Frequently-asked Questions About ATF Compliance

As the trade association for the firearms industry, NSSF receives many questions from firearms retailers regarding ATF compliance. We’ve begun to catalog these questions and answers to better serve our members and the industry.  Here are some of the more frequently asked questions and the responses from our ATF Compliance Team.

4473 Forms

What should a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) do when it finds it has lost a completed Form 4473 and a thorough search of the premises fails to locate it?

If information is contained on a state firearms transfer document, do I still have to enter the same information on the ATF Form 4473?

If a person who is unable to complete a 4473 form because of illiteracy or a physical disability wishes to purchase a firearm, how may the transfer be legally completed? May an accompanying person complete the form for the purchaser?

Is the transferee required to provide his or her Social Security Number on the ATF Form 4473?

If a customer innocently answers a question on the 4473 form incorrectly or omits an entry and the licensee notices the error after the transfer, what is the correct procedure to rectify the error?

During compliance inspections, can the inspecting officer physically take all of the dealers Forms 4473 back to his office for further review at his convenience?

I understand that FFL holders are required to maintain Form 4473 records for 20 years and that the records are to be sent to ATF if the FFL goes out of business. If an FFL remains in business beyond the 20-year holding period, does it still have to maintain the records?

How would question 11(a) on the 4473 be answered for redemption of a pawn ticket?

I have a customer who has commissioned me to special-order a firearm I do not have in stock. By special-ordering the gun I will be invoiced, and the firearm will become part of my inventory when it arrives at my business premises. To prevent the possibility of not being able to sell it to this customer if he does not pass the NICS check, may I conduct a NICS inquiry at the time that he orders the firearm?

May we as an FFL use a customer's name and address information from Form 4473 for our advertisement mailing? We would not be selling the information or otherwise distributing it in any form, but, rather, simply sending a postcard about an upcoming gun-safe sale.

Someone with whom I am acquainted wishes to buy a firearm. I know that during his divorce proceeding, a restraining order was placed against him. I know that in my State such an order prohibits the possession or acquisition of a firearm.  He has checked No to Question 11h (Are you subject to a court order restraining you from harassing, stalking or threatening your child or an intimate partner or child of such partner?) and explains to me that after the settlement, the order was lifted. Should I ask for written corroboration?

How should a Licensee respond to a police officer's request for an original 4473?

How would question 11(a) (Are you the actual buyer of the firearm(s) listed on this form) on the 4473 form be answered if the person is picking up a firearm that was being repaired for another person?

A&D Forms

I started keeping my records of acquisition and disposition on loose sheets of paper. Can I three-hole punch the sheets and put them in a binder or get them spiral-bound and satisfy the bound book requirement?

What information should be placed in the A&D Record with respect to the heading "Manufacturer and/or Importer"?

What importer should be entered into the A&D book when the foreign manufacturer and the importer have the same company name?

What information should be entered into the A&D records in regards to the heading "Type" under "Description of Firearm."

Firearms Transactions

Is a United States-issued passport a valid form of identification for a firearms purchaser to provide to an FFL?

May a parent or guardian purchase firearms or ammunition as a gift for a juvenile (under 18 years of age)?

A customer brought in a firearm to my gunsmithing shop with only the serial number present on the firearm. I know the make and model of this firearm. Should I enter what I know in my repair bound book, or should I put "Unknown"?

A law enforcement officer comes into my store holding a certification letter on letterhead signed by his supervisor stating that the officer will use this firearm in performance of his official duties. Is there anything else that I need at the store in order to sell him or her a firearm?

A licensee special-orders a firearm for a customer. The firearm arrives at the store on Monday afternoon, and the customer picks it up on Monday night. Can the licensee wait until the following business day to enter the firearm in his/her acquisition and disposition book?

I have an elderly customer who cannot leave his home. I have a gun in my store that he wants to buy. Can I go to his house, have the Form 4473 completed, call for a background check and deliver the gun to him, providing that all the background checks clear?

Upon the transfer of a gun to a resident in another state, I have to ship the firearm to a licensed dealer in that state. When completing the transfer, should the Acquisition and Disposition book have the customers name in it or the dealer to whom I sent it?

Can a licensee transfer a firearm to an individual who answered yes to a prohibitive question in Block 11 of the ATF F 4473, even if the individual passes a NICS check?

A person whom I've known very well for years no longer drives and does not have a valid drivers license. He uses his Social Security card for his official ID, for he no longer has government-issued photo identification. Can I sell him a firearm with only his Social Security card for identification?

Is a NICS background check valid for 30 days from when the check was initiated, or from when a "proceed" is issued?

A customer filled out a form 4473 on a shotgun. The NICS background check reply was delayed, but the following day NICS approved the purchase. The customer could not get back to my store during open hours, however, so he sent his wife to pick it up. May I transfer the shotgun to her?

A customer leaves a firearm for repair. When it is ready, he is unable to pick it up, but he does want it for a hunt the next day. So he sends an adult (over 21) family member to pick it up. May I issue it to that person, and if so, do we have to complete a 4473?

I operate a firearms retail business in a very small town, where everybody knows everybody else, and I know all of the members of our police department very well. a member of that department comes in to buy a firearm for official use, but he does not have a letter of authorization. Considering I know him so well, do I have to do a NICS background check?

Is it unlawful to sell a Saiga rifle that comes with a 10-round magazine and includes a larger-capacity magazine with the sale in a state where such a magazine is legal?

If a Federal Firearms Licensed-retailer, while exhibiting at a gun show within that FFL's own state, is doing NICS checks for firearms being sold at the show by unlicensed sellers to other persons, can the licensed FFL holder just do the NICS check without logging the firearms in his books? Or must the FFL log the firearms in his books after doing the NICS check and "releasing" the firearm to the buyer?

My state has a concealed carry permit. Are there any special compliance considerations to take into account when selling a handgun to a person who is permitted to carry a concealed firearm?

Can a licensed FFL, while in another state, purchase legally owned handguns and/or long guns from any individual and/or company?

Can a licensee return a consigned firearm to a family member of the person who originally consigned the firearm if that person was a prohibited individual?

Does ATF consider a family member picking up a pawned firearm for another family member a straw purchase?

What documentation must a member of the military on active duty present to an FFL to purchase a handgun from that FFL?


Does the federal firearms law require licensees to comply with state laws and local published ordinances when selling firearms?

a.) I am an FFL in Washington State, where my business is incorporated. Business-owned firearms are for sale at our store and at private gun shows, where only members who have had an FBI check can privately trade. Must I conduct background checks to sell these firearms at the gun show? b.) At these gun shows may I also sell firearms from my private collection, which are not part of the business?

Can I display my private collection for sale or trade next to my business inventory? Can I sell from my private collection without doing NICS checks and completing Form 4473s?

May a person obtain a dealers license to engage in business only at gun shows?

My FFL is going to expire soon. What steps do I have to take in order to renew my license in a timely manner?


What are the requirements for a markings variance?

How long is a marking variance good for?


I would like some clarification concerning employee eligibility/background checks.  There seems to be a lot of gray area in the regulations specifically, Section 478.32, concerning whom we can hire. We always do background checks (always post-offer, in accordance with the law) and always operate with a great deal of caution, but we dont want to be overly exclusive of people with pasts. Clarification of specific rulings, examples and such from the ATF would be helpful.

As a Federal Firearms Licensee, what is my responsibility to respond to a request to trace a firearm?

Typically, who are categorized as nonimmigrant aliens?

I have a firearm hanging on the wall of my office, which adjoins the sales floor of my store. It is of sentimental value, and thats why I have it hanging there. It is listed in the A&D book and on the computer, though it is not for sale. At our last inspection, it was counted as part of the inventory, and no comments were made. Another dealer was told that any firearm on the premise must have a sales tag on it. What is the official ruling?

I've reported a lost firearm. I've done all the necessary paperwork and notifications. Now, I've found the firearm. What is my course of action?