Completing Form 4473s are a necessary step with every sale of a firearm and has become commonplace for FFLs. But the Form 4473 questions, layout, and rules are changed about every three years by the ATF. It is best practice to keep updated on the news from the ATF and the rest of the firearms industry. This article will review what a 4473 Form is, the regulatory background, and what that means for your Federal Firearms License (FFL).
ATF Form 4473
The official Form required when purchasing a firearm is The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Form 4473. This over-the-counter firearm record has been in place since 1968. Why is it required?
The passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968 set into law that the government cannot have a database of firearms and their owners. This means there is no national registry. In place of a registry, the government instead requires Form 4473 for gun sales. Because the government cannot hold these forms in a national registry, the responsibility falls on federally licensed firearm dealers.
As dealers, you are accountable for both the cost and storage of those records. These forms are to be kept on your premises, and you are accountable for keeping twenty years of transferred forms and five years of no sale and denied forms. Assuming, like most FFLs, you use one of the many e4473/eBound Book software solutions on the market today, the cost of printing, storage, and staff to process 4473s can add up quickly. There are other options! 4473 Cloud storage, allows dealers to cut their costs by over 50%, and that’s only in printing costs. When running a business, every little bit helps.
Commonly known as an ATF Audit, the ATF may request to look at those forms at any time, but it must be done during regular business hours, with the dealer present to assist as needed, at all times. If a dealer closes their business, they must submit these forms, along with their Bound Book to the ATF’s Out of Business Records Center in Martinsburg, WV.
You will verify the customer’s identity through government-issued photo identification. Once the Form 4473 section C is completed, as the dealer (also known as licensee), you will contact FBI/NICS or your State POC to complete the background check.
You can’t do a NICS check unless a firearm is being transferred (intent to purchase). The FBI completes the background check unless the person buying it is exempt. Certain states have concealed weapon processes that meet the minimum requirements of the Brady Act for the exemption. If your customer does meet these requirements you must complete line 29 in Section C as opposed to line 27 (A-G) when conducting a background check.
If the background check results in a denied transaction, FFL dealers have to retain these records. You are required to maintain any denied transactions or any no sales after NICS has been contacted. Furthermore, you must file those records separately in three distinct files: Transferred files, No Sales, and the Denials. You must also retain these files alphabetically, sequentially, or chronologically.
The storage, operational process, staff, and printing costs all add a litany of expenses for FFLs to operate. With 4473 Cloud, none of these expenses are required, with simple cloud storage as their replacement.
Form 4473 Rules
ATF Form 4473s are federally sworn affidavits. The individual who is representing the FFL on the form states that they have confirmed the buyer’s ID, the buyer has passed the background check (or presented a valid exemption), and the firearm is ready to be transferred. Signing the 4473 makes the customer and the individual employee responsible for the transaction. Both may, at some time in the future, be required to testify in a court of law on the specifics of the transaction and the information documented on the 4473 itself. The importance of having this form filled out correctly cannot be overstated.
Form 4473 Violations
Every year the ATF releases their inspection results from the audits they conduct on FFLs. The results have been very consistent in the past decade or more. 7 of 10 of the top violations cited are directly related to the execution of the 4473 form. Almost all electronic 4473 software providers implement guardrails for the customer and the dealer that help keep them on the compliance highway. These are simple and avoidable clerical errors. If a customer marks yes that they are a felon when filling out the electronic Form 4473, it will let you know they are prohibited from making the purchase. The software most likely will require the FFL to stop the transaction. Conceivably you as the dealer could scan past that question and answer if using a paper “old school” 4473.
For example, the customer may write “USA” instead of their county. The dates can also be wrong, whether the expiration dates for the IDs or customers putting their birthday down as the day they’re buying the firearm.
How 4473 Cloud Makes it Easier
As a software agnostic cloud storage, 4473 Cloud can work with any e4473 software. 4473 Cloud is currently integrated with two e4473 software providers and working on integrations with several more! We at 4473 Cloud make storage simple, secure, and cost-effective. Retaining your 4473 files is as easy as possible instead of paying for storage, storage rooms, paper, ink, and staffing to maintain proper retention and internal auditing. FFLs with electronic 4473 software are still required to print and store their 4473s. Just because an e4473 software provider provides an FFL with a PDF copy of a 4473, that does not mean you don’t still have to print the “official” 4473 and manually file it. Unless you have an Approved Variance from ATF in hand (or emailed to you by ATF!) you have to print your 4473s, period.
The better option for FFLs is to store them digitally in 4473 Cloud. Cloud storage has all the positives of paper storage with none of the drawbacks. No hassle, no paper, and cost-effective!
With firearms sales higher than ever and a world swiftly moving away from costly paper files to the security of cloud storage, this is the next frontier for FFLs. 4473 Cloud provides an alternative to the expensive realities of paper storage and simplifies the process. Our cloud affords FFLs higher security, from file encryption to complete control of who can access their files and when rather than printing and storing physical forms. Rest assured knowing that no one, other than you, the FFL, and your employees, will ever have access to your documents unless you grant them access (i.e. ATF IOIs during a compliance inspection/audit at your store).
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