Eleventh Hour Changes to Federal Firearm Form

In what will hopefully be one of the final acts of the Obama Administration on firearms, the ATF on Monday announced that its proposed changes to the Form 4473 would go into effect on January 16, 2017, just four days before the inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump.  Form 4473 is the federally mandated form that must be filled out by any person who acquires a firearm from a licensed dealer.  

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The new Form 4473 includes several changes that should make it easier for prospective firearm purchasers to complete.  For example, the form combines fields asking for the transferee’s street address and state of residence, provides clearer guidance to members of the military on determining their state of residence, and indicates how individuals who have had their firearm rights restored should complete the form.  

The form also provides guidance to licensed dealers on how to complete a firearm transaction that was initially denied, but where the denial was later overturned.  This is very important for individuals who may have been denied because of incomplete or dated information in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.  

Not all changes to the form are improvements for gun owners.  The new form must be filled out in its entirety at the business premises of the licensed dealer.  Federal law already generally requires transferees to appear in person at the business premises to complete a firearm transaction, but there is no requirement in federal law that the transferee must complete the Form 4473 at the dealer’s premises.  Appearing at a dealer’s premises with a partially completed form is a good way to expedite the buying process, but doing so will no longer be possible once the new form goes into effect. 

Another notable change to the form is the inclusion of a bolded warning to potential transferees from ATF.   The warning provides that “the use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medical or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”  This warning is a continuation of ATF’s policy that was first published in an open letter on September 21, 2011.  Under ATF’s policy, not only are users of marijuana prohibited from possessing firearms, but a person may not transfer a firearm to an individual if the transferor knows that the transferee holds a medical marijuana card.  Importantly, this second prohibition applies even where the cardholder does not actually use any marijuana.

According to ATF, firearm dealers should expect to receive new Form 4473s in early December, and, beginning January 16, 2017, all firearm transactions must use the new form.  A full listing of the changes to the Form 4473 is available here

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