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There are a number of federal laws which address the sale, shipping, transport, receipt and acquisition of firearms which involve auctioneers.

Some of these laws are United States Code (Federal Law,) while others are regulatory laws from the Code of Federal Regulations. Further, the ATF has adopted Rule 96-2 in accordance with United States Code 18 § 923(a).

Auctioneers selling firearms need to be attentive to state and local laws as well, which can further amplify federal law (to an extent, absent largely an “undue burden.”) Further, there are additional laws when selling into — or receiving from — any jurisdiction outside the United States and territories.

All of these laws, regulations and rules have to be taken as a whole, as some override/contradict others — and the regulations and rules are used to carry out enforcement, and rely (but supplement/amplify) the United States Code.

United States Code § 922 (a) (3)
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/922 (a)(3)
It is unlawful to transport into or receive firearms from another state into your state without the use of (or buy) a Federal Firearms Licensee, except by bequest or intestate succession.

United States Code § 922 (a) (5)
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/922 (a)(5)
It is unlawful to transport or send firearms from your state into any other state without the use of (or buy) a Federal Firearms Licensee, except by bequest or intestate succession or loan/rental for legal sporting purposes.

United States Code § 922 (d)
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/922 (d)
Certain people are prohibited from shipping, transporting and receiving firearms/ammunition.

United States Code § 922 (g)
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/922 (g)
Certain people are prohibited from shipping, transporting and receiving firearms/ammunition.

United States Code § 922 (n)
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/922 (n)
Certain people are prohibited from shipping, transporting and receiving firearms/ammunition.

Code of Federal Regulations 27 CFR § 478.29
https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/27/478.29
It is unlawful to acquire firearms from outside one’s state without use of (or buy) a Federal Firearms Licensee.

Code of Federal Regulations 27 CFR § 478.30
https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/27/478.30
It is unlawful to send firearms from one state into any other state without the use of (or buy) a Federal Firearms Licensee, except by bequest or intestate succession.

Code of Federal Regulations 27 CFR § 478.32
https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/27/478.32
Certain people are prohibited from shipping, transporting and receiving firearms/ammunition.

Code of Federal Regulations 27 CFR § 478.96
https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/27/478.96
Rifles and shotguns (long guns) can be purchased from/by an FFL in one state and taken to another state, so long as that receiving state doesn’t prohibit.

United States Code 18 § 923(a) & ATF Rul. 96-2
https://www.atf.gov/file/55456/download
General guide for auctioneers selling firearms.

United States Department of Justice Firearm License Guidebook
https://www.atf.gov/file/100871/download
Do I need a license to buy and sell firearms?

ATF Auctioneer Questions & Answers
https://www.atf.gov/qa-category/auctioneers

  1. Q. Can I as an auctioneer without a Federal Firearms License take guns in on consignment and secure a Federal Firearms Licensee to handle all the necessary background checks?
    A. No.
  2. Q. If a licensed auctioneer is making sales of firearms, where may those sales be made?
    A. Anywhere so long as the transfers take place at the licensed location or onsite with the “estate-type” exemption.
  3. Q. Does an auctioneer who is involved in firearms sales need a dealer’s license?
  4. A. Auctioneers can sell firearms with the “estate-type” exemption, or otherwise be licensed as an FFL.

Every auctioneer I’ve ever talked to about firearm sales seems to have, “talked to an ATF agent who assured me …” The problem with that is issues specifically regarding firearms and auctioneers are not prominent matters within the ATF and very few ATF agents are proficient with all those details.

It appears to us to be about this simple: If you as an auctioneer are conducting an occasional onsite auction with firearms where the owner will maintain possession and control, and there are no consignments nor any out of state sales, you can indeed conduct this auction without having a Federal Firearms License (FFL). Otherwise, you need to be an FFL (and necessarily not partner with an FFL) to sell firearms at auction.

For most auctioneers the question is this: Did you sign a contract to sell firearms, take possession of those firearms, market those firearms, collect money from the sale of those firearms and settle with the seller? In this circumstance, outside of the narrow exception above, there is no doubt you “engaged in the business of selling firearms” which would require you to be an FFL.

Lastly, in the past six months, the ATF has unquestionably taken a more strict view of enforcement, revoking a long-time FFL because he was “partnering with” an auctioneer … and more of this same attention to the laws seems to be ongoing. Penalties for non-compliance include up to 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and America’s Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by the The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.