Arming Pickens County Citizens
On the internet, at gun shows, and when talking with customers, I frequently hear comments about when and if the government keeps a list of people buying firearms from a dealer. Most of what I hear is outright false, so I figured it would be good to put this up in a blog post.
So first, lets talk about what information is collected. Most of this information is collected on form 4473 aka the ‘Firearms Transaction Record’.
Name, DOB, ethnicity, citizenship, place of birth, address, height, weight, gender, and race are collected. You optionally may provide additional details about yourself such as a Social Security Number, or a UPIN (Unique Personal Identification Number). In addition details on your government issued ID and it’s expiration is collected. If you have a concealed weapons permit and use that in lieu of having a background check, that permit number, type, and expiration date are also collected.
The manufacturer, serial number, caliber, and type of firearm are recorded.
This form is retained by the dealer for 20 years (assuming a successful transfer, the period is less if it fails). It’s not filed with any government agency.
The exception to the above is if the dealer goes out of business. At that point, all of the 4473 forms and the Acquisition and Disposition Log gets turned into the BATFE.
Many people are concerned about the data that gets passed to the FBI for the background check. A lot of misinformation exists about what this data is. You can see a screenshot below from what the FBI collects in the web version. Notice it doesn’t get much more granular than long gun, hand gun, or other. No one, besides the dealer know if you are buying 1 AR-15 or 50.
The background check (or rather the approval) is good for 30 days; which means that subsequent transactions at the same dealer would not require re-authorization.
Additionally, there’s a regulation that requires that personal information on approved background checks be destroyed within 24 hours. If, however, you are ineligible to possess a firearm, and therefore fail the background check, the FBI will keep your information indefinitely.
Importantly, the background check is completely bypassed for folks with a concealed weapons permit, because they are deemed to have already successfully passed a background check when they received their permit.
The exception to all of the above is that if you purchase multiple handguns within 5 business days from the same dealer, a separate report of multiple sales is submitted to the ATF. This report does contain significant information.
In short, a lot of information is collected. But in most cases it is held only by the dealer you purchased from. A lot of that remains on paper, though more and more are starting to move to storing that information digitally where it can be. There is no central federal registry of what guns are bought by whom. Rarely is that information ever shared past the dealer in the first place.
Disclaimer: The above is true for what happens in the state of South Carolina. Many states have their own registration systems, record keeping systems, etc. Additionally, states that border Mexico also must give the ATF reports on sales of certain semi-auto rifles. None of this holds true for NFA items, for which there is a registry maintained.