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September 25, 2014

Responsible Persons


When we, as NSSF ATF compliance consultants visit retailers, we always need to know who the “responsible person/s” of record is/are. The reason for this is to make sure that the current responsible person/s are still employed by or associated with the retailer, as well as verifying that no newly named responsible persons have been added without being reported to ATF.

Although federal firearms license applications have always required the identification of “responsible person/s,” neither the Gun Control Act (GCA) nor ATF’s regulations define the term. Historically, ATF has interpreted the term “responsible person” to mean a person who has the power to direct the management and policies of the firearms segment of the overall business. When Congress enacted the Safe Explosives Act (SEA), in 2002, it took ATF’s historic interpretation and incorporated it into the explosives law. Since the passage of the SEA, ATF has taken the position that the SEA definition also applies in the context of the Gun Control Act for a firearms business.

A determination of whether an individual is a “responsible person” has to be made on a case by case basis by each federal firearms licensee. Factors to consider include the person’s ownership interest in the business (if any), as well as the business’ management structure; not all corporate officers or directors have the power to direct or control the firearms business.

A common situation we encounter is when a firearms retailer fails to designate a store manager as a responsible person. A similar scenario sometimes occurs when a retailer has a second location in another city. When applying for a license for each location, ATF would have been required the retailer to name someone at each location as a responsible person associated with the licensee prior to issuing the license. It frequently happens that these persons eventually leave the employ of the retailer and a new, on-site responsible person is not reported to ATF.

It is important that federally licensed firearms retailers ensure ATF is always informed of changes in the responsible person/s of record working at their store in the capacity of acquiring firearms, maintaining the firearms inventory, and keeping A&D records. Retailers should carefully review their structure to make sure that all persons who truly have the power to direct the firearms business have been designated as responsible persons and that each licensed location has its own responsible person/s. If you have questions about removing or adding a responsible person to your license, we recommend you contact your Legal Instruments Examiner at the Federal Firearms Licensing Center (FFLC). The link here contains the names, telephone numbers, and state assignments of the FFLC Legal Instruments Examiners.

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