ATF investigates C&R license holder for selling 500 guns

A Wisconsin man with a Collector of Curio and Relics license is under investigation after authorities tied him to a number of sales through an online gun classifieds site.

In a story by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has an open case against an unnamed Wauwatosa area man who is believed to have purchased 531 guns from a string of Gander Mountain locations between 2003 and 2015.

The guns, most of which were used, cost the man some $170,000 and most were subsequently resold on Gunbroker.com for a profit.

While not well known, the ATF’s Internet Investigations Center (IIC), mentioned in President Obama’s new executive actions to curb gun violence, is staffed with federal agents, legal counsel, and investigators to track illegal online firearms trafficking and to provide intelligence to agents in the field.

Using a complicated scheme that allegedly involved a $25 off coupon with no expiration date and kickbacks to employees who tipped him off to good deals, the man purchased a number of guns, with the bulk of them acquired in the past five years year. While there is no firearms waiting period in Wisconsin and federal law has no cap on firearms purchases by eligible possessors, what the man could face is charges earned after reselling them without a license.

Though he acquired a C&R in 2014, this collector’s license does not allow one to deal in guns as a business even if they meet the ATF’s test for being a curio or allow one to be “engaged in the business” of selling more modern firearms. In effect, when selling a gun a C&R holder has no more protections to do so under the law than the average citizen.

Based on the Gun Control Act of 1968, current laws require persons who are “engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms be otherwise licensed.

Generally, if an individual repetitively buys and sells firearms with the goal of turning a profit, they need a license while someone making occasional sales from a personal collection do not. Those violating such laws, if prosecuted and found guilty, face up to five years in prison, a fine up to $250,000, or both.

Despite recent attention by the White House on the issue, the ATF will not define how many gun sales would require someone to be licensed, relying instead on a host of other factors that accompany the unlicensed sale such as if the seller represents themselves as being “engaged in the business” through the use of advertising or business cards and other circumstances such as accepting credit card payments or quickly reselling recently bought firearms — though they do advise that one may break the law if these factors are present “when only one or two transactions took place.”

The individual at the center of the Wisconsin investigation has not been arrested or charged, though the case is ongoing.

As for Gunbroker, like most online gun classifieds, the site allows non-FFL holders to sell items as allowed by law and complete the sale of modern firearms by shipping them to a verified gun dealer though it is up to the receiving FFL to accept guns being shipped.