A new legal service and cooperative defense fund giving independent retailers peace of mind when faced with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) audits or certain civil lawsuits, debuted at the recent AcuSport dealer show in Salt Lake City, Utah.
AcuSport’s customers are the first retailers to have been given an exclusive first-look at FFLGuard, a new legal service offered by The Chiafullo Group, LLP (“the Group”), a law firm based in New Jersey.
The intent is to provide legal assistance to independent gun retailers in the event of an ATF compliance investigation or civil litigation aimed at scrutinizing the dealer’s business practices, without the costly expenses customarily associated with retaining legal counsel.
“Our mission at AcuSport is to enhance our customers’ businesses by providing or endorsing products and services that add ‘real value,’” says Kenan Ikels, Director of Marketing for AcuSport. “Our endorsement of FFLGuard supports the long-term sustainability of these retailers’ businesses by providing a first-line of legal defense against the one thing that can shut them down faster than anything else — the loss of their Federal Firearms License.”
“Each year, the ATF conducts more than 7,000 FFL inspections for compliance,” says Chris Chiafullo, principal of the Group. “Statistically, that means roughly one-in-ten gun dealers will become the subject of a BATF audit each year, and if you look at the numbers since 2001, the amount of FFL revocations due to compliance issues has increased six-fold. Furthermore, politically motivated lawsuits are not uncommon, as best evidenced by (NYC) Mayor Bloomberg’s ongoing strategy to bankrupt FFL dealers by lawsuit. The average defense cost of a civil lawsuit today is astronomical, not to mention the time and lost income associated with the preparation for the legal proceedings.
”FFLGuard is a cost-sharing legal defense program designed by firearms litigation-savvy attorneys, and endorsed by AcuSport, to represent independent retailers. The program is available only to firearms dealers with FFLs who retain the Group — when those dealers participate in the Group’s FFLGuard program, they join other firearms retailers who desire the benefits, proven expertise and shared resources to protect their FFL’s.
A cornerstone feature of the FFLGuard program is the ATF Audit Response Unit. In the event of an ATF compliance audit, an FFLGuard professional will be assigned to assist with all aspects of the audit on the firearms dealer’s behalf. Working under the direction of the FFLGuard-designated counsel, the FFLGuard professional will interact directly with the ATF inspecting officials, record and chronicle all proceedings, and will keep the legal team apprised on the potential for a warning conference or revocation hearing.
FFLGuard participants also have access to the Civil Litigation Defense Unit, which provides up to 100 hours of legal counsel to the participant, upon the filing of a civil complaint where business practices are called into question, as well as a Legal Help Desk, which answers questions regarding the rapidly changing landscape of FFL rules and regulations by telephone and e-mail.