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Published On: Wed, Jul 19th, 2023

What Does ATF Form 4473 Mean in Firearm Background Checks?

Do you intend to purchase a firearm from an authorized dealer? Then, you must know about a background check, a step in the modern U.S. purchasing process. It involves filling out the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Form 4473. The purpose of making it mandatory for people to carry out background checks before purchasing a firearm is to ensure that prohibited people do not have the chance to buy weapons. 

When Firearm Background Checks Began

The amendment of the United States Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968 in 1993 laid the groundwork for establishing the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to enforce the prohibition of the sale and ownership of firearms. The aspect of this law that gun owners typically have to deal with is ATF Form 4473.

Understanding Who “a Prohibited Person” Is

According to the Gun Control Act, there is a long list of people prohibited from purchasing or owning firearms or ammunition. The people on this list are felons, illegal aliens, fugitives from justice, those adjudicated as mentally defective, anyone dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces, and other criminals with different grades of offenses.

What Background Checks for Firearms Involve

Depending on your state and local laws, you must provide valid identification and complete ATF Form 4473 when asked by a licensed firearm dealer selling to you or initiating the background check for a gun show transfer. They will transmit the data you provide to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system for comparison with the NCIC databases, the III for Interstate Identification, and the NICS indices. This process should only take a few minutes if there are a few applicants. However, it may take several days under different circumstances.

If the purchaser is not a prohibited person, the transaction can proceed. The purchaser can make a payment and then go home with the item. When there is a problem, the FBI will take up to three days to look into it and decide whether the buyer might be a prohibited person. In such instances, it is often an identity mistake that the FBI can quickly resolve. The transaction can continue by default if three business days have passed without the FBI’s verdict. 

States That Do Not Require Background Checks For Firearms

Federal law necessitates background checks for firearm purchases in all states. If an individual wants to buy a gun from a licensed retail store, you will fill out an ATF Form 4473. What’s not uniform across all states are the laws governing the sale of a firearm between private parties. So, before purchasing a gun, you must check your state and local laws to understand when a background check is necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions about Firearm Background Checks

  • What Does One Need for a Firearm Background Check? 

You must provide a state-issued ID card with your address and photo.

  • How Long Is a Firearm Background Check Legitimate?

A background check that the National Crime Information Center approves will be valid for 30 calendar days. 

  • Can You Run a Firearm Background Check Virtually?

The ATF Form 4473 is available online. If you fill it out online, you should send it to the FFL doing your transfer or print it out and take it there so they can complete their section and return it.

  • How Much Does a Firearm Background Check Cost?

Generally, the transfer and background check fees may cost between $25 and $75. However, this may vary with states and the FFL.

Author: Anu T

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