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What do you see in the above picture? A handgun? What color is the handgun? What color is the background? Would you say this picture is “black and white?” That’s exactly what we see.

Firearm laws for auctioneers might not be completely “black and white” but it’s very close. We’ve written about auctioneers selling firearms numerous times including here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/15-things-about-auctioneers-and-guns/ and here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2019/10/09/federal-law-auctioneers-and-firearms/.

We wrote in our treatise October 9, 2019 (above) the following per the ATF’s website with our condensed answers considering federal laws:

  1. Q. Can I as an auctioneer without a Federal Firearms License (FFL) take guns in on consignment and secure a Federal Firearms Licensee to handle all the necessary background checks?
    A. No.
  2. Q. If a [Federal Firearm] 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.

It would appear to us to be black and white that either an auctioneer is occasionally selling firearms at an onsite (estate-type) auction or otherwise needs to be an FFL (and necessarily not partner with an FFL) to sell firearms at auction.

What’s this “estate-type” exemption about? That’s where the owner will maintain possession and control, and there are no consignments nor any out of state sales (other than to an FFL) and the auctioneer is not regularly nor frequently selling firearms, nor otherwise holding himself out as a “firearms auctioneer.”

The confusion continues to be … many auctioneers think they need to be an FFL under only a specific narrow circumstance (often characterized by “possession”) or otherwise can sell firearms either directly or by use of another FFL.

The facts are rather that auctioneers can sell firearms only under a specific narrow circumstance without any further licensing OR be licensed as a Federal Firearms Licensee.

In other words, the question is often “When do I need to be an Federal Firearms Licensee?” when the question should be, “When don’t I need to be a Federal Firearms Licensee?”

Strict enforcement in some areas of these laws took a turn in 2015 with the ATF publishing guidelines and then 2016 with the President’s Executive Action.

Even before that we had published our landmark pier-reviewed treatise on the basics of auctioneers selling [guns] firearms: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2010/01/17/a-guide-for-auctioneers-selling-guns/.

In that above analysis we noted that if an auctioneer did any of these six things, he would be likely held to be “engaging in the business” and need to be licensed as a Federal Firearms Licensee:

    • Possess firearms belonging to others
    • Buy and sell firearms, as a business
    • Hold oneself out as a dealer in firearms
    • Make a living in dealing in firearms
    • Repeatedly assist the same seller with the sale of their firearms
    • Conduct a firearm consignment auction, or take firearm consignments

The risks are immense for any auctioneer found out of compliance including as much as $500,000 in fines and 10 years in prison.

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.