Guns, Survival

Steps to Getting Your Federal Firearms License

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Getting a federal firearms license (FFL) is not as difficult as many folks seem to believe, but it does require completing copious amounts of government forms, and paying a fairly nominal licensing fee.

A federal firearms license is issued by the United States federal government to businesses, individuals, and partnerships. The FFL allows a person or an entity to sell, build, transfer, and in some cases import firearms. All gun shop owners must possess an FFL. The federal firearms license dealer is granted access to all legal gun manufacturers and wholesalers.

Why Do You Need a Federal Firearms License?

If you want to legally sell guns to the public in the United States, the federal government must first issue you a license to do so. Although laws vary by state regarding individual sales between friends at gun shows, it is illegal in every state to operate a gun store, manufacture ammunition, or a pawn shop that handles firearms without a federal firearms license.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Federal Firearms License?

There are nine different types of federal firearms licenses. The fees vary per type of FFL, and range from typically $30 to $200 to for a 3-year license. Each following 3-year period, anyone seeking to retain their FFL must pay $90 for the extension. FFL fees are paid to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives – ATF.

Types of Federal Firearms Licenses

Before laying down money and spending hours filling out forms, you should determine exactly what type of types of FFL will best suit your business needs.

  • 01 FFL License – This type of federal firearms license is designed for gunsmiths and gun dealers. A 01 FLL will permit you to sell, buy, and repair legal firearms. It is the basic FFL license and typically costs $200 for a 3-year period of operation.
  • 02 FFL License – This federal firearms license is designed for use by pawnbrokers. An 02 FFL allows you to do everything covered by a 01 FFL but also to take legal firearms on consignment. This type of license is growing in popularity over the 01 because of the extra flexibility it gives gun shop owners.
  • 03 FFL License – A collector of relics and curios license is best served by this type of federal firearms license. It is commonly referred to as the “C&R FFL”. It allows for the legal collection of relic and curio firearms. A holder cannot buy or sell firearms with a C&R FFL. It typically costs only $30 for a 3-year license period.
  • 06 FFL License – The manufacturer of ammunition for firearms license allows the holder to make legal ammunition for firearms. Making armor piercing ammunition is prohibited under this license.
  • • 07 FFL License – The Manufacturer of Firearms & Ammunition is one of, if not the, most popular federal firearms license. You can do all activities covered by the 01 FFL, as well as make and assemble ammunition. Typically, a 07 FFL costs $150 for a 3-year period.
  • 08 FFL License – The importer of firearms and ammunition federal firearms license allows the holder to import all legal varieties of firearms – excluding “destructive devices” and armor piercing ammo.
  • 09 FFL License – The dealer in destructive devices federal firearms license allows the holder to deal in firearms with a bore in excess of one half inch, some varieties of semi-automatic shotguns, and grenades. But, even legal destructive devices are banned by civilian ownership in some states. Typically, this license costs about $3,000 for a 3-year period.
  • 10 FFL License – Manufacturer of destructive devices, or armor piercing ammunition. This license entitles the holder to make the types of firearms related weapons and ammo noted in the title. It too costs about $3,000 for a 3-year period.
  • 11 FFL License – The importer of destructive devices, ammunition for destructive devices, or armor piercing ammunition federal firearms license also allows the holder to do exactly as its title states. Expect to pay $3,000 when applying for a 3-year license.

Does the ATF Require an Actual Storefront for FFL Holders?

No. You can operate gun shop right out of your home or garage.

Who Can Apply for a Federal Firearms License?

  • The individual must be at least 21 years of age.
  • The applicant must not be prohibited from possessing, transporting, receiving, or shipping either firearms or ammunition. The same legal and mental health regulation also applies to any member of a business or partnership who has either direct or indirect authority or duties related to the shipping, receiving, possessing, or transporting firearms or ammunition.
  • The FFL applicant must not have willfully failed to disclose any pertinent information, or make any false claims about material facts during the application process.
  • The applicant must have a premises of some type must be available for doing business associated with holding a federal firearms license.

Basic FFL Requirements

  • The type of business that will be conducted with the FFL license must not be prohibited by local or state laws.
  • A federal firearms license applicant has 30 days after the application is approved to ensure they are in compliance with all local and state laws related to the business that will be conducted under the FFL. No business can be conducted until all of the state and local business requirements have been met.
  • Upon application of the FFL license, the applicant must provide an issued form to the chief law enforcement officer in the municipality where the business will be conducted to notify him or her of the intention to apply for a federal firearms license.
  • If the FFL being applied for involves dealing in firearms, the applicant must certify that guns will be kept in a secured storage area, or that safety devices will be attached to the weapons.

Initial Federal Firearms License Application Steps

  1. Visit the ATF website and click on the necessary FFL form – ATF Form 7.
  2. On the same website, click on the Part B Responsible Person Questionnaire and complete.
  3. All federal firearms license applications except those applying for the 03 FFL collector of curios and relics license, must submit a 2-inch by 2-inch photo of each responsible person who will be on the license and one FD-256 fingerprint card for each responsible person on the license.
  4. Mail in the forms with the federal firearms licensing fee to the address noted on the form.
  5. The Federal Firearms Licensing Center – FFLC, will review the application upon receipt.
  6. A background check on the responsible persons noted on the FFL form will be conducted.
  7. The FFL license application will then be sent to the ATF field office in your area. An Industry Operations Investigator (IOI) will conduct an in-person interview with the applicant.
  8. The ATF investigator will compile a report after the interview, and make a recommendation to either approve or deny the federal firearms application.
  9. The supervisor of the ATF IOI will review the report and then submit an approval or denial recommendation to the Federal Firearms Licensing Center.

The approval process typically takes about 60 days from start to finish. If any corrections are needed on the application form, the process will usually take longer. Possessing a concealed carry permit of having been a member of either the military or law enforcement will not speed up the application process.

You will be notified by the ATF of either an approval or a denial. If denied, a reason as to why will be included in the correspondence.

Can You Apply Again If Denied for a Federal Firearms License?

The short answer is yes. But, if the ATF denies the request for a FFL, the applicant must go into great detail to explain why they were rejected. A failed attempt to garner a license could be factored into future application attempts.

FFL Usage After Approval

Below is just an overview of some of the most common federal firearms license requirements. You will be given a detailed list of requirements specific to the type of federal firearms license granted.

  • Detailed records related to business conducted on the FFL must be diligently compiled and kept. Gun dealers are required to keep records of transactions for 20 years. After two decades, the records can be destroyed. If the gun business closes before the 20 year mark, the records must be boxed up and shipped to the ATF office
  • The firearms transactions records must be kept on the premises of the businesses. They are subject to inspection at any time by ATF agents.
  • FFL holders must remain in compliance with IRS filing regulations.
  • When asked to do so by ATF agents, federal firearms license holders must provide information related to the tracing of firearms.

State and local requirements vary for operating a firearms or pawn broker business. Contacting an attorney and/or chief law enforcement officer to ensure you can operate in compliance cannot be highly recommended enough.

Some common state or local federal firearms-related rules and regulations including: zoning restrictions, cash bonds, sales tax collection, and liability insurance.

Local and state laws can change over time. It will be your responsibility to keep up with any changes to remain in compliance. Violating local laws or terms of conditions linked to the federal firearms license cannot only cause it to be revoked, but fines and potentially legal charges being levied.

Tara Dodrill

About Tara Dodrill

Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, 'Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out', Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.
View all posts by Tara Dodrill →

2 thoughts on “Steps to Getting Your Federal Firearms License

  1. Tara,
    I’ve never had an FFL, but I’ve known quite a few people that have, plus I’ve had a lot of dealings with ATF over my years as a police officer.

    First, not everyone can set up a gun selling or smithing business anywhere they want to. Many towns and cities have zoning ordinances that restrict gun businesses severely. New York City being an example on the extreme end of stupid. Other towns just restrict businesses in residential zones regardless of type. The ATF will frequently accede to a town’s request not to grant an FFL because of zoning.

    ATF agents are not created equal. The people assigned to the administrative enforcement end of the agency tend to be pedantic petty bureaucrats. A minor admin error to them is a treasonous offense that should be punished by hanging, drawing, and quartering. Worse, many of them don’t seem to know which end of a firearm the bullet comes out of. But they sure know exactly what goes in Block M of Form 123.

    The agents assigned to arson and explosives seem to be pretty good at what they do. Well worth listening to if you want to learn a thing or two about their trade. They have a very good lab as well.

    The regular enforcement agents, for the most part, seem decent. They are more street cops at heart and tend to think poorly of the admin agents, viewing them as gutless dicks too afraid to work the streets or with arson and explosives.

    In urban areas, they tend to concentrate on illegal guns with gangs and drug dealers (same-o same-o usually). Alcohol and tobacco are low on the urban list unless you’re talking big loads of illegal or untaxed stuff. In rural areas their priority may shift a bit toward booze and cigs. After all, they are the “revenuers.”

    Also, in urban areas, they tend to work with mixed task forces: ATF, FBI, DEA, US Marshalls, state police, sheriffs, local police, etc.

  2. Zulu,

    Thanks for all the added info – great insight! I noted that local laws might have restrictions beyond the ATF rules – which allow for you to set up your gun shop etc. wherever you want, as long as it is in compliance with state and local laws. We do not have any zoning in the county where I live, or permit offices of any type except to put in a septic system. I cannot even imagine living somewhere that you have to get permission to build onto your own home, put up a fence, or open a business wherever you want. Community standards here have always prevented a bar from opening next to a church or any business in a residential neighborhood, etc. It is such a shame common decency is disappearing and the government is regulating so much of our daily lives. No house, building, garage, etc. has ever fallen down because a person build it themselves or a house caught on fire because a handy husband did all of the electrical work, folks just do what they know or call someone to help with a project if they do not.

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