Word has come out that the ATF will soon add Form 4 to their online eForm system.
Like most things related to government bureaucracies, the National Firearms Act is overly complex and difficult to navigate. This article won’t serve as an introduction to the NFA process as a whole, but should hopefully give you a better understanding of the changes about to take place, and what they could mean for you.
Simply put, the NFA restricts the ownership of certain firearms and firearm-related devices such as suppressors. Items restricted under the NFA, including machineguns, are legal for non-prohibited Americans to own, but only after receiving approval from and registering the item with the government. The process can be lengthy and complicated, especially for first-timers, but there has been an interesting development recently that will hopefully make all our lives a little easier.
The two most common types of forms that are submitted when buying an NFA item are Form 1 and Form 4, the former is used for constructing your own NFA items and the latter is for transferring existing ones. For some time now the ATF has had a system in place that they call eForms. eForms allow for the digital submission of the necessary paperwork involved in the transfer/registration process without the need for snail mail. After ironing out any initial problems, eForms proved to be a useful development indeed, eventually lowering the wait times and errors associated with the process. For the forms which could be submitted using eForms, some individuals saw the total duration of the process drop down to just a couple of weeks, and sometimes even less. While the expedited process was appreciated by those who could take advantage of it, the system was still missing the most common form needed by civilian shooters: Form 4.
Understanding ATF Forms
For those unfamiliar with the various ATF forms, here's an intro to the most common ones:
- Form 4473: If you've ever bought a gun, you've likely filled out a Form 4473 before. This is a “Firearms Transaction Record”, and one must be completed when transferring a firearm from an FFL. Part of this form includes your National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) number and background check.
- Form 1: This form is an “Application to Make and Register a Firearm”, and it's for individuals without a Federal Firearms License (FFL) who want to create an NFA item. This includes things such as manufacturing an SBR by swapping your brace for a proper stock on an AR pistol or chopping down your weapon's barrel below 16 inches.
- Form 2: This form is only for licensed SOTs who are legally allowed to own and manufacture NFA items. Form 2 is known as a “Notice of Firearms Manufactured or Imported”, and one must be filled out when manufacturing or importing an NFA item. This form is the only way that new machineguns can be made in or imported into the United States.
- Form 3: Another uncommon form for most people, a Form 3 is only needed for FFL SOTs to transfer NFA items amongst one another. If you're a SOT and manufacture a machinegun, for example, you would use Form 3 to transfer it to another SOT anywhere in the country.
- Form 4: The current talk of the town, Form 4 is known as an “Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm” and is used when non FFLs wish to own a restricted NFA item. For prefabricated and legally transferable SBRs, SBSs, suppressors, machineguns and more, Form 4 is used to transfer that item to the buyer and register it with the ATF. Form 4 is what will soon be added to the eForm system.
- Form 20: This is likely the most commonly used ATF form by non-FFLs after the 4473, Form 4 and Form 1. Form 20 is an “Application to Transport NFA Firearms” and must be filled out and submitted to the ATF prior to transporting certain NFA weapons between states. For example if you plan on taking your SBR to a match outside of your home state where the weapon is registered, you would need to submit a Form 20 and receiver approval before legally doing so.
ATF Form Changes
On December 3rd, however, the ATF announced that a new eForm system will launch sometime in December of this year, and this time it will include Form 4. While this isn’t as good of news as the abolishment of the whole system would have been, for those who wish to own restricted NFA items it should now become a faster and easier process. As this screenshot from the ATF's website shows, currently only forms 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 6A, 9, 10 and 5300.11 are available as eForms, but Form 4 should supposedly be listed here as well by the end of December.
If you already have submitted a Form 4 and are waiting on approval, keep in mind that aborting the process to resubmit it using the new eForm system will likely only result in a longer delay, so just hold fast in the meantime. If, however, you were recently considering purchasing a suppressor, factory-made SBR or a pre-86 machinegun, waiting a couple more weeks to submit the Form 4 using the new eForm system will probably net you a faster turnaround time than filing the old-fashioned way.
Just like when the original eForm website launched (or any government program for that matter), the new eForm system will likely experience some problems upon release. Hopefully the transition to the new system proves to be painless, but history suggests otherwise. With any luck though, by sometime next year Form 4s will be known for being potentially just as fast as some Form 1s can be.
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