ATF Form 4473 FAQs

ATF received inquiries recently on the race and ethnicity questions on the ATF Form 4473. In an effort to provide individuals with the most up-to-date information, ATF has compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions and provided answers to those questions.


Q1: Where can a dealer get ATF Forms 4473?
They are available free of charge from the ATF Distribution Center or call (703) 870-7526 or (703) 870-7528 Please order a quantity of forms estimated for 6 months use.

Q2: Does an unlicensed person need an ATF Form 4473 to transfer a firearm?
No. ATF Form 4473 is required only for transfers by a licensee.   [27 CFR 478.124]

Q3: Does a dealer have to execute ATF Form 4473 to take a weapon out of the dealer’s inventory for his or her own use?
No. However, the “bound book” must reflect the disposition of the firearm from business inventory to personal use. However, if the business is a corporation, and the firearm is being transferred to a corporate officer or director for other than business purposes, then a Form 4473 must be executed.   [27 CFR 478.124 and 478.125a]

Q4: Who signs ATF Form 4473 for the seller?
ATF Form 4473 must be signed by the person who verified the identity of the buyer.

Q5: Is a Social Security card a proper means of identification for purchasing a firearm from an FFL?
No. A Social Security card, alien registration card, or military identification alone does not contain sufficient information to identify a firearms purchaser. However, a purchaser may be identified by any combination of government-issued documents which together establish all of the required information: Name, residence address, date of birth, and photograph of the holder. [27 CFR 478.11 and 478.124(c)]

Q6: When must the ATF Form 4473 be signed?
Part I used for over-the-counter sales must be completed, signed and dated by the buyer prior to delivery of the firearm. Part II (green form) used for intra-state non-over-the-counter sales must be completed, signed and dated in duplicate by the buyer at the time of sale. [27 CFR 478.124(c) and 478.124(f)]

Q7: Has ATF issued a new Form 4473, Firearms Transaction Record?
Under the Paperwork Reduction Act, federal agencies are required to seek public comment and assess the burden associated with any changes to federal forms, through a process managed by the Office of Management and Budget. Consistent with that process, ATF has not been required to issue nor has it issued any changes to the Form 4473, since April of 2012. When the form was last changed (2012), ATF published the changes in the Federal Register and provided a 60 day comment period for the public to comment on the form, as required under the Paperwork Reduction Act. ATF received no public comments.

Q8: Why did ATF amend Form 4473, Firearms Transaction Record, to include information on race and ethnicity?
Form 4473 has included a question on race since it was established in 1968. ATF amended Form 4473 in 2001 to add ethnicity to the race question. In April 2012 to meet the requirements of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regarding the format in which government forms ask about race and ethnicity the two questions were separated. OMB’s standards for race and ethnicity questions require agencies to ask both race and ethnicity in a specific manner.

OMB published guidance to agencies regarding the adoption of these standards in 2000, but permitted ATF to continue using its existing form until 2012, when it required ATF to make changes to the format of the questions during the standard Paperwork Reduction Act approval process. To comply with OMB guidance, question 10 on Form 4473 was divided into 10a (Ethnicity) and 10b (Race); they are not a new requirement that prospective firearms purchasers provide additional information regarding race or ethnicity.

Q9:  Did previous versions of ATF Form 4473 include demographic questions?
Yes, per federal regulation, all previous versions of ATF Form 4473 have included demographic or identifying questions, including a question pertaining to race of prospective firearms purchasers. Title 27, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), section 478.124 (formerly 178.124), has required collection of information concerning the race and other identifying information of the transferee on Form 4473 since 1968.

Q10:  Why is this demographic information needed?
Demographic information can be useful to law enforcement when tracing firearms used in crimes, to ensure the correct identification of an original purchaser and avoid misidentifications. Additionally, during background checks, this information is needed to facilitate proper identification by providing additional information that helps match -- or rule out a match -- between an individual and a potentially prohibiting record. See 28 CFR 25.7

Q11:  What happens to the data provided on Form 4473?
Completed Forms 4473 are retained by the Federal firearms licensee (FFL). ATF does not, and never has, maintained an archive or other information repository on the race or ethnicity of firearm purchasers or licensees, and it has no intention to do so in the future. ATF may inspect individual Forms 4473 containing personally identifying information held by FFLs only for limited regulatory or law enforcement functions-specifically, during inspections, and in the course of investigations (for example, when tracing firearms linked to individual criminal investigations). Similarly, the FFL may use the demographic data to ensure proper identification or facilitate the background check process. There are some limited circumstances – for example when an FFL goes out of business – under which the Forms 4473 or information contained thereon is provided to ATF as required by statute. Even under these limited circumstances, ATF does not aggregate or centralize the demographic information contained on the form.

Q12:  What authority does the federal government have to ask for such information on Form 4473?
Title 18, United States Code (U.S.C.), section 923(g)(1)(A) provides authority for ATF to require such records, and 27 CFR § 478.124 implements that authority, including a requirement that the Form 4473 include information about the purchaser’s race.

Additionally, regulations at 28 CFR § 25.7 prescribe the search criteria used by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and states: "The following search descriptors will be required in all queries of the system for purposes of a background check: (1) Name; (2) Sex; (3) Race; (4) Complete date of birth; and (5) State of residence." This information is needed to facilitate proper identification by providing additional information that helps match -- or rule out a match -- between an individual and a potentially prohibiting record.

Q13:  What are the specific changes that occurred in 2012 to the ATF Form 4473?
To comply with OMB format standards, question 10 on Form 4473 was divided into 10a (Ethnicity) and 10b (Race); these questions are not new requirements. In addition, respondents may check multiple races (e.g., bi-racial, multi-racial) as opposed to just one in question 10b.

Last Reviewed September 22, 2016