ATF form 4473 ethnicity question (courtesy atf.gov)

How long has Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (and Really Big Fires) asked gun buyers to state their ethnicity? I don’t know for sure, but Dan the Man reported on a change in the ATF Form 4473 ethnicity categories in July 2012. I’ve been ticking “African American” for at least five years. For some reason, the media suddenly woke up to the ethnicity aspect of the form 4473 earlier this week. And so “Republican Reps. Diane Black (Tenn.) and Ted Poe (Texas) have introduced legislation to eliminate the requirement for individuals to identify their race when filing paperwork to buy a gun,” thehill.com reports. Because “‘Failing to adhere to this requirement by not checking all of the correct boxes on the 4473 Form is considered an ATF violation that can be so severe as to result in the gun dealer being shut down for having incomplete purchaser forms,’ Black said.” Yes, well, why . . .

is the question there in the first place?

By law, the ATF and their fellow feds are not allowed to record or store the information written on Form 4473 (to block the creation of a federal gun registry). Dealers must keep the completed sales forms for 20 years, and stash denied sales forms for five years. If they go out of business or sell their FFL to another person, the ATF gets the forms.

There are unsubstantiated rumors that the feds are storing these surrendered forms electronically, in contravention of the law. Anyway, the ethnicity info is not being – can not be used for demographic research. It’s only good for crime investigation. The ATF and other law enforcement officials can require federally licensed gun dealers to show them completed forms when investigating a crime, and use the ethnicity info to find/ interview/apprehend/arrest/incarcerate suspects and perps.

Fair enough? Or does this raise the question, why are the feds data capturing my particulars for exercising my natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms when I haven’t committed a crime? It’s the same thought I had when I was fingerprinted for my Texas concealed handgun license.

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45 Responses to TN and TX Pols Introduce Bill to Nix Ethnicity from ATF Form 4473

    • You are so right. Most Americans are mutts anyway. I did not know my biological father was 1/4 native-American until a few years ago. Bur even if I was 1/128th native-American, it still applies. I would not doubt there is a smidgen of Hispanic as well. You would never know by looking at me though.

    • OOOH, I like that! I have been checking “white Hispanic” to show my solidarity with George Z, but now I feel my Asian and American Indian roots calling. And hey, didn’t we all originate in Africa?

  1. I’ve always wondered, since I have ancestory from South Aftica, should I be checking the African American block in addition to the white block?

    • Probably, my FFL always make me check both White and Non-Hispanic or Latino. I buy a couple of guns every year so it gets annoying. Nice guys there so suck it up and walk out with an addition to my collection.

      There does not exist a government form that does not ask for race/gender information,

  2. Here’s a crazy thought: anyone who has a CCW issued by their state of residence has already undergone a background check. What if background-checked CCW holders merely needed to present their CCW, and the FFL merely needed to record ID and CCW information, with no Form 4473 or NICS check required, in order to purchase firearms?

    • Can’t speak for other states, but in Iowa you only get a NICS check once every five years for your Weapons Carry Permit, then you can buy as many firearms as you want without NICS. Form 4473, that’s another story.

      • Same here in Wyoming. If you have a CCW, no NICS necessary for you.

        However, your CCW # and all other information go onto the 4473, per usual.

    • Works mostly like that in Idaho – you still have to fill out the 4473, but the dealer does not have to call in a NICS check. Dealers really like to sell to CWL holders when they are at gun shows – no waiting for the NICS approval.

  3. The answer to every question you have is in boxes 26 through 30 of the Form 4473. If it’s just a background check, why is there a need to record the manufacturer and serial number of the firearm? Box 18 which asks whether it’s a handgun, long gun, or other firearm elicits sufficient information to satisfy the federal firearms laws. If you think the Form 4473 information is not being stored, I have a nice bridge for sale.

    • If it were just a matter of a background check there’d be no need for any of the questions, except your name and address. If you ARE a fugitive from justice it will show up in the NICS check, theoretically anyway. At least the odds of finding that out there are much higher than a fugitive admitting to being a fugitive while attempting to purchase a firearm.

      On the other hand, while I’d love to scrap the 4473 altogether, the only point in having it is that if they find a weapon at a crime scene they can look up the serial number and trace it to the dealer who can then present the 4473 to the authorities. If the serial number is not recorded there would be no way to trace a weapon to anyone and the 4473 would really be pointless.

      • Explain to me the utility of tracing of stolen handguns….Sure you can find the original seller and buyer, but after that? If a firearm has been stolen, it could go through–and often does go through–multiple hands before it is recovered at a crime scene. Which means that the identity of the original buyer is irrelevant. Unless they plan to return the weapon (as if).

        • Yes, it’s pretty useless if the firearm has been stolen. Considering the high rate of homicide by a small group of gang members the whole system is probably a waste of time, mostly. Even if they could track your weapons effectively, the criminals would just rely even more on stolen weapons.

        • I am going to assume it is to establish a pattern. If someone keeps buying and loosing their guns that show up at crime scenes, then that store or person may be a source of illegal guns.

          Without a database and lots of data, it is impossible to find patterns.

          IF the ATF could be trusted, it would not be a bad idea. However, we see how the government screws with the no-fly list and other data so they cannot be trusted with this data either.

          Hell, states cannot even get DMV data straight. After being stopped several times and having to explain he was not the guy the police were looking for, my brother had to get new license plates just to not be stopped anymore.

    • I would be shocked if they did.

      About 35 years ago I took the PACE exam for civil service. After finishing it and recording my geographic preferences, I received many letters over the next couple of years inviting me to join either the IRS or the US Marshals.

      Glad I didn’t.

      Oh, and I could have been a letter carrier and be retired by now, or at least sending half my retirement to my ex-wife. . .

  4. I don’t know about the 4473, but in many cases the feds are now dating mining all of us and combining all of the data for political purposes, for the DNC. The program is by Catalist, and it’s for micro-targeting potential DNC base voters. it’s extremely effective too.

  5. Anyone who doesn’t think the ATF is keeping these records probably also doesn’t think the NSA is recording their electronic communications, either.

  6. Glad to see this being persuaded, my father is of Hispanic descent and my mother of German decent. I was born and raised in Texas we never spoke Spanish when growing up so me having light brown skin from my father. they assume I am Hispanic when I feel out a 4473 idk it doesn’t make sense I am American!!!!!!!

    • No, dude, you’re a Texan!

      You’re right, it makes no sense. Hispanic means of Spanish origin, or at least that’s the original meaning. Spain is a European country. If Hispanics are to be singled out by ethnicity, then why not Slavs, Celts, Basques, Scandinavians, Romani, etc. Where’s the consistency? Most people are a mix anyway. Maybe the feds should require we all get those ancestry.com DNA tests done so we can accurately report our pedigrees to them.

      • And heck, “hispanics” aren’t distinctive in appearance because of Spanish ancestry, it’s “Indian” ancestry that does it. Indians from south of the border like Aztecs and Maya (if from Mexico) or any of a thousand other tribes, who ended up speaking Spanish instead of English because that part of the Americas was colonized by Spain. All “hispanic” really means is “came from formerly Spanish territory in the Americas.”

        • Don’t forget the PC police get their panties in a wad when an actual Spaniard is hired instead of a “Latino”.
          Because the Spaniards are Caucasians, enslaving and abusing the indigenous peoples.

  7. I have a list of guns I own that have 4473 transfers and those that don’t.

    I keep the ones showing on the 4473 ready for return as needed. Right there on the boat.

  8. Funny how, despite their best efforts, “gun crime is still rampant”; and/or you have instances where 6 perps are nabbed as Felons illegally possessing ammunition [after a grueling and expensive 19 month combined ATF/FBI/DEA/DOJ investigation].

    • Never forget: These people are just your neighbors who need jobs. There is work to be done, certainly, but the man seeks the job, not the other way around.

      When I read the OP’s like this I say “look what your (my) neighbors think they can do to me (us)”.

      We have a Constitution, they might think you can chuck little pieces of it here or there or not enforce pieces here or there but it is an Agreement between us, and between us and past and future generations. We’ve already decided how we are going to get along, or we are going to chuck the whole thing and start over.

      Any military historian, theorist, or strategist would say that such things are a jockeying for a position of advantage. Is the U.S. government entitled to that advantage? That’s already been decided, we have it in writing. Is your neighbor, needing a job and working for the government entitled to that advantage, CERTAINLY not. Is some former mayor of a small patch of real estate between two rivers out east entitled to work to gain some same sort of advantage certainly not.

  9. God, I hate racial labels!

    Tiger Woods once said that whenever someone refers to him as a black man, it’s an insult to his mother, who is Thai. Barack Obama’s mother was a white woman from Kansas, yet people refer to him as our first black president. POTUS doesn’t seem to mind the label, since it’s his only accomplishment in life.

    I have friends who are Filipino, married to Caucasians. I have no idea how their kids would fill out a 4473. This business of labeling people by race is stupid and pointless.

    • Categorization of people and groups is part of the DNC platform. They want to get rid of the individual and deal with voting blocks. This is why when someone who is in one their blocks does the opposite of what is expected, they are “not black enough”, when a gay politician recently ran for office, he was “betraying gays” – categorization is done on purpose and everyone should fight from allowing it to happen. Everyone should be treated as an individual with their own thought and ideals and not a predefined voting block.

  10. How exactly does a trace on a recovered firearm’s serial number work? If ATF doesn’t already have all 4473s, how can they figure out which dealer sold the gun and has the original 4473?

    • I believe they keep a record of what firearm went to which dealer. They just (supposedly) don’t know who the dealer sold it to.

    • It is called “forward tracing.”

      Every FFL is required to keep a “bound book” or “A/D” book of acquisitions and dispositions of firearms, from the 07 FFL (at the point of manufacture of the gun) to the final retail FFL who transferred the gun to the final purchaser.

      When the ATF wants to know “how did this gun end up at point X?” they start by calling the 07 manufacturing FFL, who will then read off the line in their A/D book for that serial number. The ATF then calls the next FFL, and he has to read off his line in his A/D book. The ATF will want the date the gun came onto your book, from what FFL#, how long it was in your (the FFL being questioned) possession, when it left, to whom, by what means, with any 4473 information that might be on your disposition line or the FFL license # of the FFL to whom you sent the gun down the line.

      As a FFL, when the ATF needs this information for a forward trace, you have 24 hours to respond. Not responding will typically mean your FFL won’t be renewed.

      • Thank you DG, that makes sense and is much less insidious than I feared. So the final buyer of record is where the buck stops, and said buyer better have some sort of record of sale or stolen gun police report in the event their gun shows up at a crime scene.

        I had already decided I was a little uneasy with private sales where I don’t know the purchaser/seller.

    • My grandfather who was born in Italy was once asked his race by a census worker and in his Italian accent said “Black ” – when the census worked refused to write down black, he said then we are done here and shut the door on the person. He then phoned his neighbor at the time who was black and told him about the census worker who was coming over, the black neighbor told the census worker he was “white” and refused to answer any questions until he had recorded that he was white. My grandfather and his good friend and neighbor Thomas recalled that story many times. Sadly they have since both passed.

  11. When I was taking my EMT-B course my instructor was talking to us about the National Registry. She said on the race question to fill in other. Her main reason is that race should not matter. While I can see the point of equal opportunity, she bought up a good point in that it makes it where the most qualified person, might not get the job. Not trying to turn this into a race debate, or something like that. But, I have always believed that the best way to stop racism is not to bring it up in the first place.
    You would think this question on the 4473 would raise all kinds of flags, but for some reason it does not. I know every time I fill one out, I wonder what would happen if I checked one other than what I am. Would it cause me to be denied? If so, wouldn’t that mean they are tracking something they should not be?

  12. During my federal service we all got a letter from some office in DC explaining to us what race we were. Every employee of the .gov got such a letter. A monumental waste of time and resources.

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