In an effort to help licensed firearms retailers and their customers practice social distancing, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has released new guidance allowing gun shops to conduct their business on any part of their property, including a drive-up window or in the parking lot.

The move comes after the National Shooting Sports Foundation sought guidance from the agency on behalf of gun store owners nationwide, and is welcome news to many retailers, who have been trying to ensure that customers can continue to be served while still doing everything they can to shield themselves and employees from potential and prolonged exposure to the coronavirus.

USA Today claims that the new guidance from BATFE could “further fan the surge in gun sales” that we saw in March, when the National Instant Check System conducted a record 3.7-million background checks. According to the NSSF-adjusted figures, about 2.5-million of those checks were for firearms transactions, which is also a record high. Is the paper correct in assuming that this will add to the number of new gun owners?

The biggest issue for customers at the moment is inventory, not where sales can take place. I’d say this guidance from the ATF is going to have a larger impact on the stores and the people who work there, not necessarily the customers who are interested in purchasing a firearm or ammunition.

According to the BATFE, shops can conduct any and all business outdoors if they want, but they must do so on their property, and not, for instance, a neighboring business with a bigger parking lot.

(1) An FFL may carry out the requested activities through a drive-up or walk-up window or doorway where the customer is on the licensee’s property on the exterior of the brick-andmortar structure at the address listed on the license.

(2) An FFL may also carry out the requested activities from a temporary table or booth located in a parking lot or other exterior location on the licensee’s property at the address listed on the license, but any such activities must occur in a location where the licensee has the authority to permit ATF’s entry for inspection purposes. Whether the FFL has the authority to permit such entry, and whether a location constitutes the FFL’s property, is likely to be a fact specific inquiry. An FFL carrying out the requested activities from an exterior table or booth should maintain its inventory and records securely in the interior of the brick-and-mortar structure and ensure that the records of each firearms transaction are stored in the interior.

(3) An FFL may not carry out the requested activities from a nearby space that is not located on the licensee’s property at the address listed on the license, unless such activities are at a qualified in-state gun show or event, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 923(j) and 27 C.F.R. § 478.100, or other provision of federal law.

(4) An FFL may conduct non-over-the-counter firearm sales to unlicensed in-state residents who are exempt from NICS requirements in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 922(c), 27 § C.F.R. 478.96, and ATF Procedure 2013-2.

Some gun stores started offering curbside pickup options several weeks ago, but the new guidance from BATFE will likely make this a more popular option for stores that can easily move some or all of their business outside. It’s another step in the right direction, and it almost certainly wouldn’t have happened if Hillary Clinton were sitting in the White House right now. Kudos to the National Shooting Sports Foundation for pressing the agency on this question, and here’s hoping that this new option will make it easier for some shops to remain open and serving the needs of their community during the coronavirus chaos.