What do you do if an ATF agent shows up to your home, flashes a badge, and demands to see what is inside your gun safe? What if they ask you for a specific firearm or a firearm component? Do you surrender it to them?
Today we’re going to discuss the three most common reasons the ATF might be knocking at your door, and what you should do to be prepared should you ever find yourself in these situations.
Reason 1: Firearm Tracing
The first and most common reason we see the ATF attempting to question a person, seemingly at random, is firearm tracing.
When you buy a firearm from an FFL and it later leaves your inventory, there may not be a record. Whether it is a sale, gift, inheritance, or the gun was lost or stolen, there are a lot of reasons why a person may no longer have a gun in their collection. But if the gun shows up at a crime scene sometime down the road, it is common for local police and the ATF to trace that firearm back to the original point of sale from the FFL.
That means if you were the original purchaser, the ATF might have some questions as to why the gun is no longer in your possession.
Reason 2: Investigating the Purchase of Multiple Firearms
Under the 1968 Gun Control Act, FFLs are required to report multiple sales of handguns to the same purchaser. Have you ever thought about buying a set of His and Hers pistols? Or maybe you go into a gun store to buy a handgun, and you see a deal on another one that you just can’t pass up.
There’s nothing wrong with a thoughtful gift or getting a deal, but there is something important you must know.
The sale or disposition of two or more handguns must be reported to ATF home inspections and the ATF and local authorities if they occur at the same time, or within five consecutive business days.
The same goes for certain rifles sold in southern border states. This is because the ATF keeps a close watch on the transfer of multiple firearms that take place in a short period of time. This is to prevent weapons trafficking, unlicensed firearms businesses, and to protect public safety.
Whatever the reason may be, just know if you find yourself in this situation, the ATF and the local police may want to inspect your collection, and you need to know what to do.
Reason 3: Conducting a Welfare Check or Following Up On An Anonymous Tip
You do not need us to tell you that there are some folks who don’t believe in the Second Amendment and your right to keep and bear arms. Maybe it is a concerned neighbor, a revenge-seeking ex-spouse, or in response to a political argument over the internet.
We’ve seen them all. These checks can be about anything—just use your imagination. Whatever the reason, know that law enforcement takes these calls very seriously and it frequently leads to an agent on your front porch asking for your side of the story.
What you need to know is that ATF interactions can be scary, especially when you don’t know the nature of the investigation.
Often, we see folks unintentionally implicate themselves in something totally unrelated.
That is why the time to prepare is now. In each of the scenarios, you will want to speak with your attorney prior to any questioning, and you want your attorney present with you if the police or ATF want to continue questioning you down at headquarters. Whether or not you should answer those questions, comply with an investigation, consent to a search, or surrender an item, will vary case by case.
That is why it is imperative you speak to an attorney before making any statements to an ATF agent. In most of these cases, the agent will be willing to arrange a meeting, giving you enough time to consult with an attorney before being questioned.
So, exercise your rights and consult an attorney.
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And as always, if you have any questions about how a lost or stolen firearm, stolen identity, or misidentification can affect your right to bear arms, call us and ask to speak with your Independent Program Attorney.