Violence Policy Center Founder Has an ATF-Approved ‘Kitchen Counter’ FFL

It’s history lesson time. Since the Federal Firearms License system was put in place, it had been been possible for an individual to have their own license, allowing them to have firearms shipped straight to their house, just as if they were a gun shop. The practice was known as having a “kitchen counter” FFL.

Back in the 1990’s, though, Josh Sugarmann and the anti-gun Violence Policy Center saw this as a dark and dangerous loophole, one that needed to be closed. The VPC successfully lobbied the Clinton administration to rule that all FFL holders must be “in the business” of buying and selling firearms, putting an end to kitchen counter FFLs.

Sugarmann’s argument back in 1992 went like this:

The FFL is a public safety scandal created by the very agency charged with enforcing federal firearms laws. By giving a federal gun-dealing license to virtually anyone who can come up with $30 and isn’t a convicted felon, ATF has put criminals in the business of selling guns.

This may surprise you, but that characterization wasn’t exactly true. In order to obtain an FFL, an individual needs to pass a rigorous background check and adhere to strictly scrutinized documentation practices which the ATF regularly confirms with in-person examinations of their records. Claiming that granting kitchen counter FFLs is sanctioning criminals to sell guns is like claiming that kids participating in science fairs is creating a whole generation of Walter Whites.

If anti-gun activists didn’t have double standards, they’d have no standards at all. It’s been known for some time that Sugarmann has a Federal Firearms License, but what we’ve recently found out through a Freedom of Information Act request (credit to LonelyMachines on Reddit) is that he has the specific kind of FFL that he demanded the Clinton administration eliminate: a so-called kitchen counter FFL.

From the Reddit thread:

The upshot is this:

– The FFL was issued to the VPC

– It was denied at first because they are a declared nonprofit, and not “in the business”

– Sugarmann responded that he was a “firearms expert in design and manufacture,” and that he needed the FFL for the “examination and publication of written material” on the subject. He explicitly states, “no firearms of ammunition will be sold.”

– The ATF decided that was acceptable criteria, and the FFL was issued. It continues to be routinely renewed.

Well, isn’t that interesting? (Also, notice Sugarmann resubmitted the application and checked the box saying he did intend to make a profit.)

I reached out to the ATF and asked them how one gets a Type 1 FFL if he’s not running a for-profit business. This was the initial response:

“Thank you for your recent inquiry to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). This is in response to your email, in which you inquired about whether a nonprofit organization may be issued a Federal firearms license (FFL) for the purpose of publication of research and whether there are any licensing exceptions that exist for nonprofit organizations who are not engaged in a firearms business.

“There are no exceptions to the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) allowing organizations who are not engaged in in the business to obtain a Federal firearm license (FFL). We recommend that you obtain any firearm needed for your research from a local FFL.”

There was a back-and-forth in which they dug their heels in on this and insisted that there was no exception. I then brought the VPC FFL to their attention. Either they do this or they don’t.

Then I got an email from a L. Babbie, Firearms Enforcement Specialist. Apparently, there is an exception. It’s ruling 73-19. According to Mr. Babbie,

“You may record “N/A” to that question [on making a profit] and attach a sheet of paper to explain the nonprofit nature of your business. A local ATF Industry Operations Investigator (IOI) will call you to schedule a meeting after your application is received at the local ATF office.”

Essentially, if I say I need to receive and ship firearms from my home for research purposes, I can have my own FFL.

There are so many questions here. Why, exactly, does Sugarmann need his own Federal Firearms License? What kind of “research” is he doing that prevents him from using a regular gun shop to obtain firearms? Does he do transfers for other DC residents (there aren’t many FFLs in the District)? And if he thought the idea of “kitchen counter” FFLs was so dangerous, why is he part of the problem?

comments

  1. avatar Scott says:

    Probably does transfers for his “guns for me but not for thee” buddies.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Yup. And his gun-grabber buddies can get their own gun from him, eliminating any ’embarrassment’ they may have if it comes to light a gun-grabber was, *gasp!* buying a gun!

      Hey, can we FOIA his ATF bound book records to find out who he sold guns to?

      I bet we would find a lot of Statist’s names in that ledger…

      *snicker* 🙂

      1. avatar David says:

        “Hey, can we FOIA his ATF bound book records to find out who he sold guns to?”
        That actually seems like a great idea. Can it be done?

        1. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

          I’ll give Geoff the benefit of the doubt that he’s just kidding. You’re a different story, though. Any other day, POTG are whining and crying about the potential for abuse inherent in any firearms registration scheme. And, yes, an FFL’s bound book is indeed a de facto registration scheme, as is the NICS system.

          Is utilizing a registry for gun-shaming by overzealous bloggers as bad as armed agents of the state using it to go door-to-door for confiscation? No, of course it isn’t, but it’s still a violation of people’s right to privacy, not to mention their right to keep and bear arms.

          If any minuscule requirement is regarded, by the absolutists, anyway, as an unconstitutional infringement of the right to keep and bear arms, then using an already unconstitutional device like a de facto government gun registry to violate people’s privacy is at least as loathsome. Just as unpopular speech deserves first amendment protection, even unpopular gun-grabbing hypocrites have second amendment rights.

        2. avatar Yawnz says:

          It’s about holding them to their own standards. They decry the individual rights of others while at the same time hypocritically advocate rights for their own benefit.

        3. avatar Geoff PR says:

          “It’s about holding them to their own standards.”

          Exactly.

          I hear what you’re saying, Johnathan, but those Statists would have no problem in doing it to us.

          “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around, no…”

        4. avatar strych9 says:

          As an FFL in business with the public (potentially) or “doing research” and publishing it for public consumption he has no right to privacy.

          Those people who may have bought guns from him knew the deal when they filled out the 4473. If they wanted privacy then they should have bought the gun privately.

          I have no sympathy for either this guy or his potential customers. If a FOIA request is applicable to his bound book and someone wants to file it, have at it. I’ve bought nearly every gun I have from an FFL and if I was “outed” I wouldn’t care. In fact, I out myself as a gun owner daily with the stickers on my car.

        5. avatar Erik F says:

          I asked. They said the contents of the bound books compromised “fiduciary information.” They DID acknowledge that Mr. Sugarmann has not been audited since 2002.

    2. avatar Mort says:

      Josh Sugarmann’s Wikipedia page contains absolutely none of this *very relevant* information. He is a public activist and author. This information should be stated matter-of-factly on his Wikipedia… probably under its own subsection: detailing the general location of his residence (because it’s a kitchen counter FFL in the context of the local laws in his area), and especially the original appeal of the license denial, regarding the first “non-profit research” claim, and then later the casual renewal “for profit.”

      This is not exactly the same as, but has a similar smell to a child abuse activist having inappropriate child-involved materials for “research” & “non profit.” It does not seem reasonably necessary to indulge. Almost universally, antigun and “gun violence epidemic” activists have always propagandized that there is *nothing needed to be known about guns except the “common sense” of death-murder-kill*. And if Sugarmann is generalizing enough to advocate a total ban on all handguns, and unilaterally categorizes arms as “assault weapons,” then he has no reasonable need to understand the difference between an AR-15 and an AKM by handling or possessing them, for example. (I am quite sure that if he needed an actual example for another book, Mark Kelly or another activist would be glad to loan him an “assault weapon” or two….)

      Holier-than-thou hypocrites, indeed. If this relevant information was factually stated on Sugarmann’s Wikipedia page, I have reasonable faith that visitors would be able to make up their own minds about what it means.

      Be safe.

  2. avatar No one of consequence says:

    What is that old saw about laws for me and not thee? Or is it the other way around?

  3. avatar Mark N. says:

    He needs to buy guns for his armed guards and doesn’t want to be seen going into gun stores. That might prove embarrassing. Or something. I don’t recall any “research” papers issued by the VPL about any particular firearms.

  4. avatar Joe R. says:

    “The FFL is a public safety scandal created by the very agency charged with enforcing federal firearms laws. By giving a federal gun-dealing license to virtually anyone who can come up with $30 and isn’t a convicted felon, ATF has put criminals in the business of selling guns.”

    The founding fathers did not say (and FU if you say they intended that) the RTKABA was only available to people who were able to manufacture the firearms themselves (i.e., “gunsmiths”).

    THEREFORE, If you cannot BUY firearms and ammunition you cannot have the RTKABA. The POS (D) are always looking for BS inroads to fing with your rights because they are all (to the last man) POS facists.

    F them all, and warn your grandkids.

    1. avatar AngryAz says:

      The day any of my kids vote D is the day I disown them anD write their commie ass out of my will

      1. avatar Stu in AZ says:

        Well that’s keeping an open mind. Way to represent.

        1. avatar Cloudbuster says:

          Do you also keep an open mind about the possibility of voting for the Nazi Party?

  5. avatar NorincoJay says:

    The left is blinded by hypocrisy.

  6. avatar Randy in Indiana says:

    In fairness:
    1. Which FFL would knowingly and willingly do business with the VPC? So, I understand why they would apply to get evaluation units shipped to themselves.

    2. If you believe that is too easy to get an FFL and you want to publish that assertion, isn’t it reasonable to go through the basic nvestigstive steps of obtaining the license yourself? That all makes perfect sense to me.

    What I want to know is whether VPC got an exception from the ATF for political reasons.

    1. avatar almostesq. says:

      “What I want to know is whether VPC got an exception from the ATF for political reasons.”

      If he was given an exception for political reasons than that would be a clear Equal Protection violation. If we can demonstrate that than there is a good chance we could get the whole law thrown out.

      Anyone want to file that suit? This needs to start with a FOI request to find out more. But this matter needs to be referred to our 2nd Amendment lawyer friends to cause some trouble. 😀

  7. avatar Soylent Green says:

    He’s probably selling them to people with suspect backgrounds who couldn’t buy them leagally.

    Makes money and creates the reason he thinks his org exists.

    Someone should have the wearabouts of all the guns entered into his bound book went

  8. avatar Lawrence Fraker says:

    That’s odd. I never heard it referred to as a ‘ Kitchen Counter ‘ FFL before. I always knew them as ‘Kitchen Table’ FFLs…

    1. avatar NineShooter says:

      Same here.

      I’m guessing it’s another of those sorta-regional “soda vs. pop” things.

  9. avatar Dave says:

    We used to call them basement FFLs. My father purchased a Beretta back in 1990 from his Lieutenant on the fire department and he had one of those FFL. I never saw a problem with having a private FFL license. It wasn’t like they were giving them to gang members. Just more Clinton bullshit I’m so sick and tired of hearing about those two goofballs I would really hope that President Trump puts both of them behind bars for a really really long time with all the illegal s*** they were doing.

  10. MORE F’ING HYPOCRISY! I’M SO SICK OF THIS CRAP. Mom and Pop FFLs get there license yanked or worse for picking their nose but this ass-clown is alowed to skirt around the system the he helped usher in. This makes my blood boil. How many “salt-rifles” does this F**k-stain own in DC? I guess his family’s lives are worth more than those of the plebs. BULLS**T!

  11. avatar Dave says:

    Just so you all know even if you have a private FFL license known as a kitchen counter basement FFL you still had to have the person buying the firearm go through a background check. It wasn’t some loophole as the lefties would have you think.

  12. avatar Mmmtacos says:

    Another hypocrite. Big surprise, the left is so full of this shit. You see, kitchen counter FFLs are a problem, but he is an exception, despite there should be no exceptions, because he is smarter than you or I.

  13. avatar Mad Max says:

    If it weren’t for double standards, they would have no standards at all.

    I’d like a list of all of the available exceptions.

  14. avatar former water walker says:

    What a POS. Nothing to add but SOMEONE needs to f### with this azzwhole…

  15. avatar Kevin says:

    Leland Yee? Make firearms harder to buy, so you can increase profit margins selling to those who can’t legally purchase firearms?

    1. avatar Jon in CO says:

      This is my thought. Another crushing of free market.

  16. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    it sure was nice when you knew an ffl back then. i wish i had been more knowledgeable and had had more money to spend.
    i still know a couple of them, but it ain’t thirty bucks no more so the deals aren’t as sweet. they do get visited for paperwork. they say the toughest part is ponying up for a safe. one guy told me he spent about ten grand on his. something substantial is now required.

    1. avatar The Punisher says:

      I had my own home-based FFL for several years (very recently). It’s relatively easy and cheap. You don’t have to buy an expensive safe. You only have to have a locked area in your home that is not accessible without a key or a code. I had a room in my basement that I stored everything in and it was fine.

      And also the ATF specifically asks where you will conduct business at and when they come to inspect they can literally only inspect your record book, where you conduct the transactions (kitchen table), and where you keep your inventory.

  17. I read the ruling.

    What *specific* persons is he performing his expert services for?

    The ruling requires the names, address, and nature of business for each such person so I’m assuming “public interest” doesn’t seem to cut it.

  18. avatar gemalo says:

    I had an FFL some years back, but had to give it up because the ATF required me to have a business license to do business in my city; and the city did not allow a business to be run out of a private residence. I was considering getting a mail box at a storage facility that was not in the city limits, but all I could think about was delivering a firearm to an ATF agent (undercover) at my house, and not my business address;—jail time.

  19. avatar Hannibal says:

    “Essentially, if I say I need to receive and ship firearms from my home for research purposes, I can have my own FFL.”

    No. He can have his. You won’t get yours.

  20. avatar IN Dave says:

    Here you go, if Trump wants to win big with little capital spent he needs to instruct his ATF to allow the lowly peasants to obtain a FFL for their own personal use the same way this guy did. If I was him I would even make his letter public that way they could go word for word. As far as the little capital spent he could call it the Violence Policy Center Approved Method.

  21. avatar Detroiter says:

    Ok. We need this guys address and phone number so we can flood his mailbox and voicemail with gun orders.

    If it saves us from just one more pita gun law….

    1. avatar Ricktesta3 says:

      Ooohhhh, I like that idea!

    2. avatar GS650G says:

      It’s public knowledge

      1 54 000 01 7C 00725 “SUGARMANN, JOSHUA ALAN” NULL 1730 RHODE ISLAND AVE NW #1014 WASHINGTON DC 20036 1730 RHODE ISLAND AVE NW #1014 WASHINGTON DC 20036 2028228200

      There you go. There are only 7 in DC. Two are the ATF, three are “drama clubs”, One is a supply company and then that leaves Charles Sykes who has an office right in the city’s office

  22. avatar Anonymous says:

    Disarmament leftists are hypocrites? What a surprise!

  23. avatar TyrannyOfEvilMen says:

    This is not surprising. These people aren’t really anti-gun. Many of them have armed guards after all. They are just against YOU having guns.

  24. avatar BASHer says:

    This guy is lazy and just running a scam for donations like the SPLC. All he does is reformat information from other publications to make it sound menacing. Having an FFL is an easy way to guarantee a never ending stream of gun junk mail that he can hype.

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