ffl digital storage

Nothing causes issues for FFLs like paper!

Sounds a bit dramatic, doesn’t it? It is just paper; how can it be that bad?  

Let’s be clear: we’re talking about paper forms, and the paper in and of itself isn’t the issue (though keeping it forever certainly does create headaches—more on that later).

The biggest problem with paper is what is written on it by your staff and your customers.  More specifically, the problem with paper is that anything can be written on it.  

The paper does not care whether the information is truthful or accurate.   

No matter how unintentional, erroneous information can cost you your FFL and business. Which has been the reality faced by hundreds of FFLs over the past couple of years, making that opening statement much less dramatic.  

4473 Errors Cause FFL Revocations 

Errors from paper-bound books and completing paper 4473s at your gun counter account for 10 of the top 10 violations cited by ATF. This is not a new issue. 4473 errors have caused problems for FFL owners for decades.   

There was a time when you might expect to “only” receive a report of violations, or ROV, from paperwork errors. That is no longer a safe expectation.

A singular violation that ATF arbitrarily deems “bad enough” can cost you your FFL and your business.  

Electronic Bound Book and 4473 Solutions 

The quickest and most economical way to address potential errors is to ditch the paper forms and start using one of the many electronic bound books and 4473 options on the market today.  

Not only do these software solutions mitigate the risk of errors in your records, but they also streamline your process.  For instance, they allow you to receive inventory more effectively and efficiently by scanning bar codes.

Additionally, auto-populating the firearm data on your 4473s significantly reduces the time it takes to complete a 4473.  

Spend more time on the floor interacting with your customers and making money instead of doing tedious compliance tasks. 

There is no real downside to going electronic!

Almost all of the e4473 and eBound Book software on the market today will immediately benefit your business. 

Remember, however, it is critically important – YOU are solely responsible for maintaining compliance in your business. The software company you choose is NOT.  ATF will ONLY hold you accountable for YOU being compliant. 

These statements aren’t meant to deter you. You are already responsible and accountable for your company’s compliance health.

That said, I want to be 100% sure you know that you are making the correct choice for your business by going digital.

How to Ensure Your Software is Compliant

There are two ATF Rulings that detail the specific requirements your software of choice needs to meet or exceed: 

Do not go into a demo of a third-party software without familiarity with these rulings. They will give you an outline of the tough questions you need to ask.

Once you ask the question and get the answer, ask them to show you how it is compliant during the demo. Don’t just take their word for it.

For instance, here are a few questions you can ask about the software being ATF Ruing 2016-1 compliant: 

  • How does the Bound Book backup work? 
  • Is it daily? 
  • If you are using a cloud-based solution – it MUST back up DAILY to meet the requirements of the Ruling. 
  • What do I have to do to ensure it is working properly? 
  • When I download or print the Bound Book, is it formatted to meet the requirements defined in the Gun Control Act? 
  • How are changes tracked? 
  • Tracking changes is a requirement of the Ruling. 
  • Is this software cloud-based? If so, where are your servers located? 
  • Per the Ruling, all servers must be physically located within the United States. 

When asking the software company about compliance with ATF Ruing 2016-2, consider the following

  • Does your software allow customer information to be auto-populated?  If so, BEWARE. 
  • If it does have this “feature,” consider moving on to another company immediately. Doing so is not compliant, no matter how they may try to spin it. 
  • This is true whether the data comes from a customer database or by scanning an ID. 
  • Can customers review their entire 4473 once they complete their section of the 4473? 
  • This is required per the Ruling. 
  • Can the customer and my employees digitally sign the 4473? 
  • This is required if you ever plan to take the next logical step and store your 4473s digitally in software like 4473 Cloud. 

Last but certainly not least: 

  • Is their software attorney-backed compliant? 
  • While not required by the Ruling or regulations, knowing if the software company offers this support is worth knowing. 
  • Do they stand behind their software with more than words?  
  • Can you see the software in action or participate in a demonstration? 
  • If ATF attempts to act against your FFL because of the software you are using, will the company send an attorney to represent you?  
  • Ask yourself – how important is attorney-backed peace of mind to me?  

Digital Storage with 4473 Cloud 

Now that you have done your diligence, vetted the options, and are using technology to protect your FFL, it’s now time to take full advantage of digital 4473s by storing them digitally.

ATF Ruling 2021-05F requires every 4473 you START to be retained for the life of your business.  

Think about the mountain of paper you will have in your store after 5, 10, or 20-plus years.  Who wants that?

That space is better served for back-in-stock of products your customers want. Use that space for the right products at the right time and grow your revenue!   

How do you get started storing 4473s electronically? Get started with 4473 Cloud! With 4473 Cloud, you never have to print another 4473. You can start saving your 4473s digitally, all in the most secure software on the market today. 

Here’s the best news.  It doesn’t matter which e4473 and eBound Book software you choose. Your 4473s can be stored electronically in 4473 Cloud.  Electronic 4473 storage has never been easier.  

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Travis Glover Oct. 19th, 2023

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