The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) announced this week its intention to change form 4473 to include, among other things, a “non-binary” option for sex as well as language clarifying prohibited persons who have been convicted in military courts.
The changes were announced in the Federal Register on December 26, and interested parties have 60 days to comment before the changes go into effect.
Among the most significant amendments is a third option under “Sex” that reads “Non-binary.” Historically, government agencies have resisted adding a non-binary option in order to avoid confusion when trying to identify an individual. But in 2017, Oregon became the first state to offer a non-binary option on state IDs, and at least nine other states have followed suit. The federal government appears to be joining the trend.
The new form also amends several prohibition questions to clarify when a member of the military is prohibited from owning a firearm.
The question asking the buyer whether they are under indictment or information in any court for a felony has been revised to include, “or are you a current member of the military who has been charged with violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and whose charges have been referred to a General Court-Martial?”
On the old form, prospective gun buyers had to read the instructions at the end to learn that members of the military who had been charged with an offense that was referred to a General Court-Martial were prohibited from owning firearms. In the new form, the ATF moved that language into the main body of the document.
A General Court-Martial is the most severe of the military court-martial types and is generally reserved for the most serious offenses, such as murder, rape, or robbery, according to Military.com.
The question asking the transferee whether they have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence also adds language incorporating members of the military. It adds, “or are you or have you ever been a member of the military and been convicted of a crime that included, as an element, the use of force against a person as identified in the instructions?” (I.e., a domestic partner or child.)
Unlike the felony question, the instructions on the old form did not address members of the military specifically, but it did list a “Federal” domestic violence charge, to which the new instructions append “General Court-Martial.”
The military-specific language is likely a response to the Sutherland Spring massacre, in which an ex-US airman shot more than two dozen people in a Texas church in 2017. The perpetrator should have been in the background check system as a prohibited person after he was kicked out of the military for assaulting his wife, but the Air Force failed to submit its records to the FBI.
The new Form 4473 appears to be designed to remind both buyers and sellers that members of the military can be prohibited from owning firearms for committing the same kinds of serious crimes as civilians.
SEE ALSO: Judge Finds Serious ‘Disconnect’ in ATF’s Classification of AR-15 Lower Receivers as ‘Firearms’
The new 4473 also includes a number of organization changes. Rather than begin with the Transferee/Buyer section, the new form begins with the section that lists the make, model, and serial number of the firearm. The new form also reduces the number of firearms that can be listed from four to three. Sellers who wish to include more than three firearms must use a separate Continuation Sheet.
Concerned citizens who wish to comment on the proposed changes are encouraged to email the ATF at FederalRegisterNoticeATFF4473@atf.gov or call them at 202–648–7173.