Frequently Asked Questions – ATF Form 4473 Background Checks

form 4473

courtesy fbi.gov

By NSSF

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?

No.

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.

comments

  1. avatar GS650G says:

    Is there anything else we do that’s a constitutional right so restricted and regulated?

    No.

    1. avatar EmptyJay says:

      Imagine if journalists had to go through this type of process to be allowed to submit articles for publication.

      1. avatar Freebird says:

        Question for NSSF — Where does A.T.F. get it’s ” JURISDICTION AND VENUE ” from ?

        ” The court ruled in United States v. D.J. Vollmer & Co. that “the B.A.T.F. has jurisdiction over the first sale of a firearm imported to the country, but they don’t have jurisdiction over subsequent sales.”

        NRA knows this too, but then , they are PARTNERS with the Jack Booted Thugs behind closed doors.

        1. avatar Jeremy B. says:

          That’s why there is no federal law requiring private gun sales. Although some states have enacted such laws.

    2. avatar B.D. says:

      The only question that should be asked is:

      “Do you want to purchase this firearm?”

      Shall not be infringed -a statement that should be been included in all the amendments, because there would be no room for manipulation beyond it and any chance to do so, would be seen as tyranny. Imagine if your freedom of speech was controlled the way the 2A is. You would go to jail for simply just saying “Fuck _______ (insert govt official here)”.

      BTW, fuck the ATF.

  2. avatar AllArms says:

    Holy crap, guys. If you’re going to go into advise on answering a legal form, at least get the question numbers correct.

    People assisting a buyer in filling out the Form 4473:
    This is incorrect. The witnesses do not sign in blocks 16 and 17 (because it would be weird to sign and date in blocks meant for the type of firearm and location of a gun show). They sign in block 14 (where the buyer normally signs) and date in block 15 (where the buyer normally dates. This is covered in instruction directly under the “Section A” title on page 3, not Question 1.

    Nonimmigrant visa question:
    This not 11.1 (there is no 11.1) It is 12.d.1 and the followup, 12.d.2 DOES need to be answered, N/A, if you answered No on 12.d.1. It used to be a non-answered question. It is no longer.

    State abbreviations:
    Boxes 13 and 19 have nothing to do with addresses. I believe you are referring to boxes 17 (gun show or event location) and 21, NICS exemption for state issued permit.

    Background check at time of order:
    Again, block 16 and 17 are not where the buyer signs and dates. That is blocks 14 and 15.

    Restraining order issue:
    WOW!, you got a question number correct.

  3. avatar former water walker says:

    I AGREE AllArms…you don’t need a genius IQ.

  4. avatar Alan says:

    I’m in South Carolina and it is legal for a South Carolina resident to sell a gun to another South Carolina resident who can legally own a gun. Rather than taking a buyer at his word that he can legally own a gun can an individual selling a gun under these circumstances call the ATF and get them to approve the buyer is eligible to own a firearm?

    1. avatar Tom T says:

      What some people do if they want to ensure the buyer is legit is to conduct the sale at gun store. The store can conduct the transfer and NICS check for their standard fee. If universal background check laws are passed, that will most likely be how all private sales will be conducted.

  5. avatar Ops says:

    only the atf have access to a 4473 local police have no right to them only the atf.

    ——————————————————
    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.

    *false* no where does it say the gun must be in their possession to run a nics check and they have 30 days from the time if they want to pick it up. and you can add guns to a 4473 even after the nics check

    1. avatar Jeremy B. says:

      This assumes that the FFL is able to get the serial number and all other make/origin information.

      If it is indeed lawful it may still be unwise as the FFL would be accountable for any transcription errors from the distributor.

      1. avatar AllArms says:

        You don’t need make or serial number to do a NICS check.

    2. I recently had a license revocation hearing with ATF for a client. They were VERY clear that you cannot add guns to a 4473 after the NICS check.

      1. avatar AllArms says:

        What was their reasoning for this? I could see, maybe, that they don’t want the type of gun to change, since that is recorded in the NICS check But if they are buying a rifle, and want to add another, what’s the issue?

        1. The reason is that they will revoke your license it you do not comply. It does not have to make sense it is just the law.

        2. avatar AllArms says:

          I understand that, but I was just wondering what their reasoning was.

        3. Its the government. Reasoning is not required.

  6. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

    Just remember – As long as you are not currently under indictment, you are NOT CONVICTED… 🙂

  7. avatar Ed Schrade says:

    The democraps are raising hell over the question of citizenship on the census forms. So if it declared illegal to do that, then it should come of 4473. Personally it should be on both.

  8. avatar Hugh Staples says:

    Love my State. Provide my CWP, fill out 4473, pay at the register. In and out, no calls to ATF

    1. avatar B.D. says:

      You love that your state allows restrictions on your 2A? Maybe it is less than other states, but does that make it okay?

      Shall not be infringed.

      1. avatar John in Ohio says:

        Shall not be infringed, indeed!

      2. avatar Someone says:

        If you learn to love the boot that’s standing on your neck, if you become to enjoy the dick that’s raping your a-hole, your life will be easier and happier. Be glad! Some other poor souls have it even worse than you.

        Looks like the brain washing worked.

  9. avatar Rick the Bear says:

    “The licensee may conduct the NICS check only after the transferee (buyer) has completed Section A of the ATF F 4473…”

    So, how was the DCM able to do pre-order NICS checks for the surplus 1911’s?

    That extra check significantly decreased my interest in getting one. (The price eliminated the interest.)

  10. avatar Truckman says:

    Fl is almost like that fill out form they call give them your ccp number everything ok pay and walk out door or you are like me and like older guns you get ccr ffl and just order what you want

  11. avatar Warlocc says:

    Show this to anyone that thinks it’s easy to get a gun.

  12. avatar John in Ohio says:

    So far from “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” that only a blind, deaf, and dumb judge, or a corrupt one, could reconcile the two.

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      always loved that reference to 4473’s in “Red Dawn”….

  13. avatar StLPro2A says:

    The Second Amendment is big business. If the Second Amendment were implemented for what our Founding Fathers intended…..they would already have been finished shooting a second time…..to settle the unconstitutional restrictions on God given individual rights, there would be a lot of people out of work……anti- and pro-gun politicians, gun manufacturers/wholesalers/retailers, ATF, Brady Bunch, Village Idiot For Gun Control Gifford’s Group, Mommies Are Useful Idiots Demanding Unconstitutional Action, NRA, GOA, SAF, and on and on. Where would LaPierre make $1.4MM annual compensation package with that Communist Union Organizer comb-over, wire rims, and perpetual scowl??? But, I continue to do my part to keep it rollin’ along……purchases, contributions, grass roots activities, pissin’ Liberals off…..Rollin’, rollin’ rollin’….Keep those dollars rollin’…….2A, 2A, 2A……que the whip crack sound over…..

  14. avatar Guest says:

    Go to http://SpFling.com – great dating site for adults with smart search system to find a sex partner!

    1. avatar Someone says:

      And you don’t even need partner and can go fornicate yourself!

  15. avatar Richard Steven Hack says:

    Here’s a question for the experts…

    The form requires a Driver’s License or State ID number, but not a picture ID, to be submitted. When it is submitted, is the ID number verified with the state that issued the ID? Or is it only used if there is some question as to the identity of the person submitting the form, e.g., in case of a name being common or a similar name found in the database or no Social Security number being supplied?

    Also, I know there is no requirement to submit a picture ID or other picture of the purchaser, but how does the background check verify that the person entering the State ID (and/or Social Security number is actually the person to whom that ID was issued?

    It would seem to me that this is a major loophole that a previously convicted felon could exploit if he were able to obtain the State ID and/or Social Security number of another person (possibly via Internet research or background checks) and get a fake ID with that person’s State ID and SSN but his picture on the ID.

    1. avatar 4808 N says:

      In TX, you have to produce your DL and your DL pic is verified. I don’t think FFL’s are stupid enough to just take somebody’s word that they are who they say they are. Look at your DL and see how difficult it would be to get a “fake”.

      1. avatar AllArms says:

        How is the pic verified?

      2. avatar Richard Steven Hack says:

        Actually, you can order DL’s from China and they are available for every state – with holograms and everything else required to pass a visual check – except a direct visual check of the picture on the card vs the picture in the database. Forgers in China can buy the same gear the states use to produce DLs – and they do.

        Cops can visually verify the person because they can see a reproduction of the actual card on their computer in the patrol car so they can verify the picture as well as the ID. And of course they can do that at the police station. You just need graphics-capable software.

        In most states, AFAIK, the only people who can run a DL check against the state database are the cops and maybe auto insurance companies and IDK maybe car dealers. Most retailers can not access those databases directly – too much danger of hacking. One of the problems with so-called “information brokers” I’ve read is that they can sometimes have access illegally via people they bribe at the DMV to give them access.

        So how does a gun shop in TX verify a DL? Do they have access to the state database – including a reproduction of the picture on the card to verify that they person standing in front of them is actually the person in the picture on the card in the state database?

        My question is whether the background check the FBI themselves do verifies the DL number against the state database – nothing in their manual says they do – and whether they have any way to verify the picture on the card shown to the gun dealer? Anyone know for sure?

        1. avatar FFL in Texas says:

          In general terms, the NICS check is a blacklist. Any information submitted that does not match against the list of prohibited persons is granted a “proceed” code back to the FFL dealer. So if a forged document is used to fill out the form, and if the dealer accepts the forged document as genuine, and if the forged information does not generate a match in the NICS database, then from the FBI/ATF’s perspective, the sale/transfer proceeds.

          Remember: we are a nation with liberty as its default state (well, that’s the way it’s supposed to work, anyway…) Therefore the default response from the FBI is to proceed unless something disqualifies the purchaser. This is by design, and is both proper and lawful.

          As for the photo ID requirement, you have it somewhat incorrect in your original question – explicit in the instructions for question 18.a on the current iteration of the 4473 form is the requirement for a government-issued _photo_ ID with name, current address, and date of birth.

          Gun shops (in Texas, as you asked) currently do not have access to the State database to verify the authenticity of State-issued ID cards. Therefore the dealer has no method for verifying that the presented ID is a really expensive fake or not.

          Generally, the purpose of the 4473 is to maintain a record of a government document signed by the buyer asserting certain facts. Lying on this form is a 10-year federal felony, which can be and often is added to any additional gun-related criminal charges garnered by the person filling out the form for some other action taken with the purchased firearm. The purpose of the form is not to prevent a transfer to an illegal purchaser, although it can have that effect if the buyer is not supremely careful – it is to tack on additional perjury charges after the fact and possibly support proof of a conspiracy in the case of a straw purchase.

          Taking a step back for a broader view here…Does this system perfectly prevent disqualified people from obtaining firearms? No, which is good evidence that “gun control regulations” are not a panacea, and never have been. People intent on getting a gun will get a gun, just as people intent on robbing a bank will rob a bank, and people who are intent on stealing a car will steal a car. If you want a foolproof method for _preventing_ crime, I’ve got some bad news for you: it’s simply not possible. We do what is possible, though, to _discourage_ crime, with a mindful balance between the interests of public safety and the interests of individual liberty. Giving gun dealers access to a portion of government-issued ID database would pose a larger risk of identity theft by unscrupulous gun store employees (or someone hacking into a gun store’s systems, as you rightly identified) than the risk of a buyer spending a lot of money on a fake ID and paying retail prices at a store before going out and killing some innocents. Studies have shown again and again and again that the vast majority of firearm crimes are committed with stolen firearms. NICS is not the loophole here – the loophole is in the moral failure of our society to enforce a social construct that effectively shuts down the willingness of people to commit crimes in the first place. Instead, we have normalized violence and abandoned selflessness to such an extent that certain subcultures have emerged where crime is the norm, violence is commonplace, and doing good and helpful things for your neighbor has become a foreign concept. What can we do right now to prevent violence in the future? Step 1: love your neighbor. Everything else follows, and without that first step, it’s just cat-and-mouse games with the law.

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