What should a licensed pawnbroker do when NICS denies the redemption of a pawned firearm?

Federal law prohibits the transfer of a firearm to a person who has been denied by NICS.

Although federal firearms licensees (FFLs) are not required to contact ATF in this situation, we strongly encourage you to contact your local ATF office if this occurs rather than take any further action such as transferring the firearm to a third party. Because the person redeeming the firearm was denied by NICS at the time of redemption, he or she may be a felon or other “prohibited person” and would be possessing the firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) at the time the firearm was pawned. Depending on the reason(s) for the firearms prohibition, ATF may want to seize the firearm and/or take legal action.

If you contact your local ATF office, someone will get back to you as soon as possible to let you know what steps ATF will pursue. If ATF informs you that it is not going to take any further action, federal law does not prohibit you from transferring the pawned firearm to a third party if the third party completes a Form 4473 and NICS does not issue a denial within three business days.

Of course, a transaction involving third parties would violate federal law if the latter were “straw purchasers” not actually obtaining or redeeming the firearm for themselves but acting as a conduit to return the firearm to the owner or another person  Accordingly, we encourage you to ask the third party whether he or she intends to maintain possession of and control over the firearm.

If you have reason to believe the third party is a straw purchaser who actually is obtaining the firearm for the prohibited person, you may not transfer the firearm to that person. However, if you have no reason to believe the third party is a straw purchaser (and the person is not otherwise prohibited from possessing and receiving firearms), you may transfer it under federal law.

ATF Form 4473, Firearms Transaction Record, contains a general instruction stating that FFLs can include any information on the form that is relevant to the transaction. Accordingly, you may add a statement to the Form 4473 indicating that you warned the third party who received the firearm about straw purchasing; you may also have the third party sign the statement. However, licensees are not required to include such a statement, and the statement will not necessarily protect you from prosecution.

Finally, you always should make sure transferring the firearm to a third party does not violate state or local law.

[18 U.S.C. 922(d) and (t)]

Last Reviewed May 18, 2020