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The FFLA: A Bill To Bring Federal Gun Laws Into the 21st Century

Roughly five times per day, guns are stolen from or lost by gun dealers. These guns often end up in the illegal market and fall into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them in the first place, like criminals and domestic abusers. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

Higher standards for gun dealers can help stop the stream of guns into our communities. Enter the FFLA.

What Is the FFLA?

The Federal Firearm Licensee Act (FFLA) is a bill that would bring the federal laws that gun dealers must follow into the 21st century. The FFLA has been introduced by Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL) in the House of Representatives and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) in the United States Senate. It would require gun dealers to follow fundamental and responsible business practices to keep communities safe and help hold those who fail to do so accountable.

Why Is the FFLA Important?

People “engaged in the business” of selling firearms must become Federal Firearm Licensees (FFLs). FFLs must follow existing laws intended to protect communities from gun violence. Current laws are designed to help federal, state, and local law enforcement solve gun crimes to hold bad actors accountable. These laws require gun sellers to become FFLs and to comply with recordkeeping, background check, and reporting requirements.

But there’s a problem:

These laws weren’t strong enough to properly regulate the gun industry when Congress enacted them decades ago—and they haven’t been updated since. That’s where the FFLA comes in.

The FFLA would strengthen existing laws to increase accountability for the gun industry. It would also ensure the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has the resources to do its job.

ATF is the law enforcement agency responsible for regulating the gun industry and enforcing federal gun laws. But right now, it lacks the tools to effectively oversee the gun industry and hold bad industry actors accountable.

Congress has historically underfunded and under-resourced ATF and, earlier this year, slashed nearly $50 million from ATF’s budget. That means more guns in the wrong hands and more gun violence in our communities. 

The FFLA provides tools with which ATF can more readily identify rogue gun dealers and address dangerous FFL misconduct that facilitates gun violence. 

How Will the FFLA Address Gun Violence?

The FFLA will address gun violence in several ways, including:

  • 1. Strengthening the background check system

    The FFLA will help close a loophole in federal law that allows unlicensed sellers to sell guns without a background check. It will require those who “host” commercial marketplaces to ensure gun sales go through a licensed dealer. This would mean gun sellers anywhere—even at gun shows or online—would need to run a background check.


  • 2. Preventing gun trafficking, loss, and theft

    The FFLA will require gun dealers to develop and implement anti-theft security plans. These plans would include video and audio surveillance of gun dealer business premises. FFLs will also be required to conduct quarterly checks of their inventories. They will need to report any lost, stolen, or unaccounted firearms to ATF and local law enforcement.


  • 3. Ensuring “high-risk” gun dealers are inspected every year

    Right now, only a small percentage of gun sellers are inspected yearly—even though these inspections often reveal dangerous violations. The FFLA will authorize ATF to hire more investigators and personnel to conduct the kind of robust oversight the gun industry has long deserved. It will also require ATF to inspect high-risk dealers on an annual basis. With more investigators and inspections, ATF will be able to spot bad actors and hold them accountable.  


  • 4. Holding gun dealers to a higher business standard

    The FFLA will increase licensing fees for FFLs. It will also require FFLs to ensure that their employees are legally allowed and old enough to handle guns in the first place. In addition, the FFLA will give ATF more discretion to deny licensee applications and renewals when an applicant poses a danger to public safety. It will also promote safer business practices by requiring dealers to provide suicide prevention and secure storage warnings to purchasers.

  • 5. Enhancing recordkeeping requirements

    The FFLA will require ATF to establish and maintain electronic databases. It will also incentivize FFLs to adopt electronic recordkeeping practices. Additionally, it will expand current multiple sales reporting requirements for handguns to include long guns.

  • 6. Repealing laws that have restricted regulation of the gun industry

    Current law has prohibited ATF from disclosing firearms trace data and centralizing dealer records. Other critical law enforcement tools to help solve gun crimes and disrupt firearms trafficking have also been limited. The FFLA will undo these restrictions and limitations. 

TL;DR: What’s the Takeaway on the FFLA?

Those who profit from selling deadly weapons—whether that’s at a gun show, an online marketplace, or at a dealer—should be held to a higher standard. That includes:

  1. Conducting background checks on purchasers,
  2. Implementing other measures to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands (like recordkeeping and inspection requirements), and
  3. Holding dealers accountable when they don’t follow them.

That’s why our movement is calling on Congress to modernize the way the gun industry does business by passing the Federal Firearm Licensee Act. 

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