As the Founder and National Coordinating Counsel for FFLGuard, I deal with hundreds upon hundreds of Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) each day. As part of the FFLGuard Program, these FFLs already do as President Obama has recently asked: they police themselves. In fact, by following FFLGuard’s “Law Plus Guidelines,” these FFLs are already committed to DO MORE in their operations than Federal law, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) rules and regulations, require them to do. In return, these folks get legal support from me and my team. I have the best lawyer job in the country.
My FFLGuard clients, all FFLs regulated by ATF, face what I perceive to be unfair competition by those who sell guns but who don’t face regulation by the government. It’s a double standard that creates obstacles for honest folks trying to make a living with the very LEGAL business of selling firearms and their accoutrement. Now, this is not to say that honest gun owners who are NOT “engaged in the business” of selling firearms shouldn’t be able to do so. That phrase — “engaged in the business” — has been the subject of scrutiny and interpretation for some time by the government, by the firearms industry, and by gun owners themselves. No one can pin down when someone is “engaged in the business” or not.
Well let me help with that.
If you use a commercial advertising platform to sell firearms, then you are engaged in the business. Period. You should have an FFL.
What’s a commercial advertising platform, you ask? Well, if you’re using the Internet to sell something (like using Facebook, or GunBroker, or ArmsList or Twitter or Match.com or ANYTHING like that)… that’s a commercial advertising platform that a licensed dealer would use. If you’re presenting your wares in a public place… that’s a commercial advertising platform that a licensed dealer would use. If you’re placing ads — either traditional or classified — in the newspaper or a magazine… do I really need to say it? You need an FFL, and you need to get proctological exams — er, I meant “get audited” — by the ATF like everyone else selling firearms. It’s only fair.
This in no way inhibits the casual gun seller and Second Amendment proponent (which I happen to be) from selling an occasional firearm in my collection to a fellow enthusiast from my home state. Or selling one to my neighbor, or to my cousin, or to anyone that they may know, or to any friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who wants to buy my gun. The second that I start to “pretend” that I’m in the business by using a commercial advertising platform, well…. I need a license. Question: What if I inherit a large collection and want to sell them off piece-by-piece? Answer: You sell them as a lot to an FFL and keep a few for yourself, or sell one or two to your friends and kin. You don’t advertise that you have guns for sale, you don’t acquire other guns to sell with the inherited ones, and so on and so on.
Now, if we want to simply replace the “engaged in the business” debate with a “commercial advertising platform” debate instead, then we can run in this vicious, chest-beating circle forever. And since I personally hate when the left tries to tell me what’s reasonable or what amounts to common sense, I’m not even worried about going there. Because if you want to sell guns but can’t figure out what a “commercial advertising platform” is, then there’s a lot bigger issues in play than squabbling over word play. This is not landing a man on the moon stuff. Like Supreme Court Justice Stewart opined famously about obscenity, “I know it when I see it.” That counts here, too.
Let me break it down even further: if you are using anything other than “word-of-mouth,” then you are using a commercial advertising platform… and, hell, even that can be abused. But, as the wise man once said, it is what it is. You gotta start somewhere.
And let’s address the elephant in the room: To suggest that I’m anything but right-leaning and pro-gun puts your sanity in question. My sole job in life is to help FFLs put hundreds of thousands of firearms into the stream-of-commerce and for them to profit handsomely from it. The bottom line is if FFLs need to face down the barrel of an ATF inspection to earn a living, then you do too if you want to sell guns.
Of course, I am happy to discuss my thoughts with anyone on any side of the aisle. I don’t know much about a lot of things, but I happen to know a lot about this one thing.
PS: Adding 250 more folks to work a deficient NICS system is like adding additional pit crew to service a racecar missing a wheel. (That sounds a lot more original than “rearranging (or, in this case, adding) deck chairs on the Titanic.”) Like the National Shooting Sports Foundation has said for a LONG time, let’s #FixNICS first, and then expand that pit crew!