Electronic A&D Records for Retail Firearms Dealers
What Does The ATF Ruling Mean to You?
By Harry McCabe, Former Deputy Assistant Director ATF and NSSF FFL Compliance Consultant
Since the issuance of ATF Ruling 2013-5, NSSF’s ATF compliance consultants have received numerous questions from member retailers about what the new ruling means for retailers who either already have computerized Acquisition and Disposition (A&D) records or who are considering transitioning from a paper-based system to computerized A&D recordkeeping.
The two relevant ATF rulings to review when discussion this issue are ATF Ruling 2008-2 and ATF Ruling 2013-5. There are some key differences between the two rulings, but there are not any far-reaching, wholesale changes retailers need to worry about. Many of the 11 conditions in ATF Rul 2013-5 are simply restatements of conditions in ATF Rul 2008-2. Some conditions of Rul 2008-2 have been reworded slightly, some have been modified or updated, and some have been incorporated into newly-worded conditions of ATF Rul 2013-5.
Let’s look at each of the 11 conditions of ATF Rul 2013-5 and discuss how they compare to the conditions of the now-superseded ATF Rul 2008-2. Print out a copy of the two rulings to follow along.
1. This condition, in a nutshell, says that your electronic system must comply with all the requirements of ATF regulations including the record format. It incorporates conditions 3, 8, and 10 of ATF Rul 2008-2.
2. This condition is a restatement of condition 1 in ATF Rul 2008-2 regarding correction of errors in the records, but it adds a sentence that says, “ATF suggests that the recordkeeping system be capable of blocking fields from correction (e.g., protect workbook function).”
3. This condition is a restatement of condition 11 in ATF Rul 2008-2 regarding the prohibition against an electronic system’s relying on paper records for required information.
4. Addresses query capabilities, plus it contains two additional queries that were not required in ATF Rul 2008-2. Those are the ability to query by name of purchaser, and to query by address of the purchaser or other transferee.
5. This is a variation of Condition 5 in ATF Rul 2008-2, but it contains one very significant addition to the original condition. The new condition specifically allows for downloads (to electronic media) of the A&D records instead of a paper printout, and it adds a requirement that the records be provided to an ATF officer within 24 hours of his or her request.
6. This is a new number, but it was part of Condition 5 in ATF Rul 2008-2 that requires retaining each paper printout until a new printout is made.
7. As part of ATF Rul 2013-5, this is a restatement of Condition 9 of ATF Rul 2008-2 regarding the inclusion of antique firearms and the exclusion of other merchandise, in electronic records printouts.
8. This is essentially Condition 6 of ATF Rul 2008-2, butthere is an important addition. This condition requires records downloaded to electronic media to be retained until the next download. It also requires an actual printout of the most current version of the records, if ATF requests it.
9. This condition of ATF Rul 2013-5 derives from Condition 12 of ATF Rul 2008-2, but there are additional conditions. This condition discusses the actual location and custody of your electronic A&D records. It requires them to be stored on a server you (the licensee) own and operate and that is physically located in the United States. Additionally, this condition mandates that all required data maintained on the server be readily accessible from a computer device located on the licensed premises (if the server is at a home office, for example), during regular business hours.
10. As listed in ATF Rul 2013-5, this is a restatement of the Condition 2 of ATF Rul 2008-2 that requires daily backups of electronic records. (NOTE: I often find that FFLs’ electronic records are not backed up on a daily basis. If your records are not backed up daily, you were not in compliance with ATF Rul 2008-2, nor are you are in compliance with ATF Rul 2013-5. More importantly, you are at risk of losing your records.)
11. This is a restatement of Condition 13 with slight wording changes. It discusses the steps that must be taken by a licensee regarding electronic records when the licensed business is discontinued.
The bottom line is that ATF Rul 2013-5 contains both old and new requirements for electronic A&D records with which every FFL who either already has or is contemplating implementing a computerized A&D recordkeeping system must comply. You should consult with Celerant (members may log into the members-only side of nssf.org and view Celerant’s information in the benefits section), NSSF’s recommendation for POS (point of sale) software, or other software provider you are using to ensure your system complies with all of the conditions of ATF Rul 2013-5.
Disclaimer: It is important to note that while every attempt has been made to analyze the two rulings in minute detail, the ultimate determination of what ATF Ruling 2013-5 means is ATF’s, not the article author’s and not NSSF’s. If, after reading this, you still have questions about your particular electronic A&D records, please contact the NSSF’s Retailer Member Hotline or your local ATF office.