7 Out of 10 Compliance Violations Occur on ATF Form 4473

7 Out of 10 Compliance Violations Occur on ATF Form 4473
(Post updated December 2017)

If you’re a federal firearms licensee (FFL), your odds of passing an ATF compliance inspection are only slightly better than your odds of winning a game of black jack.  In FY2011, only 50.32% of FFLs undergoing compliance inspections got through with no violation. In 2016, ATF conducted 9,760 ATF FFL inspections, resulting in the following ATF FFL Inspection Statistics:

2016 ATF FFL Inspection Statistics

9,760 Inspections – 45.8% without ATF FFL Violations
Meaning that Inspection Violations Increased
Most frequently cited violations:
  • Transferee did not properly complete Section A, F 4473 – 27 CFR 124(c)(1)
  • Failure to timely record entries in bound record (Acquisition and Disposition Book) – 27 CFR 478.125e
  • Failure to complete forms as indicated in instructions (this violation is often cited when the licensee failed to properly complete a form, but there is not a separate regulatory citation addressing the omitted or misdocumented item) – 27 CFR 478.21 (a)-(b)
  • Licensee did not record on F 4473 the date on which NICS was contacted – 27 CFR478.124 (c)(3)(iv)
  • Licensee failed to obtain and/or document purchaser’s Identification document – 27 CFR 478.124(c)(3)(i)
  • Licensee did not sign and date F 4473 – 27 CFR 478.124 (c)(5)
  • Licensee failed to report multiple handgun sales – 27 CFR 478.126a
  • Licensee failed to properly identify firearm on F 4473 – 27 CFR 124(c)(4)
  • Licensee failed to contact NICS and wait stipulated time prior to transfer of firearm – 27 CFR 478.102(a)
  • Licensee disposed of firearm to a person he had reasonable cause to believe was prohibited – 27 CFR 478.99(c) 

When you study the most frequently cited firearms violations assessed by the ATF, four out of the top ten violation descriptions relate to ATF Form 4473, the “Firearms Transaction Record.”  An additional three out of the top ten violation descriptions related generically to completion of any and all ATF forms.

The ATF Form 4473 is less than three pages long and consists largely of fill-in-the-blank and Yes/No questions.  The instructions accompanying each form are longer than the form, itself – indeed, this should be your warning flag that care is needed for the careful execution of this form.

A very simple compliance aid for successful completion of Form 4473 is to make a copy of the form on colored paper, highlighting in one color the boxes to be completed by the buyer and another color the boxes to be completed by the seller.  Do this for not just the section headers, but for each one of the separate boxes and questions to draw your attention to each, individual question.  With a red pen, place a star next to the four fields most commonly missed:  (1) identification of firearm

[box 18]; (2) identification of buyer [box 20a-20c]; (3) the date on which NICS was contacted [box 21a]; and, (2) signature and date of seller [boxes 33-36].  Then laminate your template form and place it side-by-side every single time you engage in a transaction.

Other simple compliance tactics for forms includes setting up a procedure where every form is proof read by someone working with you.  This can be done while the buyer is still present for the initial transaction, and it can be done, again, after the form is completed and is going to be filed into your permanent records.

Indeed, within the instructions for the Form 4473, the ATF spells out what to do if the form is incomplete or improperly completed after the firearm has been transferred.  In that instance, a photocopy should be made of the original Form 4473, corrections should be made on the photocopy and initialed and dated, and the corrected photocopy then attached to the original form.

The federal, state, and local requirements of firearms transactions compliance can be complicated.  Where there are opportunities for you to reduce the likelihood of error in the paperwork you do, it should be undertaken.  With firearms sales steadily rising, there is no time like the present to ensure the accuracy of your paperwork.

ATF Form 4473 Violations

Additional Information On ATF 4473 Forms and ATF e4473