Tuesday, June 16, 2009

a visit from "the bureau"

wow. thirty years as an ffl and i had exactly three on-site inspections from atf. and while i had a couple of interactions with the fdle (florida dept. of law enforcement) related to gun transactions that would allow enhanced charges against defendants in ongoing cases, i sure as hell never had, or expected to have, a visit from the f.b.i. but that's just what happened to clint last week.

one thing is sure; being a firearms dealer is different now. i sold my pawn store to clint at the end of '05 but had already dropped my ffl a year before rather than renew for another three years. that would have been my first renewal since 9/11 and what had always been a process of just sending in the renewal form and notating any changes was going to be way more involved; an on-site interview and a much more in-depth inspection of inventory and logs. not that i had anything to hide...i stayed on top of the paperwork to avoid any difficulties and i always thought that the occasional atf trace request to which i responded quickly and accurately helped to avoid more in-person visits.

but the gun business for me, aside from my personal enjoyment, was more of a necessity to be able to accept firearms as loan collateral and buy collections as part of estate purchases rather than as a full-fledged gunshop. yes, i sold quite a few new guns because i liked to keep my cases and racks full and i was the only storefront ffl in town. but i operated on a pretty thin margin to be competitive with wallyworld (they were still full-line gun retailers for most of that time), and i did prepaid special orders at cost plus $50 for any gun. this helped me keep some nice older stuff in stock because of trade-ins, and it's the vintage guns that i enjoyed the most. but eventually the concern for liability helped me make the final decision to drop my licensed status.

but this f.b.i. stuff is a new twist...clint said two agents from miami spent ten minutes in a "get-acquainted" visit, and keyed on asking him to be vigilant and contact them when he suspected anyone or anything of being "unusual", with the implication that they were looing for terrorist profiles and expecting ffl's to do the profiling for them. that's a whole 'nother level of responsibility, liability, and judgement that i for one am glad not to be a part of. i don't know how widespread this f.b.i. contact is, and i'm wondering if it is a veiled scare tactic intended to further reduce the number of licensed dealers. i'd be interested in knowing other ffl's experiences and their sense of what it's really all about.


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