The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) announced that federally licensed firearms businesses may carry out transactions at drive-thru windows and temporary booths in their parking lots or other parts of their property amid the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
Curtis W. Gilbert, the ATF’s acting assistant director of enforcement programs and services, sent guidelines to Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL) in a letter (pdf) on April 10 outlining how the sellers can continue to conduct transactions while still complying with social distancing measures currently in place throughout the United States. Those transactions include verifying customer identity, completing paperwork, accepting payment, and delivering firearms and ammunition.
The guidelines were issued because industry members questioned the legality of firearms sales and deliveries outside the structure at which the firearms business is licensed, Gilbert said.
“An FFL may carry out the requested activities through a drive-up or walk-up window or doorway, where the customer is on the licensee’s property on the exterior of the brick-and-mortar structure at the address listed on the license,” Gilbert wrote in his letter.
“An FFL may also carry out the requested activities from a temporary table or booth located in a parking lot or other exterior location on the licensee’s property at the address listed on the license, but any such activities must occur in a location where the licensee has the authority to permit ATF’s entry for inspection purposes,” the letter states.
Federal firearms licensees can’t carry out such activities from nearby spaces that aren’t located on the property of the address listed on the license, other than at a qualified in-state gun show or event, Gilbert noted. He added that they “may conduct non-over-the-counter firearm sales to unlicensed in-state residents who are exempt from NICS requirements in accordance with federal statute.”
More than 40 U.S. states have issued stay-at-home orders asking residents to shelter in place and go out only for essential services, such as getting medical care and shopping for food, medicine, and supplies, in an effort to mitigate the spread of the CCP virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus and which causes the disease COVID-19.
In a March 28 memo (pdf) from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the Department of Homeland Security, the agency identified “workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges” as part of the nation’s “essential critical infrastructure” workforce.
However, the memo noted the list is intended to be advisory and not to be considered “the exclusive list of critical infrastructure sectors, workers, and functions that should continue during the COVID-19 response across all jurisdictions,” and that “jurisdictions should add or subtract essential workforce categories based on their own needs and discretion.”
The Brady Campaign, a gun-control advocacy organization, condemned the guidance from the ATF, calling it “patently unsafe,” in a statement released April 10.
“This guidance circumvents established safety procedures and long-standing protocols with the sole purpose of indulging the gun industry. Its provisions are patently unsafe,” Brady Campaign President Kris Brown said.
A study published by Ammo.com earlier this month found that gun-sellers across the United States are reporting a surge in firearm and bullet purchases, with Ammo.com, a major online dealer of ammunition, saying it had received a “significant spike in demand,” in figures for sales from Feb. 23 to March 4. When compared to the 11 days prior to Feb. 23 (Feb. 12 to 22), in the 11 days after (Feb. 23 to March 4), the website’s number of transactions increased 68 percent and the company saw a conversation rate increase of 45 percent.
“We know certain things impact ammo sales, mostly political events or economic instability when people feel their rights may end up infringed,” Ammo.com marketing manager Alex Horsman said in a statement. “This is our first experience with a virus leading to such a boost in sales.
“But it makes sense. A lot of our customers like to be prepared. And for many of them, it’s not just face masks and TheraFlu. It’s knowing that no matter what happens, they can keep themselves and their families safe.”