ATF mandates use of new Form 4473 starting Monday

Federally licensed gun dealers will have to start using a new background check form Monday that has been revised to address marijuana use and specify “sex” rather than “gender,” among other changes.

Firearm sellers use Form 4473 to conduct criminal background checks on buyers before transferring a gun. Buyers answer legally qualifying questions, asserting they aren’t felons or mentally ill, and sellers keep the form on file. The ATF told that under federal law, the bureau must review the document every three years, and that updates are suggested by the public and the gun industry.

The revised form has been available for use since October 2016, but Monday marks the first day gun dealers are required to use it. The “ATF delayed its issuance and use in an effort to be sure that all of our partners in the firearms industry were properly notified and prepared,” said ATF spokesman Dillon McConnell in an email to

Last updated in April 2012, the newest version has more than 50 changes, including new definitions and clarifications.

Updates include a definition of “fugitive from justice,” an addition that came after a 16-year disagreement between the ATF and the FBI over what constituted a fugitive from justice. The dispute allowed the transfer of more than 2,000 firearms to accused criminals from 1999 to 2015.

Other changes include shifting the term “gender” to “sex,” the addition of an optional question which asks for the name of the FFL employee completing the NICS check, and a warning about the use of marijuana.

“Warning,” reads the updated form. “The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”

Four states legalized marijuana in November, making it legal for one in five Americans – residents in eight total states –  to smoke weed without a doctor’s note. Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Washington, D.C. have, or will soon have, laws on the books allowing residents to toke up. A total of 29 states have passed either recreational or medical marijuana measures allowing the use of the drug, skirting federal law and prompting the warning on Form 4473.

It’s a federal offense to lie on Form 4473, and doing so is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

A full list of revisions to the form is outlined here.

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