As the trade association for the firearms industry, NSSF receives many questions from firearms retailers regarding ATF compliance. We’ve begun to catalog these questions and answers to better serve our members and the industry. Here are some of the more frequently asked questions and the responses from our ATF Compliance Team regarding the 4473 Firearms Transaction Record form.
What should a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) do when it finds it has lost a completed Form 4473 and a thorough search of the premises fails to locate it?
If you have lost a Form 4473, we recommend the following actions:
If you find that you are missing a single Form 4473, you should conduct a thorough and diligent search of your premises and make a call to the customer to verify that he did not mistakenly take it with him.
If you still cannot locate it, contact your local ATF field office immediately. As best you can, reconstruct the missing Form 4473, identify it as such and attach a statement concerning the loss of the original form. File the form in your normal 4473 files.
In cases where all of your files of Forms 4473 are missing or stolen, you should promptly notify your local ATF field office of the loss or theft and get guidance on record reconstruction.
If information is contained on a state firearms transfer document, do I still have to enter the same information on the ATF Form 4473?
Yes. ATF Form 4473 is required by Federal law regardless of any state documentation required by the state in which the licensees business premise is located. With the exception of the return of a repaired firearm to the person from whom it was received, a licensee shall not sell or otherwise dispose of, temporarily or permanently, any firearm to any person, other than another licensee, unless the licensee records the transaction on a firearms transaction record, Form 4473.
If a person who is unable to complete a 4473 form because of illiteracy or a physical disability wishes to purchase a firearm, how may the transfer be legally completed? May an accompanying person complete the form for the purchaser?
The buyer must personally complete Section A of the ATF Form 4473 and certify (sign) that the answers are true, correct and complete. However, if the buyer is unable to read and/or write, the answers (other than the signature) may be completed by another person, excluding the seller. Two persons (other than the seller or his employees) must then sign and date the form as witnesses to the buyers answers and signature in blocks 16 and 17. [Instructions on ATF F 4473, page 3, Question 1]
Is the transferee required to provide his or her Social Security Number on the ATF Form 4473?
No. This information is optional. However, providing this information will ensure the lawfulness of the sale by avoiding the possibility of the transferee being incorrectly identified as a felon or other prohibited person. It may also help NICS process the transaction more quickly. Furthermore, inclusion of the Social Security Number will differentiate the transferee from any other person with the same name who might come under ATF investigation. [27 CFR 478.124(c)(2)]
If a customer innocently answers a question on the 4473 form incorrectly or omits an entry and the licensee notices the error after the transfer, what is the correct procedure to rectify the error?
If the licensee discovers that a Firearms Transaction Record, ATF Form 4473, is incomplete or improperly completed after the firearms have been transferred, the licensee should photocopy the inaccurate form. The buyer should return to the store and make changes to errors or omissions in Sections A and/or C on the copy and date and initial it. In cases where the licensee made an error or omission to sections B and/or D the person who made the errors should make the changes and should initial and date them. The corrected photocopy should be attached to the original ATF F 4473 and retained as part of the licensees permanent records.
If a customer lies on Form 4473 regarding a question that would prohibit the transfer of a firearm to him, the licensee is not aware that it is a lie or that the purchaser is ineligible and that ineligibility is not picked up by NICS, has the FFL violated any federal firearms laws or ATF regulations by completing the transfer if that lie or ineligibility is later discovered?
If a customer mistakenly answers Question No. 12 (“If you are a nonimmigrant alien, do you fall within any of the exceptions set forth in the instructions…”) on Form 4473 by checking “No” when the question does not apply to him, can the checked box be left alone or must the customer draw a line through the box and initial and date the error?
It is the responsibility of the licensee to obtain an accurate and complete Form 4473. When certifying the Form 4473 in Section D, the transferor is certifying he or she has no reason to believe the transferee is prohibited from receiving a firearm based in part on the answers provided by the transferee in Section A.
If Question 11.1 is answered with a “no” response, then the transferee should not respond to Question 12. If the transferee answers “no” to Block 12 and discovers the mistake immediately, he or she should draw a line through their response, then write their initials and the date next to the change. This will ensure the information provided on the ATF F 4473 is fully accurate.
If the licensee or the buyer discovers that a Form 4473 is incomplete or improperly completed after the firearm/s have been transferred, the licensee should photocopy the inaccurate form and make any necessary additions or revisions to the photocopy. The buyer should only make changes to Sections A and C. The licensee should only make changes to Sections B and D. Whoever made the changes should initial and date the changes. The corrected photocopy must be attached to the original Form 4473 and retained as part of the licensee’s permanent records.
During compliance inspections, can the inspecting officer physically take all of the dealers Forms 4473 back to his office for further review at his convenience?
The Forms 4473 are the property of the licensee until that licensee goes out of business and submits the records to the ATF Out of Business Records Center. ATF may, with the licensees consent, take the Forms 4473 off premises. If done, ATF will issue a receipt for the forms, which the licensee is expected to retain in his permanent records until the forms are returned. The receipt, at a minimum, should contain the date the forms are being removed from the premises and the total number of forms involved. For more information, read When You Are Inspected.
I understand that FFL holders are required to maintain Form 4473 records for 20 years and that the records are to be sent to ATF if the FFL goes out of business. If an FFL remains in business beyond the 20-year holding period, does it still have to maintain the records?
No. The only requirement is to keep the Forms 4473 for 20 years. (See NSSF Factsheet.) The federal firearms regulations allow for licensees to dispose of forms that are older than 20 years. Disposition includes submission of those records to the ATF National Tracing Center (NTC). Submission of these records will allow ATF to more effectively trace crime guns. The NTC requests that licensees enclose a copy of the Active FFL and appropriately indicate that the records are over 20 years old. Records are to be sent to ATF, Out of Business Records Center, (OOBRC), 244 Needy Road, Martinsburg, WV 25405. It is recommended to send your records in a manner that can be tracked, i.e., via Federal Express, U.S. Postal Service, United Parcel Service or any service that provides delivery confirmation. Contact the NTC, Industry Records Branch, at 800-788-7133, with additional questions on this topic.
How would question 11(a) on the 4473 be answered for redemption of a pawn ticket?
Question 11(a) should be answered “yes,” to reflect that the person completing the form is the actual purchaser of the firearm.
Line 2 of Form 4473 states that U.S. Postal abbreviations are accepted. Are state abbreviations also accepted on Lines 3, 13 and 19? If so, does it matter whether it is in postal format (e.g., MS) or Associated Press style (e.g., Miss.)?
27 CFR 478.124(c)(1) and the Notices, Instructions and Definitions on pages three through six of the Form 4473 do not specifically address whether postal abbreviations can be used in Blocks 3, 13 and 19. It is the responsibility of the licensee to obtain a Form 4473 from the transferee with complete and accurate answers in Section A. This includes obtaining a Form 4473 with recognizable and interpretable state abbreviations. The use of abbreviations is permissible throughout the form, where applicable. However, the ATF recommends that standard U.S. Postal abbreviations are used for all relevant blocks of the ATF F 4473. [27 CFR 478.124(c)(1)]
I have a customer who has commissioned me to special-order a firearm I do not have in stock. By special-ordering the gun I will be invoiced, and the firearm will become part of my inventory when it arrives at my business premises. To prevent the possibility of not being able to sell it to this customer if he does not pass the NICS check, may I conduct a NICS inquiry at the time that he orders the firearm?
No. The licensee may conduct the NICS check only after the transferee (buyer) has completed Section A of the ATF F 4473, including signing question 16 and indicating the date of certification in question 17.
May we as an FFL use a customer’s name and address information from Form 4473 for our advertisement mailing? We would not be selling the information or otherwise distributing it in any form, but, rather, simply sending a postcard about an upcoming gun-safe sale.
The information and certification on the ATF Form 4473 Firearms Transaction Record are designed so that an FFL may determine if he or she may lawfully sell or deliver a firearm to the person identified in Section A (transferee/purchaser). The form should only be used for sales or transfers of firearms. We suggest that the FFL seek private legal counsel to inquire about privacy issues and lawful marketing practices.
Someone with whom I am acquainted wishes to buy a firearm. I know that during his divorce proceeding, a restraining order was placed against him. I know that in my State such an order prohibits the possession or acquisition of a firearm. He has checked No to Question 11h (Are you subject to a court order restraining you from harassing, stalking or threatening your child or an intimate partner or child of such partner?) and explains to me that after the settlement, the order was lifted. Should I ask for written corroboration?
Generally, if the Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) has reasonable cause to believe that the transferee is disqualified by law (e.g., subject to a restraining order), the FFL may not complete the transaction. A prohibition as a result of a domestic violence restraining order exists only as long as the restraining order is in force. However, if the purchaser provides documentation showing the FFL that such order was lifted and is no longer in effect, the buyer is no longer prohibited and the FFL may transfer the firearm. The FFL needs to be aware that he or she may be held liable (administratively/criminally) if the purchaser indeed was prohibited from receiving and possessing such a firearm. Also, the purchaser needs to be advised that any information (including supplemental documents) is subject to penalties of perjury.
How should a Licensee respond to a police officer’s request for an original 4473?
Generally a Licensee should not surrender an original Form 4473. However under special circumstances, a law enforcement agency may insist upon an original form for a criminal investigation. In those cases, the licensee should make a copy of the form to maintain for their records. In addition, the licensee should record the requesting officer’s name and badge number and a contact name for the agency in case ATF requests that information. The licensee should also obtain a receipt, even a hand written one, for the Form 4473 from the officer.
How would question 11(a) (Are you the actual buyer of the firearm(s) listed on this form) on the 4473 form be answered if the person is picking up a firearm that was being repaired for another person?
If the person picking up a repaired firearm for the individual who brought it to the licensee, a Form 4473 must be prepared and question 11(a) should be answered “N/A”. A background check must also be conducted on the individual picking up the firearm. It is a good business practice for the licensee to contact the person who dropped the firearm off to verify that they want the person to pick the firearm up for them.