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What determines if a firearm is legal or not when running a serial number?

Here is the answer to this question, from Cpl. L.V. Locklear, WPD’s Rangemaster/Lead Armorer.

The only way to determine the legality of a firearm by the serial number is for the ATF to do a trace on the firearm. The ATF can trace the firearm back to the original firearms dealer (Federal Firearms License holder) and to the original purchaser of the firearm. All firearms that are purchased from an FFL requires that a Form 4473 be completed.

After the original purchase of the firearm, if the original buyer then subsequently sells the firearm or gives the firearm to another individual, that transaction can not be traced unless the original seller and the new buyer/owner completes a firearms transfer (4473) through an ATF approved holder of a Federal Firearms License.

  • A Federal Firearms License (FFL) is a license in the United States that enables an individual or a company to engage in a business pertaining to the manufacture or importation of firearms and ammunition, or the interstate and intrastate sale of firearms.A Firearms Transaction Record, or Form 4473, is a form promulgated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in the United States Department of Justice that is filled out when a person purchases a firearm from a Federal Firearms License (FFL) holder (such as a gun shop).

User-contributed question by:
Dan Edwards

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