A Federal Firearms License, commonly known as a FFL, is an ID card from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms that allows an individual or an organization to engage in a commercial enterprise pertaining to the import or manufacture of ammunition or firearms, or both, for personal use or for selling. To obtain an FFL, an applicant must be eighteen years old or older, not an immediate family member, and not an immediate associate of any person involved in any transaction involving firearms. To apply for an FFL, an application must be filed with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Once the application has been filed, it must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice and then wait for its approval. After approval, the applicant can visit the ATF office in person or online to obtain his FFL.
There are several differences between what is a Federal Firearms License (also called an FFL) and what is a Firearm Dealer’s license (also referred to as a FCD). The primary difference is that an FFL allows individuals and companies to engage in commercial activities that include the importing and manufacturing of firearms and all relevant ammunition and other destructive devices, while a CDH requires that licensed dealers only deal with specifically designated types of ammunition and firearm destruction materials. There are many gray areas in between what is an FFL and what is a CDH. For example, while a CDH allows anyone who meets specific age requirements to purchase firearms, it does not allow a licensed dealer to sell handguns to individuals under the age of eighteen (only children may be sold a handgun by a dealer – such as an unclean-shooting “stalker” or someone suffering from serious mental illness). A FFL allows anyone to buy or sell firearms and any ammunition through any licensed dealer – but does not permit unlicensed transfer or possession of handguns.
To obtain an FFL you must meet a variety of criteria including: have a valid license from the United States government; pass an exhaustive background check that including credit checks, fingerprinting, and verification; pay a significant fee; and pay the corresponding tax. To obtain a CDH, you will need to fill out an application and pay the corresponding tax. The forms for both licenses are available from each local U.S. Department of Interior or Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms office. There is currently a proposed new federal law that would make it easier for people to obtain CDHs even without a license – but that legislation awaits a signature from President Obama and a future determination by Congress.
Besides, what is a federal firearms license, there is also what is a “personal license” or what is a “firearms license.” Both terms are used interchangeably, but in reality, there is not a significant difference between the two. Both require the same steps to obtain and renew a license, and both authorizations to possess firearms. A person may obtain a federal license, while an individual may obtain a state license. Both, however, do not grant the right to own firearms.
Both of these licenses are valid in most states, although some states have differing requirements. As stated above, the federal licensing process is the same no matter what your state requires. In addition, the federal paperwork covers all states’ reciprocity requirements. A state that does not honor a federal license to purchase firearms may deny a license to buy firearms altogether.
The federal firearms license is also transferable, meaning that you can transfer it between people. However, if you want to transfer between yourself and another individual, you will need to obtain a special transfer permit, not just a federal license. This is important because the license is only good for one transfer, while the transfer permit is transferable. For this reason, it is strongly suggested that you obtain both a federal license and transfer permit, so as to ensure complete consistency in the laws between yourself and the other individual. These documents are not difficult to obtain, and they do not expire once you obtain them.