Gilbert joined the ATF as an inspector in 1988 before moving into
supervision and outreach. He now works out of Washington D.C.’s
Enforcement Program Services, where he’s been tasked with getting to
know the independent dealers, big businesses, and others in the firearm
industry the bureau is regulating.
“The boogeyman image is gone. We want to have some communication so you
feel like you can contact us and ask questions without thinking you’re
going to get into trouble,” he said.
Gilbert has presented to and answered questions from NAA members in the
past, including about the Federal Firearms License (FFL). Below is a
selection of those questions and answers that have been edited for space
and clarity. (NAA members can keep up-to-date on the latest firearms
regulations conversation by visiting atf.gov or by contacting local or
Selling firearms: Do I need a license to sell firearms?
Federal law requires that persons who are engaged in the business of
dealing in firearms be licensed by the ATF. The penalty for dealing
firearms without a license is up to five years in prison, a fine of up
to $250,000 or both. As a general rule, you will need an FFL if you
repetitively buy and sell firearms with the principal motive of making a
Selling firearms: How do I apply?
Visit the ATF’s website to request a firearms application package.
You’ll want to apply for the FFL prior to conducting any sales as a
firearms dealer or Auctioneer at any consignment-type sales as it can
take at least 30 days to receive approval.
Selling firearms: Can a licensee conduct background checks and transfer firearms on behalf of an unlicensed Auctioneer?
Generally, no. Most auctions do not qualify as a gun show or qualifying
event and therefore a licensee would not be permitted to conduct
business away from the licensed premises.
Selling firearms: If a licensed Auctioneer is making sales of firearms, where may those sales be made?
In a consignment auction, firearms may be displayed at an auction site
away from the Auctioneer’s licensed premises. Sales of the firearms can
be agreed upon at that location, but the firearms must be returned to
the Auctioneer’s licensed premises prior to transfer. The simultaneous
sale and delivery of the auctioned firearms away from the licensed
premises would violate the law, i.e., engaging in business at an
However, if the Auctioneer is assisting an estate in disposing of
firearms, the estate is the seller of the firearms and the estate is in
control and possession of the firearms. In this situation, the firearms
may be sold by the estate at the auction site.
Selling firearms: Does an Auctioneer who is involved in firearms sales need a dealer’s license?
There are two types of auctions: estate–type auctions and consignment auctions.
In estate–type auctions, the articles to be auctioned (including
firearms) are being sold by the executor of the estate of an individual.
The firearms belong to and are possessed by the executor. The firearms
are controlled by the estate, and the sales of firearms are being made
by the estate. The Auctioneer is acting as an agent of the executor and
assisting the executor in finding buyers for the firearms. In these
cases, the Auctioneer does not meet the definition of engaging in
business as a dealer in firearms and would not need a license. An
Auctioneer who does have a license may perform this function away from
his or her licensed premises.
In consignment–type auctions, an auctioneer often takes possession of
firearms in advance of the auction. These firearms are generally
inventoried, evaluated, and tagged for identification. The firearms
belong to individuals who have entered into a consignment agreement with
the Auctioneer giving that Auctioneer authority to sell the firearms.
The Auctioneer, therefore, has possession and control of the firearms.
Under these circumstances, an Auctioneer would generally need a license.
If you aren’t sure if a license is needed in a particular consignment auction situation, contact your local ATF office.
This article was an excerpt from a presentation given at the 2017 NAA
International Auctioneers Conference and Show. Want even more tips on
this topic? Full audio of the presentation is available in the NAA Knowledge Center