken with an ATF representative. As a firearms merchant, you’re within your rights to refuse a sale if you’re not satisfied with the customer’s credentials.
An FFL is an essential component for gun shop owners, but it can also be an asset for pawnbrokers. And by staying compliant, renewing your license regularly, and being conscientious, alert, and aware of your sales and customers, you shouldn’t have any problems retaining your FFL for as long as you need it.
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