Shot Show 2024 is in the books! For those of you who attended, we trust you share our opinion that this was the best SHOT since pre-COVID and felt like business as usual for our annual industry show.
While Shot Show 2024 was overwhelmingly positive, there were two very distinct opportunities for FFL dealers that we wanted to discuss in detail. When speaking to dealers at our 4473 Cloud booth, without question, the biggest areas of confusion for FFL dealers like you, were:
- The Forever Record Retention Requirement.
- Use of Paper/Handwritten Bound Book and 4473s.
Understanding the Forever Record Retention Requirement
The number of FFL dealers that were unaware of ATF’s “new” requirement that you MUST keep every 4473 for the life of your FFL was stunning. We want to be 100% clear on this issue, with no room for doubt or debate.
You are required to retain every 4473 that is started in your store forever. They never expire, they can never be thrown away, never be shredded, never be destroyed. EVER.
The Impact of ATF Ruling 2021R-05F on FFL Record Retention
When did this rule change? ATF issued a new Ruling, ATF Ruling 2021R-05F on August 24, 2022. Yes, nearly a year and a half ago. Since this ruling was issued the “old” retention requirements of 5 years (for Void/No Sales in which NICS was contacted, and NICS Denials) and 20 years (for 4473s in which the firearm was transferred) no longer applies.
Specifically, the ATF states on their website:
- FFLs must retain their Firearms Transaction Records, Forms 4473, and acquisition and disposition records until they discontinue their business or licensed activity.
When further inquiring with ATF about the previous Void/No Sale “trigger” for retention being the FFL contacting NICS to initiate a background check, we received the following communication:
“The final rule 2021R-05F amends 27 CFR 478.129 as follows:
(b) Firearms Transaction Record. Licensees shall retain each Form 4473 until business or licensed activity is discontinued, either on paper, or in an electronic alternate method approved by the Director, at the business premises readily accessible for inspection under this part. Paper forms over 20 years of age may be stored at a separate warehouse, which shall be considered part of the business premises for this purpose and subject to inspection under this part. Forms 4473 shall be retained in the licensee’s records as provided in § 478.124(b), provided that Forms 4473 with respect to which a sale, delivery, or transfer did not take place shall be separately retained in alphabetical (by name of transferee) or chronological (by date of transferee’s certification) order.
It no longer matters whether NICS is contacted for record retention purposes; if they start a 4473, it must be retained.”
Navigating the Shift from Paper to Digital Record-Keeping
If a 4473 is started in your store, you must retain that form for the LIFE of your business. No exceptions.
- How much paper will you accumulate over the next forever years of your business?
- Where will you keep it?
- What happens when the closet you are using today is full, or all those racks in your back inventory space are taken up by paper forms?
When you realize the gravity of this new requirement, you need to realize that there are also solutions to this problem.
It is 2024 and retaining your records the way FFL dealers started retaining them in 1968 is a losing proposition. Do you still have a black and white TV or only use a corded telephone? We know the answer to this, yet many of you, an astonishing number of FFLs still use handwritten mistake ridden Bound Books and 4473s.
The Rise in ATF Revocations: What FFL Dealers Need to Know
During Shot University the question was asked in a room full of nearly 400 FFLs “By show of hands, how many of you are using handwritten records?”
When the hands went up, nearly 2/3s of the FFLs said YES, they were handwriting their records. Handwritten Bound Book and 4473s are the single biggest threat to FFLs across the country. ATF stated in their SHOT seminar that the No. 1 “reason” for revocation was inaccurate acquisition information.
There is no safety in numbers or advantage to being a statistic in the “old school” recordkeeping crowd. If you are in this crowd, now is the time to get your business into the 21st century and start using technology to protect your FFL.
ATF revocations were up 169% over 2022, in 2023 (as reported by FFL Guard during their Shot University seminar). Why allow yourself to be a target of this overreach by being an easy target? Consistently over the past decade, 8 or 9 of the top 10 violations cited by ATF during compliance inspections center on the Bound Book, ATF F 4473 failures and ATF F 3310.4 inaccuracies and non-submission.
Reducing Risks with Digital Record Storage Solutions
Technology can mitigate nearly all these violations, in addition to eliminating the storage space you are currently using for paper records.
These systems are not complicated and almost all of them are not only user-friendly, but also provide you with the compliance guardrails needed to help you maintain your FFL’s compliance health. Additionally, once you switch to electronic 4473s, you need to take the next step and start storing your 4473s digitally. With 4473 Cloud you can begin storing your forms electronically within minutes and puts the power in your hands to Evict the ATF from your store. No longer allow ATF to live rent free in your store, taking up valuable retail space and making your life harder when completing trace requests and ATF compliance inspections. Let 4473 Cloud streamline your record retention and give you the peace of mind you deserve for your FFL business.
Get started today - It's free for the first 30 days!
We’re Straight Shooters
Get weekly insights sent to your inbox from the 4473 Cloud team.