Article about tough FFL Laws

Found this online. It really is that tough here in PRMA!

Fifteen years ago there were 23 federal firearms licenses issued in Belchertown.

Today, there are three.

"I would say that's a pretty major decline," said Rich Kimball, of R&R Gun Sales, 450 State St., and one of the three remaining license holders.

Stricter federal licensing regulations dating back to 1993, plus the overall climate in Massachusetts with some of the toughest firearms laws in the country, have made it tough for gun dealers in the Bay State, according to Kimball. The combination, he says, "caused a lot of dealers to get out of the business."

Since 1994, the number of federal firearm licenses - FFLs - issued in Massachusetts has declined from 4,109 to 531, or by 87 percent.

A federal firearm license is required for any business that manufactures, repairs, imports, sells or even displays firearms or ammunition. A federal license is also required for businesses that make or import "destructive devices," specialized large-bore weapons, such as flare guns or bean-bag guns, which can be illegally fitted to fire explosives.

The combined number of federal firearms licenses in Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties fell by 76 percent, from 446 to 120.

Eighty-six of the 120 licenses are Type 1 licenses, required for gun dealers. There are 26 Type 7 licenses which are issued to gunmakers, four Type 8 licenses for weapons importers and three Type 6 licenses for ammunition makers.

There are also two Type 10 licences issued for makers of destructive devices or ammunition for destructive devices. Kollmorgen, the Northampton company that does work for the U.S. Department of Defense, holds one, and ZM Weapons, a high-performance arms maker in Bernardston, holds the other.

Among individual communities across the three counties, the decline in overall federal firearms licensing numbers is drastic.

Springfield used to have 72 total license holders; now there are 10. Three of them are held by gun maker Smith&Wesson, and one by the Springfield Library & Museum Association, which needs it to display its weapons collection.

Westfield went from 44 to nine, Chicopee from 38 to seven, and Greenfield, which once had 20 FFL holders, now has one.

In 1993 there were 240,000 federal firearms licenses issued nationwide. As it was pointed out at the time by one pro-gun control group, there were more licensed firearms dealers in the United State than there were gas stations.

Since then the number has declined to about 109,000, or by 62 percent, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The decline is part of a national trend that dates back to two pieces of legislation, according to the federal agency that oversees the licensing.

The first is the Brady Bill, named after White House press secretary James Brady who was shot in an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981. It increased the license fee from $10 per year to $200 for the first three years and $90 for each three-year renewal.

The second piece of legislation was the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, also known as the Crime Bill. It requires applicants for the federal licenses to notify their local police department, submit fingerprints and a photo with the application, and certify that their businesses adhere to local zoning regulations.

It also requires gun dealers to have an established location for their shops that must be separate from their residences. This eliminated many hobbyists and part-time dealers.

At the time, the Clinton administration was concerned about smaller gun dealers operating under the radar and potentially outside the law.

Police departments complained that with dealer licenses easy to obtain and difficult to track, they were often the last to know to whom the licenses were issued.

Kimball said that with the higher fees and the store front requirement, many smaller dealers just decided it was no longer worth it. "It used to be you could get a license for your garage, basement or bedroom," he said. "That took care of most of the dealers."

Nine of the 12 licenses issued in Agawam are held by four businesses, Walter A. Meissner Jr., of Auto Sports Distributors, Cortzar Ltd, Three-Ten Corp. and Taugwank Spur Corp, that all operate out of one location: 396 Main St.

Three-Ten Corp is a small-arms research and development busines and its president is Alma E. Marcinkiewicz, of Agawam. Taugawank Spur Corp. is a gun sales and real estate business owned by Ronald L. Gaudette, also of Agawam. Cortazar LTD. is an small-arms importer, manufacturer and dealer. It is owned by James L. Hansmann.

Gaudette said the four share one location to comply with the law requiring a storefront. None is a major dealer, and sharing one location is more economical than each operating a separate storefront, he said.

Meissner said he once favored reining in the smaller dealers, but now feels the government has overstepped its bounds."It's gone too far - way too far," he said.

James L. Wallace, executive director for the Northboro-based Gun Owners Action League (GOAL), agrees, saying the regulations did little more than force a lot of law-abiding dealers out of business. "The state decided firearms retailers shouldn't have the same rights to run a small business as any other business owner," he said.

Most of the smaller dealers were located in rural parts of the state. Their departure forces residents of those areas to travel further to find licensed dealers, he said.

Ultimately the federal legislation and state regulations did little to fight crime, Wallace contends, but they have managed put a lot of honest dealers out of the business. He also cited the Massachusetts Gun Control Act of 1998, which, he said, enacted more layers of restrictions and regulations for the purchase and sale of guns.

West Springfield Police Chief Thomas E. Burke said the new regulations were a good thing for police, although the dealers may not agree. "It made it hard on the mom-and-pop dealers who were doing small sales," he said.

West Springfield went from 16 federal firearms licenseholders in 1993 to five today.

Burke said prior to the regulations, police had a hard time keeping track of dealers. "There was a lot of stuff that we were not aware of," he said. "It's good for us to know exactly where the dealers are," he said.

His department conducts audits of dealers once a year and sometimes makes surprise inspection to make sure the log books are in order, he said. Police can impose condition for storage, such as gun safes and, in some cases, burglar alarms, according to Burke. One of the big concerns for police is that guns stolen in burglaries will wind up in the hands of criminals on the street, he said.

Kimball, a gun dealer for 25 years, said that in the last decade the amount of paperwork and forms to fill out every time he receives an order of guns or sells one has increased dramatically.

Like all dealers, he is required to keep a detailed log of every gun that comes in or goes out of his shop. That log is supposed to be available for inspection by authorities at any time, and it's woe to any dealer whose log does not match the inventory.

"We can't make any mistakes and jeopardize the business," he said. "We would be in trouble. We would not be selling any more."

Very tough indeed. MA makes it very difficult to sell or own a firearm/s. They do not want anyone to own one period, and by regulating things one after the other it makes it very discouraging for the law abiding citizen or hobbyist to comply or even afford to have as the article said. Great find capo!

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