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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Washington, DC 20226

October 30, 1998

Open Letter to All California Federal Firearms Licensees

Permanent Provisions of the Brady Law

The purpose of this letter is to advise you of your responsibilities under the permanent provisions of the Brady law, 18 U.S.C. § 922(t). On November 30, 1998, the interim provisions of the Brady law will cease to apply, and the permanent provisions of the Brady law will take effect.

The permanent provisions of the Brady law provide for the establishment of a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) that licensees must contact before transferring any firearm to unlicensed individuals. While the interim provisions apply only to handguns, the permanent provisions of Brady will apply to all firearms. In addition, under permanent Brady there will no longer be an exemption for the redemption of a firearm from pawn.

Notification from the Attorney General

On October 30, 1998, the Department of Justice published a final rule in the Federal Register, announcing the establishment of the NICS as of October 31, 1998. Accordingly, licensees will be required to comply with permanent Brady as of November 30, 1998. Copies of the Justice Department’s final rule are available on DOJ’s Home Page on the Internet at, and DOJ is mailing copies of the final rule to licensees.

Initiation of NICS Checks

The California Department of Justice will act as the point of contact for NICS checks for all firearms transactions. This will be encompassed as part of their existing Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS) process. To comply with the permanent Brady requirement for a NICS check for any firearm transaction, you must do so through the California Department of Justice’s DROS process. If you are not a fully licensed dealer in California on their Centralized List, please call the California Department of Justice at (916) 227-3703 for further instructions. Please note that Federal firearms licensees in California must fully comply with all applicable State licensing and DROS requirements, including the State’s 10-day waiting period and associated fees.

Transfers Subject to NICS Check Requirement

As of November 30, 1998, you will be required to initiate a NICS check prior to transferring a firearm to anyone who is not a licensee. The following steps must be followed prior to the transfer of a firearm, including the redemption of any pawned firearms:

  1. Have the transferee complete and sign ATF Form 4473, Firearms Transaction Record.
  2. Verify the identity of the transferee through a Government-issued photo identification. Please note that you must comply with California requirements regarding acceptable methods of identification.
  3. Comply with permanent Brady’s requirement for a NICS check through the California DROS process. Please note that you must still comply with California’s 10-day waiting period and fee requirements.
  4. If you have initiated a NICS check for a proposed firearms transaction, but the transfer of the firearm is not completed, you must retain the Form 4473 in your records for a period of not less than 5 years. If the transfer is completed, the Form 4473 must be retained for at least 20 years.

Alternatives to a NICS Check

The Brady law provides that certain permits may qualify as alternatives to a NICS check. However, under California law such permits are not an alternative and do not exempt the purchaser from State background check requirements.

Final Regulations and Forms 4473

On October 29, 1998, ATF published final regulations implementing the permanent provisions of the Brady law. ATF has also modified ATF Form 4473, Firearms Transaction Record, to reflect the changes in the background check system. A copy of the final regulations and a small supply of Forms 4473 will be mailed to each licensee under separate cover before November 30, 1998.


If you have any questions, please contact your local ATF office or the California Department of Justice at (916) 227-3703.

Jimmy Wooten
Assistant Director
Firearms, Explosives and Arson