The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has announced changes to Form 4473, which is the form required for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). As most of you know, anyone purchasing a gun from a licensed dealer is required to fill out a Form 4473. No form means no background check. No background check means no gun purchase, so this is important.
I fill out lots of Form 4473s. I’m often tempted to just go down the boxes, quickly checking them off, without reading the questions. Fortunately, I’ve never given in since messing up on a 4473 is never a good idea. That’s especially true when the form is regularly updated, as the 4473 is. This change took effect in August. The most recent change before that was in December of 2022.
ATF recommends that Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL) start using the updated forms immediately, but they aren’t required to do so until February 1, 2024. So, your dealer could change any time between now and then. I filled one out last week and it was still the old form, but that doesn’t mean it won’t change this week.
These changes were predicated on statutory requirements in the NICS Denial Notification Act and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. It also accounts for the implementation of ATF Final Rule 2021R-05F, better known as the Final Rule on Frames and Receivers. Let’s look at the new changes, so you’re aware of what’s going on. I’ll take this straight from the ATF website to ensure accuracy.
August 2023 Changes to ATF Form 4473
- “Do you intend to purchase or acquire any firearm listed on this form and any continuation sheet(s) or ammunition, for sale of other disposition to any person described in questions 21(b)-(l) or to a person described in question 21.m.1 who does not fall within a nonimmigrant exception?” has been moved and is now question 21.n.
- As a result of this relocation, the numbering for all other questions below 21.a. has changed (e.g. 21.c. is now 21.b., 21.d. is now 21.c., etc.). Accordingly, references to these questions throughout the form have been renumbered.
Question 21.b (Formerly Question 21.c., relocated):
- Previously read “Do you intend to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm listed on this form and any continuation sheet(s) or ammunition in furtherance of any felony or other offense punishable by imprisonment for a term of more than one year, a federal crime of terrorism, or a drug trafficking offense?” The question now reads “Do you intend to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm listed on this form and any continuation sheet(s) in furtherance of any felony or other offense punishable by imprisonment for a term of more than one year, a Federal crime of terrorism, or a drug trafficking offense?”
- “or ammunition” has been removed from the question.
- Removed the instruction (U.S. citizens/nationals leave 21.n.1 and 21.n.2 blank).
- Reworded to state “if you answered yes to questions 21m.1., do you fall within any of the exceptions stated in the instructions.”
Statement Transferee Certification:
- The third sentence previously read “I understand that a person who answers “yes” to any of the questions 21.b. through 21.l. and 21.n. is prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm”. The question now reads “I understand that a person who answers “yes” to any of the questions 21.b. through 21.l. as well as 21.n. is prohibited from receiving, possessing, or purchasing a firearm.”
Question 24 Category of Firearm(s) to be Transferred:
- Added “i.e.” before rifle. Added “e.g.” before frame.
Question 27.c. Response Provided by NICS:
- Added “(date)” after “The firearm(s) may be transferred on ________”.
Question 27.d Prior to Transfer the Following Response was Provided:
- Sentence changed from “and may be transferred on ___ (date)” to now read “Transfer of the firearm may occur on ___ (optional).”
- Changed the last sentence of the Certification statement to “If this transaction required a NICS check, I further certify that this firearm(s) transfer is within 30 days from the date of NICS contact.”
Some of these changes only apply to sections filled out by the FFL, but they’re worth including. Most of us only have to worry about Section B.
Other Changes to the Form 4473
The ATF also changed the instructions for Sections B and C. But those are essentially wording changes to make the instructions fit the new questions clearly. They aren’t the changes themselves. If the questions aren’t clear, you can refer to the instructions, but it’s not usually an issue.
These changes aren’t really a big deal unless you don’t read carefully. Like I said, I’m often tempted not to read the questions, but I force myself to do it. This is one reason why. Another is that screwing up a form often means I have to start over, and it makes more work for my FFL, in whose good graces I hope to stay since I enjoy visiting his store.
But another reason is that you don’t want to inadvertently enter the wrong information. The FFL can only enter the info you provide. If it’s wrong, that’s on you. And it can cause you to be denied or even be a crime. So, pay attention to what you’re doing and be aware of these changes.