Federal Firearms Regulations + Background Checks: What to Know

Do you need a federal firearms license (FFL) to sell a firearm in the United States? Do you need to do a background check on the buyer?  On May 10th, 2024, you may fall under the new federal regulation defining who must obtain a gun dealer’s license and run buyer background checks for every gun sale.  

The new rule clarifies the previous rule that required people who “engaged in the business” of selling firearms to hold a federal firearm dealer’s license and conduct buyer background checks. However, the old rule poorly defined who is legally considered to be “engaged in the business” of gun sales. Now, the government’s new rule states more definitively who must get a dealer’s FFL to sell firearms by stating clearly what constitutes engaging in the business of selling firearms. 

Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law wants every gun seller in Florida to know about the new federal rule before they learn about it the hard way, by being criminally charged for failure to comply. By adopting this new rule, the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) division of the Justice Department announces a new, much broader interpretation of the existing law. Anyone who sells guns in Florida may now be subject to arrest if they don’t have a federal gun dealer’s license.  

If you are charged with illegally selling a firearm in Florida, contact Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law today. 



Penalty for Engaging in the Gun Selling Business 

The Federal Gun Control Act (GCA) [18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(21)(C)] requires anyone who engages in the gun dealing business to obtain a federal license from the ATF. Anyone required to have an ATF federal firearms dealer’s license who sells a firearm without that license is punishable by the following penalty for each such sale: 

  • 5 years in federal prison 
  • $250,000 fine  


What Is the New Meaning of “Engaging in the Business” of a Gun Dealer? 

The recently announced federal rule reinterprets who is considered to be “engaged in the business” of gun dealing. This new interpretation is bound to be the subject of much litigation because it widens the population of gun sellers who may now need to get an ATF dealer’s license to sell guns. 

In 2022, Congress enacted the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) which removed language that previously included the phrase “principal objective of livelihood and profit” in the statutory definition of “engaging in the business” of gun dealing. The former language was read as limiting those identified as gun dealers only to those who sold guns as their principal livelihood. The BSCA eliminated the livelihood element, expanding the category of people considered gun dealers to those who do so with the intent to “predominantly earn a profit.” 

The new ATF rule that will be included in the Code of Federal Regulations incorporates the language expanding the meaning of “engaged in the business” of gun dealing to all those who sell guns with the predominant intent to earn a profit.  

The new interpretation encompasses all people who repetitively sell guns primarily to earn a profit. 


Includes Gun Shows, Internet Sales, and Brick-and-Mortar Store Gun Sales 

By changing the definition of a gun dealer from someone who sells guns as their principal livelihood to any person who repetitively sells guns for profit, virtually all gun show sales, internet gun sales, as well as brick-and-mortar store gun sales will now require the seller to possess a federal firearms license (FFL). 

The government proposes that this new interpretation of the law will effectively bring the regulation in line with the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and greatly reduce illegal sales of guns to unqualified buyers, including convicted felons, drug users, people deemed mentally incompetent, and others who intend to use the firearm for criminal activity.  


Firearm Sales NOT Requiring a Federal Firearms Dealer’s License 

The Justice Department’s announcement of the new firearm dealer’s regulation also clarified who doesn’t need a federal firearms dealer’s license to make gun sales.  

The new rule describes gun sellers who would not be engaged in the business of dealing in firearms as an auctioneer, or those who are purchasing firearms for, and selling firearms from, a personal collection. Also excluded from the definition are intra-family sales. 

The ATF’s new rule redefining what it means to be “engaging in the business” of firearms dealing marks a significant shift in federal firearms regulation. By clarifying the criteria for when individuals must obtain a federal license to sell firearms, the rule is intended to enhance public safety and ensure that those involved in commercial firearms transactions are subject to oversight.  

However, the rule has sparked a lot of debate and raised concerns among gun rights advocates and small-scale sellers who see the new rule as an illegal encroachment on their individual liberties. 


Read More > What You Need to Know About Federal Gun Charges  


Experienced Firearms Crime Defense Lawyers 

Whether someone is accused of illegally possessing a firearm or illegally selling one, defending against federal or state gun-related crimes requires a criminal defense lawyer with extensive knowledge of the applicable gun laws and the courtroom experience to protect the defendant’s constitutional rights. 

Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law is the Tampa criminal defense firm where the highest level of professionalism and integrity are provided to every client. With a Florida board-certified criminal defense lawyer among the firm’s partners, clients have the confidence that their case is in the hands of one of the most capable criminal defense firms in Florida.  

Gun laws and regulations are increasingly complex and are frequently changing. The best criminal defense lawyers closely monitor all changes in federal and state law to ensure that their clients have the benefit of most current legal rulings. With comprehensive legal research conducted in every client’s case, Stechschulte Nell identified the most effective defense strategy for each set of facts and circumstances. 

Contact Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law when you or your family member is facing criminal investigation or criminal charges for any offense, including any federal or state gun crime. 

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