The gun industry has a responsibility to keep Americans safe from gun violence. Yet there is no transparency into which gun stores are violating our public safety laws and whether law enforcement is doing anything about it. That’s why Brady, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, is exposing never-before-released records that identify gun stores cited for breaking the law. Now, the American public will no longer be kept in the dark about businesses that contribute to gun violence in their communities, and whether federal authorities are failing to hold them accountable.
These records took years to access, and this website will be regularly updated as we continue to obtain additional documents. Brady spent years filing Freedom of Information Act requests and fighting in court to secure these federal inspection reports, which represent remedial actions taken by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) against gun stores cited for violating the law. You can browse these records — the most comprehensive ever made available — and find cited violations among gun stores in your community and across the country.
What you’ll learn is how certain gun stores seriously violate public safety laws and how gun-industry-backed policies — combined with lax ATF enforcement — allow these businesses to continue transferring, manufacturing, and/or importing guns. The ATF inspects only a small percentage of gun stores each year and revokes a store's federal firearms license in less than 1 percent of all inspections. The country needs an effective federal system that ensures dangerous sellers are held accountable for threatening our safety and contributing to gun violence.
We invite you to explore these records and join Brady in taking action, not sides, to create a safer America.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the sole federal law enforcement agency charged with inspecting federal firearms licensees (FFLs) in the United States for compliance with federal firearms laws.
Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL)
Federal law requires that persons who are engaged in the business of dealing in firearms be licensed by the ATF. A federal firearms licensee, or FFL, is an individual or business licensed by ATF to be engaged in the business of firearms, including dealing, manufacturing, and importing firearms. There are approximately 130,000 FFLs in the United States, including about 55,000 gun dealers (FFL Type 01), 7,000 pawnbrokers (FFL Type 02), 14,000 manufacturers (FFL Type 07), and 1,000 importers (FFL Type 08).
A Warning Letter is a form of administrative action that ATF can issue to an FFL based upon violations uncovered in the inspection. In FY20, 13.8% of FFL compliance inspections resulted in a Warning Letter. For more information about the types of violations that warrant a Warning Letter, see ATF Orders 5370.1C and 5370.1D.
A Warning Conference is a form of administrative action that is more severe than a Warning Letter, but less severe than revoking an FFL’s license. A Warning Conference involves the FFL attending a conference with an ATF Area Supervisor or Director of Industry Operations. In FY20, 5.3% of FFL compliance inspections resulted in a Warning Conference. For more information about the types of violations that warrant a Warning Conference, see ATF Orders 5370.1C and 5370.1D.
The most severe administrative action available to ATF, an FFL’s license may be revoked and/or its license renewal application denied based upon willful violations uncovered in an inspection. In FY20, 0.7% of FFL compliance inspections resulted in a License Revocation/Non-Renewal. For more information about the types of violations that warrant a License Revocation, see ATF Orders 5370.1C and 5370.1D.
A Recall Inspection is a follow-up compliance inspection of an FFL. The ATF will often schedule a Recall Inspection to ensure that a previously cited FFL is in compliance with the law. Like other forms of warrantless compliance inspections, per 18 U.S.C. § 923(g)(1)(B)(ii)(I), ATF must wait for a full year to elapse from the time of the last compliance inspection before it can inspect that particular FFL again.
ATF Form 4473
Otherwise known as the “Firearms Transaction Record,” ATF Form 4473 is used prior to most firearm transfers from an FFL to a non-FFL (such as a retail purchaser of a firearm) “to determine if [an FFL] may lawfully sell or deliver a firearm to the person identified” as the transferee/buyer on the form “and to alert the transferee/buyer of certain restrictions on the receipt and possession of firearms.” ATF most recently revised the Form 4473 in May 2020, and most of the inspection reports contained in this database reference the earlier versions of the Form 4473 which can be found here and here.
Acquisition and Disposition (A&D) Book
According to ATF, the "firearms acquisition and disposition (A&D) record, also known as a ‘bound book’, is a permanently bound book or an orderly arrangement of loose-leaf pages which must be maintained at the business premises.” While certain electronic versions of the A&D record may be permissible, the log must be used to record the licensee’s acquisition of every firearm that enters into the FFL’s possession, as well as the disposition of each firearm if it leaves the FFL’s possession.
Frequently Asked Questions
ATF – short for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives – is the federal law enforcement agency charged with, among other responsibilities, inspecting the 130,000 federal firearms licensees (FFLs) in the United States. It does this as part of its public safety mission to “protect the public from crimes involving firearms, explosives, arson, and the diversion of alcohol and tobacco products; regulate lawful commerce in firearms and explosives; and provide worldwide support to law enforcement, public safety, and industry partners.”
A federal firearms licensee, or FFL, is an individual or business licensed by ATF to be engaged in the business of firearms, including dealing, manufacturing, and importing firearms. There are approximately 130,000 FFLs in the United States, including about 55,000 gun dealers (FFL Type 01), 7,000 pawnbrokers (FFL Type 02), 14,000 manufacturers (FFL Type 07), and 1,000 importers (FFL Type 08).
No. This map shows the documents that ATF has produced to Brady in response to its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for FFL compliance inspection reports since July 2015 that resulted in the issuance of a Warning Letter or more severe remedy. These reports represent a small subset of all ATF inspection reports generated during this period of time. Brady will continue to update this website as it receives additional reports.
Brady believes that FFLs should adopt the safest business practices to prevent dangerous and risky transactions, including transfers to straw purchasers, firearms traffickers, prohibited purchasers, and others that intend to misuse firearms. FFLs should consult Brady’s Gun Dealer Code of Conduct for a list of practices to help ensure they are selling firearms safely.
About ATF FFL Inspections
ATF’s stated goal for FFL compliance inspections has varied. At one time, ATF’s goal was to inspect each licensed dealer, pawnbroker, manufacturer, and importer once every 3 or 5 years depending on the state in which it was located. ATF has recently stated that its goal is to inspect each licensed dealer, pawnbroker, manufacturer, and importer every 3 years. ATF routinely fails to meet these inspection benchmarks.
Among other job duties, ATF Industry Operations Investigators (IOIs) are responsible for conducting FFL compliance inspections and identifying any violations of law. IOIs will also make a recommendation of which administrative action, if any, ATF should take against non-compliant FFLs.
A higher level ATF official such as an Area Supervisor (AS) and/or, in certain cases, a Director of Industry Operations (DIO) will review the IOI’s findings and recommendations. Such officials can then concur with the IOIs recommendation or modify the recommendation and issue a final disposition. FFLs have the right to challenge ATF’s administrative findings and determinations in federal court.
No. Investigations and reports issued by The Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General (DOJ OIG) have found major shortcomings in ATF’s FFL compliance inspection program. For example, in 2004 the DOJ OIG found ATF was not effective in ensuring FFL compliance, in part because inspections were infrequent and inconsistent. In a 2013 follow-up review, the DOJ OIG found that the ATF did not meet its operational goals of inspecting all FFLs on a cyclical basis, resulting in over 58% not being inspected within five years, and that the ATF failed to track whether high-risk FFL inspections met its operating plan priorities. Reporting in outlets such as USA Today and The New York Times, based on the inspection reports that Brady has obtained from ATF, highlight how these serious flaws can lead to gun violence.
There are many challenges, internal and external, that contribute to ATF’s inability to effectively oversee the gun industry and enforce the law. Federal laws pushed by the gun lobby prohibit ATF from conducting more than one warrantless compliance inspection per FFL per year; require ATF to prove that an FFL “willfully” violated a law in order to revoke a license; and forbid ATF from requiring FFLs to perform physical inventory of their business, making inspections much more time-consuming. ATF is also chronically underfunded and under-resourced, falling hundreds of thousands of IOI hours short of inspecting FFLs even on a 5-year cycle.
Finally, ATF’s own policy, adopted in 2009, gives supervisors tremendous discretion to elect alternatives to revocation, allowing non-compliant FFLs to stay in business. The cumulative effect of this policy has had a clear impact on ATF’s enforcement: in FY11, ATF revoked 43% fewer licenses than it did in FY04, while the number of alternative actions skyrocketed – warning conferences by 80%, warning letters by 1,121%, and reports of violations by 276%. Listen to Red, Blue, and Brady’s podcast “Why – and How – Are Lawbreaking Gun Dealers Being Protected” about these inspection reports for more information about obstacles to effective ATF oversight of the gun industry.
ATF is the sole federal agency with the authority to inspect the nation’s roughly 130,000 FFLs. However, certain states have laws that allow state and/or local law enforcement to conduct their own compliance inspections of licensed gun businesses as a complement to ATF’s efforts. We encourage those states to learn more about Brady’s Enhanced Inspections Initiative, which promotes the use of advanced data analytics to optimize inspection resources.
Each gun that leaves an FFL when it legally should not could be a gun that is used to injure or kill a fellow American – and these reports detail violations of the law that may have real consequences for public safety. When FFLs that violate laws designed to prevent gun trafficking, assist law enforcement investigations, or keep guns out of the hands of those who should not possess them, even one FFL's actions thereby contribute to the epidemic of gun violence in America.
Investigative reporting in outlets such as USA Today in conjunction with The Trace, The New York Times, and The San Francisco Chronicle show how such violations have led to gun violence. For more information about the seriousness of such violations, read Brady’s 2006 in-depth report “‘Trivial Violations’?: The Myth of Overzealous Federal Enforcement Actions Against Licensed Gun Dealers.”
ATF releases a fact sheet every year that contains some high-level information about FFL compliance inspections, including a list of the most frequently cited violations. The FY20 Fact Sheet common violation list includes, among others, failure to maintain an accurate/complete/timely acquisition and disposition (A&D) record of firearms; failure to obtain a completed ATF Form 4473; failure to complete forms as prescribed; and failure to record National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) contact information on an ATF Form 4473.
Brady has noticed that in this database of reports, many of the violations appear to indicate a failure to properly verify a potential buyer’s identity, eligibility to purchase a firearm, and/or ensure that the necessary forms and documentation (such as the ATF Form 4473) are properly completed.
ATF has created internal guidelines for the administration of remedial action that dictate the circumstances under which a Warning Letter should be issued, a Warning Conference held, or an FFL’s license revoked. Many of the inspection reports on this site show that ATF officials frequently rely on “mitigating factors” to issue a less severe administrative action than the guidelines call for.
About the Data
In August 2017, Brady submitted a Freedom of Information Act Request for all ATF FFL compliance inspection reports from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2017 in which the ATF issued an FFL a Warning Letter or more severe remedy as a result of its violations. After receiving no response to our request, in October 2017, Brady took the ATF to court to obtain inspection reports for these FFLs. Brady has since filed subsequent requests for additional reports beyond the original June 30, 2017 cut-off date. The FOIA effort and resulting litigation are still ongoing and have yielded all of the reports found in this database. Brady will continue to periodically update this website as it receives additional reports.
The inspection reports on this website are all public documents, and Brady obtained them through Freedom of Information Act requests and litigation. ATF can release these documents on its own website if it chooses to do so. Brady encourages ATF to do so.
All redactions to the text in the reports were made by the ATF before they were provided to Brady, and Brady is releasing these reports exactly as we received them from ATF. ATF claims to have redacted the reports pursuant to exceptions contained in the Freedom of Information Act. Brady disagrees with ATF’s decision to redact certain categories of information, and continues to fight these redactions in court.
This data has made Brady believe state and local gun industry oversight is necessary because the ATF inspects only about 7 percent of federal firearms licensees each year (including only 12-13 percent of all dealers, pawnshops, and manufacturers). Even when the ATF does inspect an FFL, it often fails to adequately enforce the law.
Using this and other data, Brady has created a method for identifying key characteristics of dealers more likely to violate the law. Our method is 4.5 times more likely to identify a problem dealer than random selection.
Brady is working to integrate its proprietary data-analytics tool into state and local inspection processes. This tool allows state and local authorities to focus their limited resources on dealers who are likely to be violating the law. In doing so, states and localities will be able to fill the oversight void that currently exists due to ATF constraints, and conduct their own, more efficient oversight of dealers.
About Gun Stores Near Me
Each inspection report on this map features the issuance of a Warning Letter or more severe remedy and was produced to Brady as a result of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and litigation. The fact that administrative action was taken and that these reports were subsequently obtained by Brady is the reason each one is included on this site. We also encourage you to review Brady’s 2006 in-depth report “‘Trivial Violations’?: The Myth of Overzealous Federal Enforcement Actions Against Licensed Gun Dealers” for more information about how “paperwork” violations can be more serious than they appear.
Maybe. An FFL that does not appear on this map has (1) never been inspected by ATF, (2) been inspected by ATF but not found to have any – or any serious – violations, or (3) been inspected by ATF and found to have violations that resulted in administrative action, but ATF has not produced the report to Brady. ATF, however, has this information and we encourage it to release it to the public.
Brady has found that the sort of systemic change government may provide is more impactful, replicable, and ultimately successful than pressuring individual FFLs to change their behavior.
Brady is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization with one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters to take action, not sides, and create a safer America.