ATF revises NICS background check form

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced Monday the release of a revised background check form.

Form 4473, last updated in April 2012, contains more than 50 changes, including an addition of the definition for “fugitive from justice” — a term that has fueled a 16-year dispute between the ATF and the FBI and allowed the transfer of more than 2,000 guns to accused criminals.

The FBI denied 49,448 gun sales between 1999 and 2015 because background checks revealed active warrants for the prospective buyers in different local jurisdictions. The ATF, however, believes the “fugitive from justice” disqualification should only apply to individuals who attempt to buy firearms in a different state, according to federal audit findings released last month.

The ATF maintains a database of these sales as FBI “denials,” but refused to recover 2,183 of the guns sold because of the dispute.

The two agencies requested an opinion on the definition from the department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2008, but officials only offered “informal advice.” The FBI pressed the office for reconsideration in 2010, but six years later no formal opinion has ever been issued.

The ATF’s preferred definition now appears on Form 4473, the agency said, which licensed dealers will begin using Jan. 16, 2017.

In an April blog post written during the ATF’s open comment period, Adam Kraut, attorney for the Pennsylvania-based Prince Law Offices and self-proclaimed firearms enthusiast, decried the proposed definition.

“This seemingly suggests that if an individual were to cross state lines, even with the intent to return to their state while charges were pending, they are now a fugitive from justice for the purposes of the 4473,” he said. “The potential implications of this interpretation are far reaching.”

Other changes to the form includes added warning statements for buyers in states with legalized or decriminalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes; clarifying buyers with initials in their legal names should indicate as such using the acronym “IO” for initial only; an option to include the name of the employee completing the background check; and added a direction indicating firearm information must be recorded even if a transfer doesn’t occur.

To view an entire list of the changes, click here.