Federal law requires businesses that buy, sell or repair guns to obtain a Federal Firearms License (FFL). Gun manufacturers, pawnbrokers, pawn shops, firearms dealers, importers and even serious collectors must obtain a gun dealer’s license before starting their business. In addition to the federal license, some states require firearms dealers to be licensed under state regulations. Depending on the state, it can be more difficult to get a state dealer's license than the federal license.
1. Determine if you are eligible to apply for a Federal Firearms License. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issues the licenses. Applicants must be U.S. citizens who never renounced their citizenship, and at least 21 years old. Certain types of criminal convictions or a dishonorable discharge from the military disqualify applicants from receiving an FFL. Applicants must not be addicted to a controlled substance or subject to a restraining order in a domestic violence case. Someone who's been committed to a mental institution isn't eligible, according to the National Rifle Association's summary of eligibility requirements.
2. Check your state's licensing requirements for firearms dealers, as well as any county or municipal regulations. You'll need to comply with all the applicable local regulations before you can do business as a firearms dealer.
3. To begin the application process for a federal license, request an ATF Form 7 or, if you are a collector, an ATF Form 7CR from your local ATF office. These forms aren't available online and must be requested directly from a local ATF center or by calling the ATF Distribution Center at 703-455-7801.
4. Fill out the application, disclosing all pertinent information. Do not make any false statements or withhold any information.
5. Get fingerprinted. Take the documentation in the application packet to a local law enforcement agency. It will fill out the required forms and fingerprint an FFL applicant. There is a fee for the service.
6. Get two passport-sized photographs taken to include in the application.
7. Mail your application, application fee, fingerprints and photos to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Post Office Box 2994, Atlanta, GA 30301. The fee ranges from $30 for a collector to $3,000 for importers and manufacturers. If the application is complete, the ATF says it takes about 60 days from the date it receives an application to review it and to decide whether to issue the license.
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