By Lee Williams
The Biden-Harris administration is not hiding their goal of eliminating as many gun dealers as possible. They recently ordered the ATF to start revoking Federal Firearm Licenses for even the most minor of paperwork issues. This level of weaponization is unprecedented, even for the ATF.
It’s clear that the administration mistakenly believes that if they reduce the number of gun dealers, they will reduce the number of guns. Unfortunately, the White House is unaware that criminals don’t purchase their firearms from federally licensed gun dealers. They get them the old-fashioned way, by stealing them or buying them on the black market from other criminals.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation warned about Biden’s likely weaponization of the ATF during the 2020 presidential campaign. “[Biden] and Vice-President Harris said separately they were looking to weaponize the ATF against the firearm industry,” said NSSF spokesman Mark Oliva. “We predicted this and we are seeing them turning the ATF into a bludgeon against the FFLs.”
For gun dealers, one key to fighting back against Biden’s overreach, Oliva said, are the services and advice of FFL Consultants, which the NSSF provides free to its members. “They are extremely successful and value-added to NSSF,” Oliva said.
FFL Consultants’ mantra is “get it right the first time,” according to cofounder John “JB” Bocker.
“Our goal is to prevent an incident from occurring,” Bocker said. “Our goal is prevention – get it right the first time. We are the proactive and preventative arm of the NSSF.”
Bocker and cofounder John “JC” Clark realized long ago that a gun dealer’s ability to succeed depends on their ability to “access, comprehend, understand and train to the requirements of both federal and state oversight organizations.” Bocker and Clark support licensed gun dealers across the country, from smalltime hobbyists and gunsmiths to large firearm manufacturers, importers and exporters.
Founded in 2016, FFL Consultants supports all NSSF members. “Anyone can call us,” Bocker said. “We realize the dealer usually has a customer standing in front of them waiting at the gun counter, so we promise 24/7, 365-day live answering – one of us always answers the phone.”
There were far fewer issues to resolve under the Trump administration, Bocker said. Now, unfortunately, business is booming. “The Biden administration – in my opinion, speaking as an independent consultant – is grasping at straws,” Bocker said. “The arm-brace issue is a little scary. We hear there have been 13 million sold in America over the past five years. What will people do with them if they’re no longer legal – register, dismantle, detach? There’s been no guidance for gun dealers who are holding all of this merchandise in stock.”
“Pre-Biden,” Bocker said, the ATF’s attitude was “If you have an error, call us and we’ll help you correct it.” Now, local control and discretion has been removed from the agents and the agency. “It’s the Attorney General’s Office making the decisions,” Bocker said. “Everything goes through D.C.”
Bocker cited as an example the owner of a multi-million-dollar gun store and range that never had a serious compliance issue before. Now, they’re negotiating with attorneys so the owner can surrender his FFL rather than face revocation, all because an employee misread a background check and allowed a firearm to be temporarily transferred to a prohibited person.
The employee caught her error, and the gun dealer called the customer. The weapon was recovered and the whole error was immediately reported to their local ATF inspector. Still, during an audit three months later, even though the gun shop had self-reported the transfer to a prohibited person and corrected the error, a revocation of the FFL was ordered.
“That’s one of the ugliest ones and the most impactful,” Bocker said. “There is a very short list of important pieces of a regulatory process that all must be perfect. The sad part is that we have humans running these stores who can make mistakes.”
Mark Glavin owns the Fox Valley Shooting Range in Elgin, Illinois.
Glavin first met John Bocker at the SHOT Show in 2017, after being introduced by the NSSF. Glavin was a self-described “gun industry outsider” who had a dream of owning a gun shop and indoor range, but no knowledge or practical experience in how to make it happen.
“As we progressed from an idea to a business plan to getting through the regulatory hurdles, they helped us out from a logistics perspective,” Glavin said. “I was not from the gun industry. I was walking in blind. FFL Consultants helped guide us through city and ATF regulations. Our city needed a security plan. We spent half a day with John back and forth on the phone. He recommended some additional safeguards, which we used, and we were able to produce a document substantial enough for the city to give approval.
“They showed us things we were doing wrong and the steps to take to correct it. They did mock audits with us, which proved extremely beneficial, especially during our first year,” Glavin said. “The FFL Consultants help an FFL stay out of hot water with the ATF. We’ve been open for four years now – two during COVID, so we have not had a visit from the ATF. They’re help will prove out when we get our first ATF audit and walk away with our FFL. I strongly recommend them. I definitely value having them on speed dial.”
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This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and is published here with their permission.