29 July 2016,

ATF Deputy Assistant Director gives insights on guns, FFLs at auction


ATF official Curtis Gilbert spoke with NAA members in Grand Rapids about a variety of topics related to firearms at auctions.

By James Myers, contributor

Curtis Gilbert, Deputy Assistant Director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, spoke with NAA members in Grand Rapids, Michigan, regarding guns at auctions.

Auctioneers fit into the definition of a niche market when it comes to selling firearms, and this is the source of some gray areas that can lead to worry about what’s legal and what’s not when guns are sold.

To bring more clarity to the issue, NAA members were given the chance to hear and speak with Gilbert.

NAA Advocacy Committee Chair David Whitley, CAI, CES, introduced Gilbert to a group of NAA members as the meeting began with a discussion about keeping firearms out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. Whitley cautioned NAA members that they aren’t obligated to complete a sale if they believe the buyer shouldn’t have a gun.

“The biggest thing I want to impart to each and every one of you,” Whitley said, “is I never want read a story about an Auctioneer who sold a firearm to somebody who went down to Orlando and started shooting people.”

Gilbert addressed this by recommending that Auctioneers complete the firearms transfer through a dealer that has a federal firearms license (FFL) and can do a background check. Even in a situation where the Auctioneer is simply acting as an agent for the executor of an estate where a gun is auctioned, he advises that the executor follow through with a transfer through an FFL and do their part to make sure the buyer isn’t a person who should not be in possession of a firearm.

One Auctioneer asked who is responsible when an estate sale leads to a gun being sold to a felon. Gilbert said if the Auctioneer is only acting as an agent for the executor and simply sets the price of the gun, the Auctioneer is not liable for the transfer of a firearm to a felon.

Another topic that spawned a half hour or more of conversation was about FFL requirements. Gilbert and Michigan state officials who were also in attendance, said an estate sale involves an executor who is legally in possession of the firearms, which means the Auctioneer is not required to have an FFL and is simply setting the price for that firearm.

However, in a consignment sale, the seller leaves the firearms in the possession of the Auctioneer. In this case, the Auctioneer must have an FFL to sell the firearm(s).

Gilbert stressed that possession is the most important factor here.

For instance, an estate sale involving firearms requires that the executor be in possession of firearms at all times. If the estate sale is being held at an auction house rather than at the estate, Gilbert recommends that the executor hold on to the guns until the day of the auction, at which time they bring the firearms to the auction house and never leave them in the possession of the Auctioneer. In this case, an Auctioneer would not be required to have an FFL.

Should the executor bring the firearms to the auction house and then leave, the Auctioneer now has possession and will require an FFL to sell them.

The ATF has created a page on its website specific to Auctioneers. This page spells out the differences between estate and consignment auctions: https://www.atf.gov/qa-category/auctioneers. Also, if someone is interested in applying for an FFL, they can download the forms: https://www.atf.gov/firearms/apply-license.