4473 Background Checks

Many people are surprised to find out that they failed their background check when trying to purchase a firearm. There are a number of reasons this can happen ranging from criminal records to clerical errors. Here in this article we’ll explore the various reasons one may fail their 4473 background check.

What is a 4473?

If you have ever purchased a gun from a licensed dealer, then you’re familiar with ATF Form 4473, also known as the Firearms Transaction Record. This is the background check form you fill out so the dealer can determine your eligibility to purchase a firearm.

In 1993  The Gun Control Act of 1968 was amended by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act which required licensed dealers to perform background checks on those purchasing guns. The Act was introduced by no other than Rep Chuck Schumer, the current Democratic Senate Majority Leader.

When the Brady Act was passed, there was a mandated 5 day waiting period when you purchase a firearm. In 1998 though with the advent of the FBIs National Instant Criminal Background Check System, also known as NICS, the waiting period was no longer required since a system for instant background checks was now in place. We still use this system today.

What questions will I be asked on my background check?

The 4473 form is pretty comprehensive and it touches base on every legal requirement to purchase a gun. Click on each question below to expand for more info.

This includes things such as name, date of birth, address, place of birth, social security number, height, weight, and race.

Federal law prohibits you from completing a 4473 on behalf of someone else or purchase one with the intent to resell it. There are however some exemptions allowing a firearm to be purchased as a gift for someone else. You can read more about that on this link.

Most people know that a felon can’t purchase a gun. The second part of this question confuses some though. “any other crime for which the judge could have imprisoned you for more than a year” technically includes misdemeanor convictions. This is typically not a concern in Arizona though as the most serious types of misdemeanors have a 6 month sentencing guideline. If you have a misdemeanor conviction in another state though, it’s possible that it may fall under this.

In terms that more people would understand, do you have an arrest warrant?

This question causes a lot of confusion here in Arizona. Both medical and recreational marijuana were legalized under Arizona law. The Federal Government still considers marijuana illegal, so if you use it then you’re not eligible to purchase a firearm. You can learn more about marijuana and guns on this link. We’re often asked how this question applies to individuals that are prescribed opioid pain killers from a doctor since they’re a controlled substance under the Controlled Substance Act. Under 21 US Code § 802, “the term “addict” means any individual who habitually uses any narcotic drug so as to endanger the public morals, health, safety, or welfare, or who is so far addicted to the use of narcotic drugs as to have lost the power of self-control with reference to his addiction“. This mean that in most cases, responsible medication use under doctor supervision will not affect your ability to purchase a firearm. With that being said, there are both legal and ethical issues possessing a firearm while you’re intoxicated by alcohol or medications. Please exercise common sense and practice good gun safety.

We see it more and more these days, an individual having a mental health crisis. This can affect gun rights. If you’re involuntarily committed into mental health care then federal law revokes your gun rights. The same thing applies to if you were convicted of a crime under an insanity plea. This does not apply to individuals who seek “normal” mental health care.

A dishonorable discharge from the US Military is similar to having a felony in many ways. In terms of firearms, you lose your gun rights.

These are called an Order of Protection here in Arizona, but most people know them as simply restraining orders. If you have a restraining order stemming from a family or domestic relationship then you lose your gun rights for the duration of that order. In Arizona, restraining orders expire after 1 years, however they can be renewed. Arizona also has something called an Injunction Against Harassment which many consider a restraining order but it doesn’t revoke your gun rights as it’s not something used for family or domestic relationships.

Domestic violence convictions are very common. Many people don’t find out that they lost their gun rights from a domestic violence conviction until they try to purchase a firearm and are denied on their 4473. Fortunately though, most domestic violence convictions in Arizona are eligible for gun rights restoration. Learn more about restoring your gun rights after a domestic violence conviction on this link.

If you relinquish your nationality then you loose many of your rights, including those granted under the Second Amendment.

If you are illegally in the United States then you are not eligible to purchase firearms.

What happens if I lie or make a mistake on my 4473?

Above your signature, the 4473 reads “I also understand that making any false oral or written statement, or exhibiting any false or misrepresented identification with respect to this transaction, is a crime punishable as a felony under Federal law, and may also violate State and/or local law. I further understand that the repetitive purchase of firearms for the purpose of resale for livelihood and profit without a Federal firearms license is a violation of Federal law.”

This means that you are subject to harsh a harsh prison sentence and steep fines if you do not accurately complete your 4473. This can include both simple mistakes and lies. Do not lie, and do not guess on a question if you’re unsure of the answer. 

If you’re not sure how you should complete your 4473s because of your unique situation, we’re happy to schedule you for a legal advice appointment. Contact us for cost and appointment availability at (480) 359-3131 or info@azgunlaw.com.

What should I do if I fail my background check?

If you have failed your background check due to any of the reasons outlined above, we strongly encourage you to contact AZ Gun Law or AZ Rights Restoration to learn how we can help restore your gun rights.

I haven't lost my gun rights but I still failed my background check. What can I do?

Thousands of people every year are denied their purchase of a firearm when they have not lost their gun rights. While we believe this to be an infringement against your constitutionally guaranteed rights, it’s a reality that we have to live with. Our experienced teams at AZ Gun Law and AZ Rights Restoration can help you through the FBI appeals process to correct the errors in their systems.

Delayed 4473 Background Check

A 4473 being “delayed” is extremely common. This can happen for any number of reasons. The FBI being backlogged, you having similar personal information to someone else, system outages, and more. Most gun owners are delayed at least once in their lives. When this happens, the dealer will typically call you when they get an answer back on your 4473. If the FBI has not provided an approval within 5 business days then the dealer is able to legally transfer the firearm to you without an approval or denial coming back.

Is there a way to avoid the hassle of a 4473?

It is an unfortunate fact that the NICS system is flawed creating an undue burden on those that have not lost their gun rights. Even for those who don’t get delayed or denied, simply having to get permission from the government is something that is often viewed as an infringement on gun rights. So naturally, many people look for a way to avoid the hassle of 4473s.

The best option is to obtain a AZ CCW, or concealed weapons permit. CCW holders are exempt from having their background check ran when purchasing a firearm. You simply provide your drivers license and CCW to the dealer. You’re still required to fill out the 4473 form, but it’s just filed with the dealer rather than being ran through the FBI. Private sales in Arizona are exempt from background check requirements as well. In other terms, if your friend sells you a gun in Arizona, then there is no legal requirement for a background check to be performed. If you choose to purchase on the private used market though, please exercise extreme caution. You have no way to determine if the gun your purchasing has ever been reported stolen. If it has and you’re caught with it, then you will face severe legal consequences including steep fines and prison sentences.

I have more questions.

Due to the complex nature of both state and federal gun laws, you may naturally have additional questions. If you would like to meet with an attorney to discuss your unique situation then please contact us at (480) 359-3131, info@azgunlaw.com, or use the form below.

*We try our best to keep this page up to date, which as of March 2022 it is. Future changes in the law may affect this information though.

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