The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) has officially unveiled a new edict every gun store and prospective gun buyers should know. The ATF Form 4473 was rebooted for 2020, requiring Federal Firearms Licensed gun dealers (“FFLs”) to use this new version for gun sales and transfers beginning November 1, 2020.
What are the major changes made to the Form 4473 and how could they affect you? Let’s touch on some of the most important changes you need to know.
What is ATF Form 4473?
Before we begin, let’s review Form 4473, also known as the Firearms Transaction Record. This form is a federally mandated part of transfers when purchasing a firearm, trading a firearm, returning a consigned firearm, redeeming a pawned firearm, loaning or renting a firearm for use off of an FFL’s licensed premises, and any other non-exempt transfer of a firearm through a licensed dealer. It requires the buyer to provide their name, address, birth date, state of residence, and other information.
It also contains blanks to be filled in, including the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) transaction number, the make, model, and serial number of the firearm, and a series of questions. These questions help determine a prospective gun buyer’s eligibility to purchase a firearm under federal law.
Once fully completed by the applicant, they must then sign the document and attest the information is truthful and accurate under penalty of federal law; if the transferee lies or provides inaccurate information on their Form 4473, they could be prosecuted for a crime.
The FFL must then sign the form and retain it for at least 20 years, allowing the ATF to inspect and receive a copy of the form during audits and in the course of a criminal investigation. These Form 4473s are also subject to surrender to the ATF in the event the FFL discontinues doing business.
The NICS background check system, along with the answers on the Form 4473, determine a buyer’s eligibility to legally purchase and possess a firearm. Keep in mind, no NICS background check may be required if the transferee is legally exempt for reasons like possessing a state-issued firearms license or concealed carry permit, and the transferor agrees to accept such a license or permit as a substitute for the background check.
2020 Changes to Form 4473
Now, let’s look at what exactly has changed on the 2020 version of the Form 4473. The first substantive change is found in the warning language at the top of Page 1. In addition to the standard warning of federal law violations and their penalties, the warning now contains language specifically stating that “[a]ny person who exports a firearm without a proper authorization from either the Department of Commerce or the Department of State, as applicable, is subject to a fine of not more than $1,000,000 and up to 20 years imprisonment.”
The second and most noticeable change is in Section A. The ATF has essentially moved the pertinent gun information, including the manufacturer and importer, model, serial number, type, caliber or gauge, number of firearms to be transferred, and two checkboxes to be marked in the event the transaction is a pawn redemption or to facilitate a private party transfer.
This firearm information was previously located on Page 3 in Section D of the Form 4473. Now, the ATF will have immediate firearms information located up front and center on Page 1, along with the transferee or buyer’s name, address, and other identifying information. This revision is seen as controversial because it raises concerns that the firearm identification information and the transferee’s personal information are now consolidated on the first page, which could ultimately be used to facilitate the creation of a state or national firearms registry. The creation of such a registry is currently prohibited by federal law under 18 U.S.C. § 926.
Section B of the new Form contains personal information, with options to select Non-Binary as a Sex; the addition of Parish/Borough as options to go along with County; a more robust UPIN / Appeals Management ID box; and two new immigration-status based questions.
Also noteworthy in Section B are the subparts of question 21, specifically, b., c., h., and i., which now include portions asking if the applicant has had any dealings with a military court which may render them ineligible to purchase, possess, own, or transport a firearm. These include matters related to felonies in state, federal, or military court, along with misdemeanor domestic violence crimes and orders of protection.
Overall, the main significant changes revolve around relocating the firearm and buyer’s information to the front of the form, in addition to information as it relates to members of our armed forces. On the one hand, it will be much easier for the transferor to solve potential residency questions with the new sections related to their change of station and military IDs. On the other hand, there are more expansive questions related to potential military-based court findings and punishments that could make an applicant ineligible to purchase the firearm.
For any additional questions about the new Form 4473, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.
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