In June 2021, the Biden-Harris administration announced a “Zero tolerance” policy in an effort to fight the surging gun and violent crime. The new strategy would see firearm dealers who willfully violate gun laws get their FFL licenses revoked. But what exactly is a “willful” violation in this case?
The 1968 Gun Control Act (GCA) was not specific on the “willfulness” requirement, which was an injustice. The GCA was later amended to ensure technical mistakes and unintentional errors were not a basis for license revocation. During this amendment, the Senate approved “willful” as “purposeful” or “intentional.”
While wilful can be defined as a harmful intentional or deliberate act, the meaning could be different in other contexts, especially in firearms law. In this context, “willful” may not mean “intentional.”
Today’s judicial decisions regard a firearm dealer’s behavior as wilful if they repeat the acts after warning from the ATF, even without the intention to violate laws.
As specified by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), willful violations include:
(1) Transferring a firearm to a prohibited person
(2) Failing to conduct a required background check
(3) Falsifying records, such as a firearms transaction form
(4) Failing to respond to a trace request
(5) Refusing to permit ATF to conduct an inspection
Other violations that could see you served with a revocation notice include failure to document and verify buyer eligibility, account for firearms, records maintenance for firearms tracing, and failure to report multiple handgun sales.
The zero-tolerance policy could potentially view any violation as willful, which could hurt many FFLs. Therefore, businesses need to comply with the federal laws and President Joe Biden’s policy to be on the safe side.