In the past six months, the complexity of statutes and regulations has significantly increased for Federal Firearms Licensees (“FFL”). New statutes, regulations, and guidance documents are being issued by federal, state, county, and local municipal bodies. Audits remain a routine part of business operations. And various organizations and associations are actively pursuing lawsuits on issues of constitutional law, including the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.
FFLs include those person or business entities licensed by the federal government to engage in manufacturing, import/export, and repair of firearms, ammunition, and explosive devices. According to the most recent statistics of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”), there are more than 135,000 FFLs across the country.
For every FFL, compliance is a critical issue. Whether the FFL is a single-owner shop or a multi-national corporation, the standards are the same. Each must have a robust compliance program, including, but not limited to record keeping requirements for every manufactured firearm that is created, enters, and leaves the ownership and control of the FFL.
FFLs have a natural need for connections to experts in a variety of roles. On the simple end of the spectrum, an expert in FFL compliance issues can assist the FFL to design and implement key elements of a compliance program. Further along the spectrum, an expert in the field can walk through mock audits to identify problem areas before a formal ATF audit is conducted. The time for an FFL to think about an expert witness is before litigation is even a possibility.
Certainly, if there is a lawsuit or an agency administrative action, the expert witness is an invaluable component of the defense. The credentials of such an expert witness can include years working for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or other government agency involved in oversight and enforcement. These former government officers can be a unique bridge between the government and the commercial manufacturer, dealer, or importer/exporter.
Particularly if the FFL is involved in raising defenses or making claims based upon constitutional law arguments, the need for a firearms and ammunition expert witness is enhanced. The selection of such an expert witness will then also include advance consideration of the ability to clearly articulate both technical information and political philosophy. In these cases, it is not simply a question of the technical specifications of the firearm; it is also a consideration of the spirit of the Founding Fathers and the reach of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution into our modern society.
By: Paloma A. Capanna, Attorney at Law