1 week, 4 days ago
Doug Stockman always has had a passion for firearms, so 20 years ago he made a business out of it.
Today, his shop, SSG Tactical, is one of the largest gun dealers in Virginia, with 10 employees, training classes and concealed-carry fashion bags.
Mr. Stockman and co-owner Kurt Sebastian are part of an industry that adds $31.8 billion to the U.S. economy — roughly equivalent to Nigeria’s national budget.
But Mr. Stockman and others in the industry worry that heightened federal scrutiny and government regulations will put them out of business.
Last year, when an inspector from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives dropped by SSG Tactical’s Fredericksburg shop for an unannounced audit, Mr. Stockman thought he was prepared.
Each of the roughly 7,500 guns his business sold that year required a Form 4473, the federal document that the purchaser and seller must complete, in addition to a background check.
The Form 4473 asks questions such as where the purchaser lives and whether the person has ever committed a crime.
Leaving one of the 132 items on the six-page questionnaire blank, or filling it in incorrectly, is an ATF violation. One violation can lead to a license revocation, which would put Mr. Stockman out of business.
Out of SSG Tactical’s 7,500 guns sold, the company could have made as many as 990,000 mistakes from the Form 4473 alone.
Turns out, Mr. Stockman’s team made about 180 errors — a 99.98 percent accuracy rate.
The majority of the violations were on the 4473 and included incorrect information on ethnicity, wrong dates and leaving a box empty when the city and county go by the same name, Mr. Stockman said.
“These mistakes were anything but willful — they were simply human error,” he said. “Now, if anything more turns up, in any future audit, we could lose our license — our business.”
This analysis may anger some folks, but that has never stopped me before. Let’s begin our analysis by observing that I don’t believe in the ATF. I believe their existence is an unconstitutional abomination and that all federal gun laws run contrary to the intent of the founders. Furthermore, even within their framework, the ATF has run amok and is completely off the chain. Furthermore, since all of the above is true (according to me), form 4473 is equally an infringement of my rights.
Having said all of that, until such time as we can change it, it is the framework within which gun stores must operate if they want to operate at all. I work in an industry where tens of thousands of procedures steps occur, calculations are performed, and maintenance evolutions occur every day. We live in a glass bowl, with oversight and scrutiny by both state and federal regulators, as well as from self regulation.
It’s been difficult, but my industry has a lower human error rate than airlines, hospitals or the pharmaceutical industry. There are means, procedures, techniques, and tools by which human errors can be reduced. Gun shops are going to have to employ them.
That isn’t to say that one can ever achieve no errors, but constant improvement is the name of the game. The challenge is for gun shops to do this without increasing prices. My industry did, and it can be done. Gun shops don’t need to fight it. They need to be about their business in getting the training and learning to employ the techniques of human error reduction. It needs to happen fast. Their businesses and our access to guns will depend upon it.