MARTINSBURG, WV –-(Ammoland.com)- According to a leak provided to AmmoLand News and verified by a second leak from a Gun Owners of America (GOA) source, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will stop issuing variances allowing for offsite storage of 4473 forms.
For years, the ATF has issued variances to federal firearms licensees (FFLs) who did not have room on-site to store the 4473 forms collected over the years. FFLs are required to hold the background check forms for 25 years. This period could mean 1000s of forms at an FFL’s location. Small gun shops with limited space could easily run out of room to store the massive volumes of records.
The ATF is also anticipating Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) 2021R-05 to be published in 2022. That rule will amend 27 CFR 478.129 to require FFLs to store all ATF forms permanently, which would further burden the licensed dealers. Although dealers would be allowed to keep documents over 20 years offsite, that location could be searched without a warrant by the ATF under the new rule. This rule would have no beneficial effect on cutting down on crime.
The leak came from an ATF employee and was further backed up by a message the Field Management Staff Chief authorized. According to the sources, the ATF claims that such approvals for variances for offsite record-keeping run contrary to the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA). The ATF came to this conclusion even though the Bureau has been issuing variances for years.
The memo reads: “ATF, in limited circumstances, has previously issued variances to licensees permitting the offsite storage of ATF Forms 4473, excluding those executed (generally) within the most recent three-year timeframe. However, such approvals run contrary to the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), codified at 18 U.S.C. 923(g)(1)(A) which states “[e]ach licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, and licensed dealer shall maintain such records of importation, production, shipment, receipt, sale or other disposition of firearms at his place of business for such period, and in such form, as the Attorney General may by regulations prescribe.”
Some activists with knowledge of the new policy believe that its true purpose is to force FFLs to either digitize their records or hand them over to the ATF. It would be theoretically more accessible for the ATF to gather information on gun purchasers and the firearms they buy by storing the documents in digital form. The ATF could just request a flash drive of copies of all the 4473s at a gun dealer’s location instead of having to go through all the documents at the FFL premise.
An earlier leak showed that the ATF used industry operations investigators (IOIs) to run retroactive background checks on gun buyers who used concealed carry permits instead of being submitted through NICS. By digitizing the records, it could make running retroactive background checks easier for the IOIs.
Another concern is that according to a leak turned up by AmmoLand News; the ATF is scanning out of business records with optical character recognition scanners that could be used to make a searchable database. Some worry the goal is to create an even more extensive database.
The true goal of the ATF is unknown. According to the ATF, it is just fixing a misinterpretation of the law.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.