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Weapon Sales: How to Know When You’ve Committed a Crime

Responsible weapon sales are critical in ensuring deadly weapons do not get into the hands of the wrong people. But while there are rules and regulations a licensed dealer must adhere to, there are very few criminal cases brought against those who follow, or attempt to follow, the law.

Still, “few” and “none” aren’t the same thing. Dealers, you could find yourself faced with criminal charges if you fail to act responsibly on your side of the transaction.

Becoming a Gun Dealer in Texas

To stay on the right side of the law, you must first know the law. And any legal right to sell begins with licensing.

If you hope to legally sell firearms, then you will need to apply to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The ATF requires aspiring dealers to fill out and submit the FFL (Federal Firearms License) and the Certificate of Compliance forms.

Both are available through your local field office or from the ATF website. You’ll also need to submit a photograph and fingerprints and pay a separate fee for each place you intend to do business.

Once approved, you will legally be allowed to sell. But not so fast. The privilege comes with a pretty major responsibility: security and storage.

As a dealer, you will need to take appropriate action to ensure your place of business/gun storage is secured. Otherwise, you could face civil penalties (up to $2,500) as well as license suspension or revocation in the event a gun of yours is stolen and then used in the commission of a crime.

When Weapon Sales Cross the Line from Violation to Crime

The law does a pretty good job of protecting weapon dealers from how their wares are used beyond the store, but there is one area where your knowledge could make you criminally liable.

Straw Man Purchases

This type of transaction is when you sell the gun to an individual legally capable of owning a firearm, but you know they will not be the ultimate possessor of the gun, and that the true owner is someone legally ineligible.

The burden of proof is high against the dealer, but it’s not insurmountable. Here are the items the prosecution will focus on:

  • Eligibility of the offender to own a firearm
  • How the offender accessed the firearm
  • Who sold the firearm to the point of access

In layman’s terms, someone with a felony background commits a crime with a weapon that a legally eligible family member bought from your store. You knew the family well and knew of the intent of the buyer, but you sold it to them anyway and did not report it to any of the appropriate authorities.

In a best-case scenario, this could result in the suspension or permanent revocation of your license to sell. In a worst-case scenario, there might be enough evidence present for prosecutors to make a case for accomplice to the crime.

Considering 40% of all gun transactions in this country are private sales, the possibility here is a real one that you have to be on guard about before entering a transaction.

If you are considering entering the weapon sales market as either a private seller or a dealer, don’t be caught off guard. Check out the John Teakell blog for more information on how guns and weapons are regulated, both federally and here in the Lone Star State.

And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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