Feds allow for drive-up gun sales to ease dealers', buyers' coronavirus worries

In a concession to the coronavirus, gun dealers can now offer their own version of take-out service.

Feds allow for drive-up gun sales to ease dealers', buyers' coronavirus worries

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, in new guidance to federally licensed firearm retailers, said Friday that dealers can provide drive-up or walk-up service to reduce health risks posed by the coronavirus.

The guidance was issued, the ATF said, in response industry questions about how business transactions could be restricted following the declaration of a national health emergency.

Licensees "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-and-mortar structure at the address listed on the license," the ATF said in a Friday bulletin.

Transactions may not be carried from "a nearby space" that is not part of the dealers' property unless they are participating in qualified gun shows.

Larry Keane, general counsel for the firearms industry trade group National Shooting Sports Foundation, said Friday that the organization raised the issue with the ATF more than two weeks ago as dealers sought to navigate various government orders limiting business activity.

Except in the states of Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York and Washington, gun dealers have been open for business during the pandemic.

Keane said the new ATF guidance in no way alters the requirements for background checks.

"There is no playbook for this," Keane said. "People are doing the best they can to abide by the rules."

The new guidance could only further fan the surge in gun sales that has shadowed the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, the FBI reported 3.7 million background checks, the most in a single month since the launch of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in 1998. The March numbers surpassed the previous single-month high of 3.3 million checks in December 2015.

While the FBI does not track gun sales – multiple firearms can be purchased in a single transaction – NICS is a way to gauge market demand.