The defendant was federally licensed to deal in sporting weapons. An ATF inspector inspected the defendant’s books and requested entry into his locked gun storeroom. The defendant asked the inspector if he had a search warrant. The inspector explained that the Gun Control Act, 18 U.S.C. § 921, authorized such searches, known as compliance checks. After the search, the inspector seized two sawed-off rifles that the defendant was not licensed to possess.
Whether the search of the business premises was reasonable?
Yes. Compliance checks are reasonable because the defendant chose to engage in “pervasively regulated” business and to accept a federal license. In doing so, he acknowledged that his business records, firearms, and ammunition would be subject to effective inspection.
It is plain that inspections for compliance with the Gun Control Act, 18 U.S.C. § 923, pose only limited threats to the dealer’s justifiable expectations of privacy. When a person chooses to engage in a “pervasively regulated” business such as dealing in firearms and accepts a federal license, he must do so with the knowledge that his business records, firearms, and ammunition will be subject to effective inspection. The government annually furnishes each licensee with a revised compilation of ordinances that describe his obligations and define the inspector’s authority.
406 U.S. 311, 92 S. Ct. 1593 (1972)