A Firearms Transaction Record, or Form 4473, is a form promulgated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in the United States Department of Justice that is filled in when a person purchases a firearm from a Federal Firearms License (FFL) holder (such as a gun shop).
The Form 4473 contains name, address, date of birth, government-issued photo ID, National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) background check transaction number, and a short affidavit stating that the purchaser is eligible to purchase firearms under federal law. It contains make, model, or serial number on page three of the six page form. Lying on this form is a felony and can be punished by up to five years in prison in addition to fines, even if the transaction is denied by the NICS. Prosecutions are rare in the absence of another felony committed with the gun purchased. Of 556,496 denied transactions between FY 2008 and FY 2015, federal prosecutors prosecuted an average of under 32 cases per year, including 24 in FY 2013, 15 in FY 2014 and 20 in FY 2015.
The dealer also records all information from the Form 4473 into a required "bound-book" called an "Acquisition and Disposition Log. A dealer must keep this on file at least 20 years, and is required to surrender the log to the ATF upon retirement from the firearms business. The ATF is allowed to inspect, as well as request a copy of, the Form 4473 from the dealer during the course of a criminal investigation. In addition, the sale of two or more handguns to a person in a five-day period must be reported to ATF on Form 3310.4.
If a person purchases a firearm from a private individual who is not a licensed dealer, the purchaser is not required in most states to complete a Form 4473. All states require small arms (handguns) purchased from private individuals to have a Form 4473 completed before sale. Some states (such as California, Colorado, and New Jersey) require individual sellers to sell through dealers.
These forms are given the same status as a tax return under the Privacy Act of 1974 and cannot be disclosed by the government to private parties or other government officials except in accordance with the Privacy Act. Individual dealers possessing a copy of the form are not subject to the Privacy Act's restrictions on disclosure. Dealers are required to maintain completed forms for 20 years in the case of completed sales, and for 5 years where the sale was disapproved as a result of the NICS check.
In response to the Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA), and based upon requests from the firearms industry, the ATF has developed the e-Form 4473 to assist in the proper completion of the Federal Firearms Transaction Record (ATF Form 4473). The ATF eForm 4473 is designed to help eliminate errors in completing Form 4473 for both the firearm purchaser and the licensed seller. The eForm 4473 is provided to the public, including major retailers, free of charge via the ATF eForm web site. ATF eForm 4473 is a downloadable application that runs locally on the seller's computer and supports both Windows and Mac OS X operating systems. (See "External links" section below.)
In 2016, ATF made several changes to the form, including adding a warning statement that the use of marijuana is illegal under federal law, regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where the transferee/buyer resides.
According to the US Sentencing Commission, approximately 5,000 to 6,000 people a year are convicted of receiving or possessing a firearm against one of the prohibitions above. In 2017, over 25.2 million actual background checks were performed in total.