The ATF Form 4473 is a vital document necessary to prevent prohibited persons from acquiring a firearm. The form requires a firearms purchaser to answer specific questions about his or her personal identification and criminal, mental-health, and immigration backgrounds. A person who passes the related FBI check will be allowed to purchase a firearm and exit the gun shop. Failing to answer a question correctly could, however, create major problems for someone who does not understand the law. Answering all questions 100 percent correctly is necessary to avoid criminal charges. Certain actions positively must be avoided when filling out the Form 4473.

Never Make Assumptions

One way people get in trouble is simply redefining the legal parameters by making assumptions.  A person with an old warrant for an unpaid traffic ticket in another state may be totally unaware that he or she is to answer that they are a fugitive on the  question on the form related to being a fugitive. A fugitive is someone who is wanted for anything, including even "minor" things such as missing jury duty. The word on the form is "fugitive" and not "felony fugitive." Other assumptions may be that a felony conviction was "a long time ago" and doesn't count. A felony conviction is a lifetime ban barring a pardon or restoration of gun rights. Making assumptions about basic "yes or no" questions on a Form 4473 can lead to your being charged with a felony.

Don't Run the Check Just to See What Happens

Taking the attitude of running the FBI background check to see what happens is a disastrous plan. Failing the check brings with it serious consequences. Filling out a Form 4473 and running an  FBI check is for the purpose of affirmatively buying a firearm and is not to determine eligibility. Failing the background check does not just deliver bad news; it could lead felony charges on the federal and state level.

Never Ignore Additional Rules on the State Level

Federal laws may allow for someone to purchase a firearm even though that person may be barred from purchasing in a particular state. In California, there are time periods barring certain persons with mental-health issues from acquiring a firearm. In Pennsylvania, there are additional prohibitions against persons convicted of multiple DUI offenses. Running the background check while barred on the state level could lead to state-level felony charges.

People who mistakenly attest to statements on the Form 4473  may use "I made a mistake" as a defense against charges. Not everyone understands the law or the statutes associated with the form. A skilled attorney may be able to work a plea bargain or even a withdrawal of the charges based on the circumstances of the false statements.

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