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Again, Don’t Be Dumb

One of the things that our friends at the ATF really dislike are people who buy and sell guns for the purpose of making a profit without first obtaining a Federal Firearms License. Whatever your thoughts are on that, and I am all for people buying and selling whatever guns they want for whatever reason, it doesn’t change the fact that operating as an informal gun dealer without the FFL permission slip is against the law and the ATF will come down on you like a rogue comet if they catch you doing it.

Case in point, from Lee Williams on Substack: ATF targets 74-year-old Florida man selling guns at a flea market

Now to be fair, and I don’t like being in a position of having to qualify something like this, there are some important things to note in Lee’s post.

First, the ATF tried to talk to him and explain that he couldn’t keep doing this:

“According to court documents, on July 28, 2021, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) met with Palmatier and explained that if he wanted to continue to sell firearms he would have to apply for a Federal Firearms License (FFL).”

Palmatier, the ATF claims, ignored the agents’ warning. “Despite that meeting, Palmatier continued to sell firearms …” the press release states.

He was warned and said eff you in response. Whether that is noble or stupid I will leave it to you to decide but either way he clearly had attracted the ATF’s attention.

Then we see something else fairly important:

The ATF sent undercover agents to the flea market, who made “multiple controlled purchases” of firearms from Palmatier.

“At least two of the firearms purchased from Palmatier were subsequently linked to usage in two separate crimes,” the press release states.

That is going to get you busted. It also tells me he was likely buying guns from shady characters and then reselling those guns at flea markets.

It is pretty hard to determine just how many firearms you can sell without being a “dealer”. If you inherit a few guns and you sell those to get rid of them, you are probably OK (I am not a lawyer, not legal advice, etc.). If you buy a gun, decide you don’t like it after shooting a box of ammo and then sell it, even for a profit? Still probably OK.

The ATF just amended the form 4473 again and modified the language about buying and selling a little bit:

The last sentence of the certification statement has been changed from “I further understand that the repetitive purchase of firearms for the purpose of resale for livelihood and profit without a Federal firearms license is a violation of Federal law” to “I further understand that the repetitive purchase of firearms for the purpose of resale to predominantly earn a profit without a Federal firearms license is a violation of Federal law”.

What you will notice, highlights mine, is that they dropped the word “livelihood” and added the word “predominantly”, and that seems to shift it away from “selling guns to make a living” to “selling guns to make a profit”, and the burden appears to be heavier now on the seller.

Again, I am not looking to debate the right or wrong of it, just the facts, and the fact is that the ATF is paying attention to private sellers and if they perceive a pattern of buying and selling for the sake of making a profit, they will pursue you. You can guarantee that at flea markets and gun shows, as well as online at places like Armslist, the ATF is looking for people they think are breaking the admittedly (and intentionally) amorphous laws. I often get weird emails and text messages that scream “ATF”, like a weirdly stilted text message from a guy who asked about the availability of a handgun and then asked about shipping before stating this:

Oh you are an Illinois resident, and IL has waiting periods and you need a FOID card in order to purchase or even possess a firearm which is why I don’t sell direct to IL residents at all, but you want me to ship this handgun to an FFL in Oklahoma where you can’t do the transfer anyway because you aren’t a resident. Yeah, no thanks Mr. ATF Agent, that gets you blocked and reported as spam. I am confident that there are ATF agents, maybe some doing it full time, who are in cubicles prowling Armslist, Gun Broker, etc trying to get sellers to agree to do something illegal.

The point I am trying to make here, don’t be dumb. Whether it is right or not, it just isn’t worth it to be engaged in buying and then selling firearms to make some money because you are going to get on the ATF’s radar. Anything to do with guns, especially if you are notable for your political WrongThink, is going to attract increasing attention. Just don’t be dumb, you don’t want to be in a jail cell for any reason. You aren’t going to be of much use if SHTF behind bars.


  1. Don W Curton

    I saw this elsewhere and thought the same thing. They wouldn’t be asshats about that, right?

    Back in the 80’s and early 90’s I bought and sold quite a few firearms. Some at a profit, some at a loss, but never enough to be considered a livelihood. Any profit made generally went into the very next firearms purchase. I would buy, shoot, decide whether or not I liked it enough to be a keeper, and then sell/trade for my next gun. I went thru quite a few before, ahem, getting married and having to cut that shit out. That was all “predominantly” for fun, but then again who makes that determination? Sure wouldn’t want to test that out today.

    • Arthur Sido

      Compared to then, even counting Ruby Ridge and Waco, the ATF at the higher levels is far more politicized and weaponized against regular gun owners (iow White guys). The local level ATF guys I have dealt with are good dudes but even still I wouldn’t want to place myself in a position where I do anything even marginally questionable.

  2. JackDup

    Curious, why they are still selling hard reset triggers and 80% lowers after the ruling in August or whenever that was.

    On one of the 80 percent lower websites had a big countdown clock to the day of the ruling.

  3. John Wilder

    But go after people who are selling the actual guns to the gangs who are doing the crimes? Nah, that’s dangerous. An old man won’t shoot the ATF, but those guys wouldn’t blink an eye.

  4. Plague Monk

    I collect mainly older firearms, dating back to the 1600s, and I’ve considered getting a Curios and Relics tag, but the horror stories I’m hearing on the subject of 3 am BATF visits concern me enough that I won’t take the chance.
    Here in SW Ohio, the major flea markets don’t want anything military related. An acquaintance tried to sell a large set of prints from the National Guard Heritage series, and the flea market people shut him down within half an hour. Even military history books aren’t welcome, at least in the last year or so.

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