By: JR ValdesFirearms Licensing And Consulting Group, LLC
Failure to Obtain a Form 4473-Firearms Transaction Record When Required
The Gun Control Act (GCA) and 27 CFR 478.124 requires firearms licensees to record the disposition of a firearm to persons other than another licensee on the ATF Form 4473. An ATF compliance inspection finding failure to obtain the ATF F 4473 when required will be considered a “Public Safety Violation”. FFLs with a history of public safety violations are likely to find themselves on the wrong side of an ATF license revocation proceeding. ATF enforces revocation criteria established and affirmed by case law.
Therefore, it’s critical that as FFLs we understand the rules, and have mechanisms and policies in place to prevent violations of the GCA.
ATF Form 4473 Not Required:
1. When returning a firearm that was repaired or customized to the same person from which it was received.
2. When firearms are exported in accordance with the requirements of the U.S. Department of State and the Arms Export Control Act.
Some Reasons FFLs Fail to Complete The ATF Form 4473:
This violation is not common among experienced FFLs, and is usually associated with the incorrect perception that a person associated with the business (employee, Responsible Person) is exempt from the requirement to execute the ATF Form 4473.
For example, instances in which a firearm is removed from the business premises and has been logged out to the FFL by name, but the business is structured as a corporation. In that case, the FFL must execute the ATF Form 4473 on themselves as well as conduct a NICS check.
FFLs many times incorrectly perceive that “Responsible Persons” are exempt from the requirement. RPs remove firearms from the licensed premises logged out to themselves, but fail to record the transaction on the ATF Form 4473.
Instances in which employees remove firearms from the business “temporarily” for a hunting trip, etc., and fail to execute the ATF Form 4473.
A person returns to purchase a firearm within 30 days of the original transaction. The FFL may believe that the “new” transaction can just be added to the original ATF F 4473 since the NICS check is valid for 30 days, which is not the case.
These examples are of the type that generally lead to the violation referenced. In most instances, FFLs who are cited for failure to obtain the ATF Form 4473 have transferred firearms to persons who are not prohibited, and personally known to the FFL. Therefore an argument for reasonable error could be made. However, ATF considers the violation as having an impact on public safety, and your record with ATF will indicate a public safety violation. A pattern of this type of violation will likely be considered “willful” and cause for revocation of the license.
Best Advice For Preventing This ATF Public Safety Violation:
Therefore, as an FFL who’s interested in keeping your ATF license, you should approach every disposition of a firearm to a non-licensee with the mindset that the ATF Form 4473 must be obtained, and a NICS check conducted. In other words, every time a firearm is out of your control and out of your business premises, there should be an ATF Form 4473 on file and a NICS check conducted on the person who removed that firearm from the licensed premises. There are exceptions that apply, but this isn’t a dissertation. The best policy is to approach the matter as stated above, and your chances of failure in this area become insignificant.
Approaching the issue this way will shift the burden of proof from having to show that the ATF Form 4473 is required, to proving that it is not required. Again, the shift in mindset makes all the difference. It is always best to err on the side of caution when transferring firearms to anyone. Look at this way, having an ATF Form 4473 on file even if you don’t need one, will not cause ATF to issue a you a Report of Violations and taint your otherwise clean record with a public safety violation.