Federal background checks are required to buy guns from a licensed dealer.
But what happens to the paperwork you fill out to buy a gun?
What happens with your ATF Form 4473?:
Form 4473 is the form that you fill out to buy a gun from a licensed dealer.
It’s a few pages long and asks a bunch of questions.
It does give you the option of putting your Social Security number on there, but it isn’t mandatory.
However, this helps if your name’s similar to other people.
It also asks questions such as, “are you a felon or a fugitive from the law?”
There are over 600,000 firearm dealers in the U.S. and they all must keep the original paperwork.
As for the information submitted to the FBI, if you pass the background the information gets destroyed within 24 hours.
Is there a gun registry?:
Yes and no…
Let’s say that a gun turns up at a crime scene.
It would have to be traced based on paper records. It’s not a quick look-up like the movies make it appear.
If a gun is used to commit a crime, the ATF calls the manufacturer of the gun.
The manufacturer looks up which wholesaler they sold the gun to.
From there, the ATF calls the wholesaler to see which dealer purchased the firearm.
Finally, the dealer would have to look in their records to find out who they sold the gun to.
As you can see, this is not a quick process.
And while there is not a national registry of gun owners, there is a paper record of the transaction. With time it can be tracked down.
But with all these pieces in place, it’s easy to see how with a few tweaks, the system could be a national registry.
Does ATF Form 4473 ever get destroyed?:
Big-time retailers such as Cabela’s have to store a massive amount of paper records.
And they’re pretty organized since they are such a big company.
But, smaller mom-and-pop stores might keep their records in boxes in the back room.
The firearm dealer is required to keep the 4473 forms for 20 years. After 20 years the forms can be destroyed.
If the store goes out of business before that 20-year period, they must box up those records and ship them to ATF.
If the ATF takes possession of the records, they remain in paper format, they aren’t computerized.
The bottom line is that if you truly want to make sure your guns are off the books and out of the reach from the government, build a “ghost gun” from an 80% receiver or purchase a gun made before 1899 as no paperwork has to be done on those.