By Anonymous

I’m opposed to universal background checks, but I won’t do business with a stranger without a 4473 and stolen firearms check because I’d rather police myself than have someone do it for me. Context is everything. In full disclosure, I work in the firearms business. I’m in my seventh year as a gun dealer and my company ships more than 10,000 firearms per year. Most transactions are dealer-to-dealer transfers and I receive all kinds of correspondence from the ATF regarding changes and focuses on firearms laws . . .

Additionally, my company’s FFL license is under a corporate name, so I am not required to log my personal firearms under the FFL and my personal purchases and sales are performed like any other non-dealer. Finally, I do as much continuing education through the ATF and the commercial branch of the National Shooting Sports Foundation as I can in order to remain compliant with the Feds. I must do this so my company stays in business. I’m also a “gun guy” and come from a “gun family”. My mother, father, sister, brother in law, and I all have our carry permits and shoot frequently.  My girlfriend is taking the steps necessary to apply for her permit soon. Magazines and ammo are safe bets at Christmas time.

I elect to require a 4473 when buying, selling, and trading guns for a couple of very good reasons. First, I don’t want to sell a gun to someone who shouldn’t legally have one. Violence is real. You can’t judge a book by its cover, and we have all walked amongst monsters and probably didn’t know it. While it would be foolish to assume that all of America’s violent citizens have faced some type of conviction for their crimes, at least some of them have and that disqualifies them from owning a firearm. I don’t know what that guy looks like.  He could be the smiling 50 year old in chinos and a Polo.  He could be the black man in his work uniform. He could be anybody. On the flipside, the man in the motorcycle club vest with tattoos and giant piercings could have a cleaner record than my own. I don’t know. A NICS check can help determine that. Not prove. Help. I don’t feel the least bit guilty keeping a gun out of a violent person’s hands.

Beyond my own moral convictions, I want to minimize my legal exposure should the gun that I sold be used in the commission of a crime. I would imagine the legal process would be expensive and overall a pain in the ass whether a background check was required or not. I’d rather take my chances with a 4473 as a backer, however.  By requiring buyers to fill out a 4473 in my personal transactions, I’m doing my best to absolve myself of whatever happens with that firearm after it leaves my hands.

Again, I don’t know what a bad guy looks like and I’d rather be a neutral party rather than a qualifying party.  After all, the only legal requirement that we have is the presumption that the person we’re selling a gun is legally allowed to own one. What does that guy look like? Again, your guess is as good as mine.  Should that firearm be used to commit a crime, I could honestly say that I took verified, documented precautions to keep that gun out of the hands of a bad guy.

Finally, I hate a thief. I hate losing money and I have deep empathy for folks who are the victims of gun theft. My family has experienced gun theft. My uncle still looks for a 6E Ithaca that was stolen more than 30 years ago. It will turn up eventually.  Maybe he’ll get it back.  The good news for victims of firearms theft is the ATF keeps a stolen firearms database if you file a police report noting your stolen guns and you can provide serial number information.  KEEP SERIAL NUMBER RECORDS. If you walk away with anything from this article, walk away knowing how important it is to catalog your firearms collection. Nobody can help you when you don’t know your guns’ serial numbers.

When buying or selling a firearm and a dealer is involved, dealers can request a serial number check to make sure that the gun that she’s buying, selling, or shipping is legit.  Here’s the kicker: as much as the ATF says they care about recovering stolen firearms, they discourage “curiosity checks” and will ban a dealer from accessing the stolen firearms database if they believe that the dealer is using the database to check firearms that aren’t in their immediate possession. In layman’s terms, the ATF requires that the gun be on-site and in the hands of the dealer before they can run the serial number. The reason being is the ATF will ask local law enforcement to visit the dealer and collect the stolen firearm in order to return it to its rightful owner.

This process is not without some collateral damage.  Most notably, the person who brought in the gun is going to face some questions and no matter what happens, he’s out a gun whether he knew the gun was stolen or not.  As a buyer, if the seller already has his money, the buyer is probably out of luck.  I don’t want to buy a gun, pay for it, find that it’s stolen, and not have my gun or my money. In order to protect myself, I require that all guns go through a dealer and I’ll pay more for the shipping dealer to run the serial once its logged into his bound book. If the gun is stolen, the police scoop it up and I keep my money. If the seller is unwilling to do this, I’m not interested in buying the gun.  No hard feelings, I just don’t think the sale is going to work out.  I don’t think this is unreasonable on either side of the transaction.

So, those are my reasons for personally requiring a background check before buying or selling a gun, even if it’s a private transaction.  I want to sleep well at night.  I want to cover my ass.  I don’t want to deal in stolen goods.  However, I don’t think it should be some blanket law.  There are too many variables and there are WAY too many instances where a required background check is unnecessary and intrusive. If I want to sell my brother in law a shotgun in my garage, I should be able to scrawl out a bill of sale, collect the cash, and call it a day. But when dealing with strangers, I’d rather be safer than sorry.

51 Responses to FNS-40 Contest Entry: Why I Use An FFL For My Private Sales

  1. I am an 01 ffl. I do not believe background checks should exist for anyone, period. Unfortunately, to avoid prosecution, I must perform background checks on all commercial sales.

    The right to bear arms shall not be infringed.

    • I would argue that if a felon released from prison is still a threat to society WITH a gun, they are a threat WITHOUT a gun…and therefore should not be released into society. They’ve paid their dues, they’ve done their time. If they are no longer a threat and are reformed, release them. If they ARE a threat, then they have no business in civilized society. Same thing goes for the crazies. If you are not right in the head and would be dangerous with a gun, you’re dangerous with a car, a knife, a baseball bat, etc. You shouldn’t be walking free if you’re dangerous to society…

      It’s sad we have to limit the rights of free sane people just so we can live amongst monsters. If we put the monsters where they belong, then we can again be a free people.

  2. I’m all for CYA, but would have liked to see you discuss the other side of the coin.
    What “instances where a required background check is unnecessary and intrusive” can you think of?

    • Between family members and close friends. I agree with Anonymous; I’m careful dealing with strangers, but I have a lot of close friends where a simple bill of sale is all that is needed. Thankfully I live in a state where I have the option.

      • I too agree with the anon. Unless I’m dealing with family or a close friend, I only buy when a 4473 is involved. I don’t want to be that guy who buys from someone who reported the gun stolen so he could collect an insurance check.

  3. I’d like to see a background check system similar to the E verify system. If I’m selling you a gun, I get on the site, enter your info and it tells me if you’re eligible or not. Simple as that.
    If choose to print off the eligibility and keep it with a bill of sale, or perform the check at all, that’s my choice and would fall into the CYA the author states but other than letting me know if you are eligible or not, the feds don’t need anything.

    • I too, would love to have a system like this and would even pay for it. Tie the stolen firearm DB into it as well. Type the serial # of the gun and DL or SS # of the buyer in, and you either get a printed bill of sale or you get a deny/stolen gun alert. Easy Peasy.

    • Yeah, here’s the thing, though: no way in hell am I giving my social security number and all the other vital info that you have to put on a 4473 to some dude I found on Armslist or wherever…

      • Fair enough. One work-around would be that you essentially perform the check on yourself, and if you’re clear the website spits out a special alphanumeric code which dies after say 5 business days. You send it to the seller, and he plugs it into the website to verify that it is valid. You could use this number to transfer 0 or 100 firearms for as long as it is valid.

        • What’s to stop the buyer from putting in his mom’s SS number and getting an all-clear code? Either I have to somehow verify the buyer’s identity and ensure it matches what he entered into the background check system (and here we’re back to sharing sensitive ID information), or it’s just more feel-good security theater that wouldn’t keep any guns out of the “wrong hands”. It lets the seller feel like he did something, even if that something amounts to nothing.

          If you’re worried about covering your ass, use an FFL. That way, they can take the heat if something goes wrong.

        • If you’re proposing a government system and not a completely (as in NO government involvement, no laws, etc) private one; how about shall not be infringed?

  4. I could see the rationalization of complying with the letter of the law on the business side but the decision to go above and beyond on the personal side, not so much. From where I sit, it appears as though you actually believe that gun control works. It makes sense that you are reducing your criminal and civil liability by going beyond legal requirements. It makes sense that you are reducing your risk of purchasing a stolen firearm. It makes no sense that it internally satisfies a moral argument unless you actually believe that gun control works and that the government has a right to infringe. You don’t have a moral issue with all of those individuals out there who have had their RKBA illegitimately infringed by our government?

    In full disclosure, I work in the firearms business. I’m in my seventh year as a gun dealer and my company ships more than 10,000 firearms per year.

    I can accept that you’re trying to mitigate potential risk for yourself. You wrote under Anonymous. Perhaps some might choose to avoid business with your company after reading the article. If I knew what company, I might try to avoid doing business, even indirectly, with it as much as possible. So, you probably made a smart choice.

    at least some of them have and that disqualifies them from owning a firearm.

    No, it doesn’t. Are you selling personal firearms in a prison or something?

    I don’t feel the least bit guilty keeping a gun out of a violent person’s hands.

    By requiring buyers to fill out a 4473 in my personal transactions, I’m doing my best to absolve myself of whatever happens with that firearm after it leaves my hands.

    Should that firearm be used to commit a crime, I could honestly say that I took verified, documented precautions to keep that gun out of the hands of a bad guy.

    The masses at TTAG can all go home. We’re done. Last person out; please turn off the lights. We were all wrong. Gun control works. I’m glad that’s finally cleared up!

    • I don’t agree with the current background check system at all, not one bit. But, until it goes away, it’s there, threatening to put you in the federal pen if you screw up. I won’t participate in a private sale without going through a dealer. Not because I don’t want felons having firearms, but because I value my posterior virginity. Since when is covering your ass supporting gun control? If I didn’t have to fear the grey bar hotel over an improper sale, I wouldn’t do it. I don’t always agree with that long, smooth, rural stretch of road having a 35MPH speed limit, but I’ll be damned if I’m getting a speeding ticket because you don’t think you will get caught…..

      • You do realize that on average, you probably commit 3 Federal Felonies a day. So, keep up with your “law abiding” meme. If the government wants you, it will get you.

      • Since when is covering your ass supporting gun control?

        I can sympathize with some of his reasoning. But, look at the quotes I included in context of what the author wrote.

    • Agreed.

      This article is funny. Pro 4473. Pro-registration, pro stolen guns check.

      Basically the writer of this article is saying… I support 4473 transfers/registration because I fear the gov.

      Also, by doing a “stolen firearms check” we are putting the “gun” on a pedestal. I had a surround sound receiver stolen once, they tried to steal my speakers too. However you don’t see me going around wanting a gov agency keeping a registry on my audio system. I would prefer to keep my tax dollars rather than pay for that garbage.

      • This is a different Anonymous than the Anonymous who wrote the article, right? I was very confused when I first read your comment! 😀

        In either event, I agree with what you just wrote. 🙂

        • I am not the writer of this article, No.

          I have no problem buying or selling firearms to people without a form 4473 (and commonly do). The form 4473 does nothing to curb “violence.” It really only serves to provide a papertrail for gun owners. Felons and criminals know they won’t pass a background check with the 4473 and thus don’t fill them out. … Basically the form 4473 is for gun owners with no criminal background… just for common people.

  5. A gun is nothing more than a tool, and as a tool whatever happens to tool or what it is used for isn’t any longer your responsibly when leaves your hands to someone else. Also by supporting backround checks you are willing or not support GunControl.

  6. Fair enough to the op – different strokes.

    But I could understand A. Why this would be more appealing and B. Why it’d be less of a hassle to someone in the firearms industry.

    Regular folks don’t have the resources nor the scrutiny that someone with an FFL doing thousands of sales per year gets.

  7. Also if I sell a gun to someone legally without a backround check, and that person chooses to use that gun to commit a crime how can I liable in any sense?

  8. I’ve got to say that I disagree with the entire premise of the article. As I have said before, the NICS system is based upon records which are often incorrect. Notwithstanding my state issue registration snafu, which still has not been corrected, I will now divulge my entire criminal history to TTAG. I have two speeding tickets. That’s it. No DUI’s, no felony arrests, misdemeanor arrests, and no outstanding parking tickets. However, the delivery of my .338 Lapua was delayed more 3 weeks due to a background check issue. Essentially, you are proclaiming your “responsibility” by declaring your compliance with 4473 forms. In so doing, you are proclaiming tacit agreement with the restrictions stated therein.

    In not a marijuana fan, but smoking weed should not disqualify one from owning a firearm. Neither should a contrived domestic violence issue. Even restraining orders issued by a judge have plenty of leeway which could allow the cessation of rights from an otherwise responsible party. Some felonies have absolutely squat to do with firearm ownership, but if you get one you can kiss your rights goodbye. Even a dishonorable discharge could be under review. As Leonard has stated previously stated, many of the rejections are subsequently reversed.

    We both write anonymously. I’ll tell you another reason why I don’t use my real name: I don’t enforce the letter of the law on every single occasion. In fact, not even close. I don’t desire to remove the freedom of an individual unless it is necessary to do so. Your article is excellent ammunition for anti – gunners. Look, here is a gun dealer on a well known website who use universal background checks.

    While I respect your desire to stay in business, and understand that there are many in this world who would gleefully hold you accountable for the sins of a potential customer, I disagree with the entire premise. A Home Depot that sells a hammer used in a murder or Lowe’s that sells a machete will clearly not be held to the same standard. You should be part of removing that murder weapon connection, and not perpetuating it by “doing your part to keep guns out of the wrong hands.” A gun rights activist would be disturbed by the continued infringements, fees, waiting periods, and disqualifiers inherent in both federal and state laws that you follow. I may have not said this here before, but “legitimate” gun dealers are potentially a huge threat to gun owners. Not only will most fold to the ATF like a tent pole in a hurricane, but they will follow ridiculous laws to the letter. I can say that a gun dealer probably must stay honest in regards to the law for fear of liability and legal shutdown, but I would have no joy in doing so. Not only are you perpetuating the demands of the anti-gunners, but you will likely bend to their further infringements as well, and the anti gunners will celebrate your willingness to do so.

    • Great post.

      I can understand someone following the law; especially in business. What baffles me is when an otherwise pro2A individual would, in personal transactions, go above and beyond laws that infringe and then write something public that attempts to defend the reasons for doing so.

  9. How about a background check for cars knives and bats. Anything that can be used ina crime. Why only guns?
    Let’s be uniform in our polices

  10. I better get a BGC for that mayonnaise I bought, I might feed it to some one on a sandwich and they’ll choke to death. They should require BGC for everything, then we’ll know if its person with crime in mind right?! RIGHT?! ok GTG and take my paranoia pills.

  11. In MA, I can request a certificate from the state that my buyer’s LTC is valid and up to date. That’s good. However, if I want to run a NICS check on the buyer, I can’t because I’m not an FFL dealer and I’m not allowed to utilize the system.

    Why?

    Because it’s not about the check, that’s why. It’s about the records. And I won’t be complicit in the G’s efforts to seize our guns. End of story.

  12. oh no but what about the loop holes!?! In my experience with private gun sales most people want a CYA file just in-case something happens. I tell this to everyone I know not to be very informed on the subject. A majority of the time people want driver’s licenses and a ccw to buy privately to cover themselves or like the author go to a FFL anyways to insure a safe, successful, and law abiding transaction.

  13. There are some solid points, but those are rationalizations, not real reasons. The real reasons are there’s a business at stake, a career, a reputation. Check. Got it. None of that has anything to do with keeping guns from bad guys. So let’s not b.s. the firearms owning community, ok?

    The proof? There are other means for qualifying a buyer that don’t entail subjecting their privacy to federal rape at the time of purchase and effectively registering their private property. You could demand to do business with only concealed carry license holders, or FOID holders, or some other state issued, pre-cleared I.D. that says they aren’t a prohibited possessor.

    Even a plain old driver’s license coupled with car insurance is something. There’s some prohibitive value there, but there’s also the fact of there being some kind of tracing capacity, if the gun were used in a crime and traced to the seller. He could then give up the buyer. There are no guarantees, just additional indications that the buyer is on the up and up.

    But no, “FBI records for everyone!”, says this alleged non-supporter of universal background checks. Just another Establishment type from the firearms industry. It’s all about bucks, not a legitimate principled stance.

    2A supporter? No. CYA supporter? Yes. Fine, so be it. “Self police?” More like “self police state.” I wouldn’t do business with such a sell-out either as a dealer or private individual. This is the last person who deserves to win the FN.

  14. I understand the reasoning for the writer’s stance but this just highlights why the background check system should be completely dismantled. It is used as a part of the methodology to blame the innocent for the misdeeds of the guilty. The burden should be placed on the illegal buyer, not the seller. The burden should be placed on the seller of stolen property, not the unknowing buyer. This is not about stopping crime, it is about creating an environment hostile to gun owners at every possible turn.

  15. I’m still wanting to hear more about this ATF program that runs serial numbers for dealers. Trace data is supposed to be restricted to valid law enforcement inquiries only. If there is something new, I’d like to know.

  16. Can the author show me where I’m required to submit to a BGC and or obtain a permit to exercise any of the other rights as outlined in the “Bill of Rights”? That’s right, it’s not required period!! Yet….
    No infringement period!!!

  17. People walk across our borders every day, illegally, many carrying illegal goods.. this includes guns, weapons and a non-law abiding sense of reasoning…this is a bigger source of problems than registering everyone else.

    We need to get our priorities right …rather than use media hype to provoke anxiety for political fund raising efforts.

    Thanks

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