ATF Investigations

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) enforces federal laws and regulations related to alcohol, tobacco, firearms, explosives, and arson. On July 13, 2022, Steven M. Dettelbach became the Director of the ATF.

ATF agents cooperate with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Under certain circumstances, ATF agents have the authority to seize and forfeit firearms, ammunition, explosives, alcohol, tobacco, currency, conveyances, and certain real property allegedly involved in law violations.

ATF critics contend that agents often violate the law during investigations by:

  • making surprise firearm inspections at people’s homes without a search warrant;
  • targeting people with no criminal records over inadvertent errors; and
  • dramatically increasing the number of ATF FFL revocations, especially for mom-and-pop gun stores.

During an ATF investigation or administrative revocation hearing, you are entitled to have an experienced attorney represent you.

Attorney for ATF Investigations in Florida

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm represent clients during all stages of an ATF investigation. The cases might involve the execution of a search warrant or criminal allegations.

We also represent clients during criminal or civil asset forfeiture proceedings regarding ATF agents’ firearms or other property seizure.

If you are an FFLs accused of violating federal firearm laws and regulations, including the implementing regulations of the Gun Control Act (GCA), we can help. We can represent you at the administrative hearing to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. Our goal at the hearing is to convince the ATF’s Director of Industry Operations in the local field division not to issue a Final Notice of Revocation.

Suppose the Director of Industry Operations at the local ATF field office does issue a Final Notice of Revocation. In that case, we can help you appeal that decision to a judge in the U.S. District Court.

We can answer your questions about the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record maintained by the ATF under the provisions of Title 26, United States Code, Section 5841 and Section 5845(a), and the potential registration status of any firearms you maintain in the inventory of your business.

Call 813-250-0500.

Rules for a Federal Firearm Licensee (FFL)

A federal firearm licensee (FFL) is licensed by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to sell or transfer a firearm. In Florida, the FFL must have the Federal Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) conduct a background check for all firearm purchases and deliveries.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was established for dealers to contact by telephone, or other electronic means, for information to be supplied immediately on whether the transfer of a firearm would be in violation of 18 U.S.C. s. 922(g) or (n), or Florida law.

The background check queries five FDLE and FBI Criminal Justice Information Systems for firearm purchases. The vast majority of inquiries received by FDLE result in an initial decision approving the firearm transfer at the time the transaction was

All FFLs who sell firearms in Florida to persons must:

  • obtain a completed form that provides the purchaser’s identification information and verify identification by inspecting a photo ID;
  • collect a fee from the purchaser for processing the criminal history check of the purchaser;
  • contact the FDLE online or by means of a toll-free telephone number to conduct a criminal history check; and
  • receive an approval number from the FDLE and record the number on the consent form.

The goal in these cases is to receive a letter from the ATF’s Director of Industry Operations in the local field division that they have determined NOT to issue a Final Notice of Revocation. The letter might provide:

On [date], the Buruea of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) issues a Notice to Revoke or Suspend License and/or Impose a Civil Fine (“Notice”) to [[name of the FFL].

The Notice alleged that you willfully made a false statement or representation with respect to information required by the Gun Control Act (GCA), transferred a firearm to a person not licensed under the GCA after failing to comply with procedures applicable to conducting a National Instant Criminal Background Check (“NICS”), and sold or delivered a firearm to a person Licensee knew or had reasonable cause to believe was subject to a federal firearms disability.

On [date], ATF conducted a hearing on his matter in accordance with the provisions of the Gun Control Act of 1968, as amended, 19 U.S.C. Chapter 44. After review of the evidence introduced at the hearing, I have determined not to issue a Final Notice of Revocation in this matter.

The violations for which you were cited could adversely impact law enforcement’s ability to reduce violent crime and protect the public. You are reminded that future violations, repeat or otherwise, could be viewed as willful and may result in the revocation of your license. You may anticipate further inspections to ensure your compliance.

Please contact ATF [local] Field Diversion at (813) 250-0500 if you have any questions concerning your responsibilities as a licensee or if you require further clarification about the Federal firearms laws and regulations.

Which Firearms Are Illegal under Federal Law?

Different types of firearms are illegal under Federal law, including:

  • A stolen firearm;
  • A firearm with an obliterated serial number;
  • A silencer or destructive device;
  • A shotgun with a barrel length of less than 18 inches or an overall length that is less than 26 inches;
  • A rifle with a barrel length of less than 16 inches or the overall length is less than 26 inches;
  • Machine guns;
  • A firearm not detectable by a walk-through metal detector;
  • A firearm unlawfully imported into the United States.

Types of Firearm Crimes under Federal Law

Most federal gun crimes involve violations of 18 U.S.C. § 922 and 18 U.S.C. § 924. For instance, the crime of “felon in possession” is prosecuted under 18 USC § 922(g)(1). This crime is punishable by up to ten years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine. State law in Florida also prohibits felons from possessing a firearm or ammunition.

Other federal gun crimes include possessing a firearm by a person convicted of a misdemeanor for domestic violence or unlawful possession of a firearm by a person unlawfully in the United States in violation of 18 USC § 922(g)(5)(A).

Another commonly prosecuted firearm crime under Federal law involves violations of 18 USC § 924(c)(1)(A)(i), which prohibits using, carrying, or possessing a firearm during the commission of a federal drug trafficking crime or crime of violence.

Other types of charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office include:

  • “Straw purchasers” involve one person who is prohibited from buying a firearm using another person to purchase the firearm from the dealer on their behalf
  • Making false statements or misrepresenting a buyer’s identity to the firearms dealer while attempting to buy a firearm or ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6)
  • Removing or altering serial numbers in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(k)
  • Illegal possession of a machine gun in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(o)
  • Possession of a firearm in a school zone in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)
  • Possession of a stolen firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(i) and (j)
  • Using or carrying a firearm during a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)

Other commonly prosecuted firearm crimes under federal law include:

  • 18 USC Section 922 (d) – Providing a firearm or ammunition knowing the transferee is a prohibited person;
  • 18 USC Section 922 (j) – Knowing possession of a stolen firearm;
  • 18 USC Section 922 (k) – Possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number;
  • 18 USC Section 922 (o) – Possession of a machine gun;
  • 18 USC Section 922 (v) – Transfer of a handgun or handgun ammunition to a juvenile;
  • 18 USC Section 922 (u) – Theft of a firearm from a licensed dealers inventory;
  • 18 USC Section 924 (a)(1)(A) – Knowingly making a false statement to a licensed firearms dealer; and
  • 18 USC Section 1001 or 922(m) – Failure of a licensed firearms dealer to maintain required records.

Firearm Crimes Prosecuted under 26 USC Section 5861

The U.S. Tax Code (Title 26) contains other provisions dealing with firearm crimes. The provisions for firearm crimes under Section 5861 include the following:

  • 26 USC 5861(a) – Engaging in the business of manufacturing, importing, or dealing in firearms without the proper tax
  • 26 USC 5861(b) – Receiving or possessing a firearm transferred in violation of Title 26, Ch.53
  • 26 USC 5861(c) – Receiving or possessing a firearm made in violation of Title 26, Ch.53
  • 26 USC 5861(d) – Receiving or possessing a firearm not registered in National Firearm Registration
  • 26 USC 5861(e) – Transfering a firearm in violation of Title 26, Ch. 53
  • 26 USC 5861(f) – Making a firearm in violation of Title 26, Ch. 53
  • 26 USC 5861(g) – Obliterating, removing, changing, or altering the serial number of a firearm
  • 26 USC 5861(h) – Receiving or possessing a firearm having a serial number that was obliterated, removed, or altered
  • 26 USC 5861(i) – Receiving or possessing a firearm that is not identified by serial number
  • 26 USC 5861(j) – Transporting, delivering, or receiving a firearm that has not been registered
  • 26 USC 5861(k) – Receiving or possessing a firearm that has been imported or brought into the United States
  • 26 USC 5861(l) – Making a false entry on application/return/record required to be kept

This article was last updated on Monday, July 24, 2023.