Ruling 2016-2 applies to the electronic storage of 4473's.
The ATF has received inquiries from members of the firearms industry seeking to complete their required ATF Form 4473 (5300.9), Firearms Transaction Record, electronically via a computer at the licensed business premises, rather than in paper form.
The full regulation can be found here: ATF 4473 Digital Storage Compliance
1. The licensee will follow the Notices, Instructions, and Definitions governing the use of the OMB-approved version of the ATF Form 4473, and either: (a) acquires and uses his/her own electronic Form 4473 software; or (b) downloads from ATF’s website and saves to his/her computer ATF’s most current electronic version of Form 4473, known as ATF e-Form 4473.
2. The e-Form 4473 displays clearly, on the same screen, or upon mouse-clicking a conspicuously displayed screen item, all of the Notices, Instructions, and Definitions contained on the current Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved ATF Form 4473.
3. The computer software must allow for a new e-Form 4473 to be created and completed upon each transaction. The system cannot populate Section A from previous transfers from the same transferee (buyer).
4. The transferee (buyer) of the firearm(s) must answer the questions for Section A of e-Form 4473 while physically present at the seller’s premises (to include a qualifying gun show or event). The questions presented on the computer screen must be legible, and contain the same wording as the current OMB-approved version of ATF Form 4473 (5300.9), Firearms Transaction Record. Where Form - 4 - 4473 requires “checking” or “marking,” the transferee may mouse-click in an appropriate box to answer the question on the e-Form 4473. Where Form 4473 requires “printing” or “handwriting” the transferee may enter the information on the e-Form 4473.
5. The e-Form 4473 must allow the transferee to review and amend his/her answers until he/she selects or mouse-clicks a statement on the screen that he/she “agrees with and certifies” the same transferee certification statement as the current OMB-approved ATF Form 4473 (5300.9). Once the statement has been selected or mouse-clicked, the transferee can no longer make revisions to his/her answers.
6. The transferee (buyer) confirms his/her answers with his/her signature and date on the form, certifying that his/her answers are true, correct, and complete, and that he/she has read, understood, and complied with the conditions, notices, definitions, and instructions for the form.
7. The transferor (seller) of the firearm(s) enters the information into the licensee’s computer for Section B and Section D of the e-Form 4473. The questions presented on the computer screen must be legible, and contain the same wording as the current OMB-approved version of ATF Form 4473.
8. The transferee and transferor signatures on the e-Form 4473 may be electronic signatures captured via an electronic signature pad prior to printing or may be handwritten (ink) signatures on the printed copy of the e-Form 4473.
9. If the electronic signature pad breaks or fails to operate properly, the licensee must discontinue use of electronic signatures and obtain handwritten (ink) signatures on the OMB-approved ATF Form 4473 or the printed copy of the e-Form 4473.
10. If the transferee (buyer) cannot read and/or write, another person, excluding the licensee or any employee of the licensee, may complete the answers. Two persons, other than the licensee or any employee of the licensee, must then sign as witnesses to the buyer’s answers and signature. The person who cannot read and/or write may electronically sign or mark the e-Form 4473. The two additional persons’ signatures must be handwritten in ink on the printed e-Form 4473.
11. All NICS or State POC related information must be entered accurately on the e-Form 4473 in the applicable fields. These entries can be made via electronic population (auto-population of the fields) or manual electronic entry (typing the information into the fields). They may also be handwritten onto the form after it is printed.
12. In order to electronically populate information related to the NICS background check, the FFL must contact the FBI NICS or appropriate State agency to request authorization to transfer specific NICS data from e-Check into the computerized system.
13. Pursuant to 27 CFR 478.102(d) and 27 CFR 478.131(a)(2), if an exception to the NICS or State POC check exists, the licensee must record such information on the ATF Form 4473 (i.e., if a transferee possesses a NICS or State POC exempt permit) in the applicable fields.
14. If the licensee wishes to maintain e-Forms 4473 for pending transactions, the forms must be downloaded from the system to a physical storage device (e.g., hard drive, Digital Versatile Disc (DVD), server) at the licensee’s business premises, or printed and maintained at the licensee’s business premises:
a. At least daily, in a format that is unencrypted with the required information readily apparent;
b. Upon request of an ATF officer (must be provided within 24 hours);
c. Prior to discontinuance or change of: the software (program); the database system, whether or not maintained by a host facility (e.g., remote server or cloud storage provider; and/or the host facility (if applicable); and
d. Prior to discontinuance of the licensee’s firearms business.
15. If the licensee wishes to maintain e-Form 4473 for pending transactions, the forms may be stored on a computer server or device owned and operated by the licensee, or contracted/leased by the licensee through a host facility (e.g., remote server or cloud storage provider), provided that:
a. The e-Forms 4473 are readily accessible through a computer server or device located at the licensed premises during regular business hours.
b. The e-Forms 4473 documenting a pending transaction must be printed out upon request by any ATF officer.
c. The e-Forms 4473 documenting a pending transaction must be searchable by the transferee’s (buyer’s) last name, address, and by firearms information, such as by serial number, manufacturer, and importer (if applicable).
d. The licensee’s server is located within the United States or its territories, or if a host facility is used, that facility must have a business premises within the United States or its territories, and must be subject to U.S. legal process.
e. Each licensee must maintain its stored e-Form 4473 on a separate/partitioned database that cannot be intermingled with another licensee’s records.
f. The storage system must back-up the stored e-Form 4473 on at least a daily basis to protect the data from accidental deletion or system failure. - 6 -
g. Licensees are strongly encouraged to ensure that there are proper and robust security protection measures in place (e.g., encryption) to ensure all data is protected.
The data center is located in North Virginia, United States. All information is kept securely and is backed up on a daily basis. All data is stored separately for each licensee. Separate databases are kept for every single licensee.
16. If the licensee contracts with, leases from, or changes a host facility (e.g., remote server or cloud storage provider), the licensee must, within 30 days, notify his/her respective ATF Area Office of the name and address of the host facility.
17. If the transfer of the firearm(s) takes place on a different day from the date that the transferee (buyer) signed Section A, the transferee must complete Section C immediately prior to the transfer of the firearm(s). The computer software cannot allow the electronic signature to be automatically populated in the form from a previously captured signature or information in the software.
18. The e-Form 4473 must be printed, including instructions, at the time the transfer of the firearm is complete and prior to the transferee departing the business premises. The transferor must verify that the signature and date are present and in the appropriate fields on the printed ATF Form 4473.
19. In the case of “denied,” no sale or cancelled transactions, the ATF Form 4473, including instructions, must be printed and the printout retained pursuant to 27 CFR 478.129(b).
20. If the transaction is not completed within 30-day period after initially contacting NICS, the ATF Form 4473, including instructions, must be printed and the printout retained pursuant to 27 CFR 478.129(b).
21. The licensee must print all ATF Forms 4473, including the Notices, Instructions and Definitions, on 8 1/2” x 11” white paper. The pages must be stapled together. The entire printed ATF Form 4473 must be a verbatim/exact image of the current OMB-approved ATF Form 4473 (5300.9). Each response to a question must be legibly printed and aligned in the particular space or box allotted for that question on ATF Form 4473. If the licensee is unable to print the ATF Form 4473, he/she must use the current hardcopy of the OMB-approved version of the form. The pages may be printed either single-sided or double-sided.
22. The licensee must retain the printed ATF Forms 4473 at the licensed premises in accordance with 27 CFR 478.124(b) and 129.
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