Why does NICS need the serial number of my new gun?


February 20, 2013, 06:57 PM
I bought a couple of new guns recently and the experience got me to wondering something. I purchased a couple of handguns from an online dealer and had them shipped to my local guy. He doesn't mind doing transfers since he considers it a good deal for him. He's a smaller shop, basically a one man deal, so nothing fancy. But a good honest place to shop.

So he gets my guns in and I head down for the paperwork. Fill everything out and he calls in my NICS check on the phone. Like I said, a smaller shop so he doesn't use an automated system. After giving them my personal information he then has to give them the make, model, and serial number for both my purchases. And I got to thinking later, why?

These were new guns so no chance of them having being stolen. I thought the point of a NICS check was to make sure I am allowed to buy a gun? Once they have my ID all that needs to happen is for him to say "He's purchasing a new gun" and leave it at that. Regardless of if I am buying 1 gun or 12 guns, as long as they are new NICS doesn't need to know anything about what I'm buying.

If they aren't "supposed" to be keeping a record of purchases what's the point in asking for serial numbers?

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February 20, 2013, 06:59 PM

I have never heard of NICS requiring a serial number. Anyone else?

February 20, 2013, 07:02 PM
This is from the ATF website:

"The Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968 requires federal firearms licensees (FFLs) to report multiple sales of handguns to the same purchaser [18 U.S.C. 923(g)(3)]. The sale of two or more handguns must be reported if they occur at the same time, or within five business days of each other. The report must be filed with ATF no later than the close of business on the day the multiple sales or other disposition took place and includes information that identifies the purchaser and the firearms purchased. By law, a copy of this handgun multiple sale report must be provided to designated state or local law enforcement agencies. These reports provide ATF with potential intelligence and almost real-time investigative leads that can indicate illegal firearms trafficking. ATF began requiring the FFLs to report the multiple transactions in 1975. The federal statute that codified the multiple sales of handguns reporting requirement went into effect in 1986."



February 20, 2013, 07:43 PM
Here in CA, we have a 10 day waiting period. If I order a gun thru my local dealer, he can't even start the paperwork (4473) until he gets the SN. Of course we have registration here in CA and I don't5 know for sure how it works elsewhere.

February 20, 2013, 07:47 PM
@Fryerpower...Understood about the multiple sales. This is done on an ATF Form 5100, IIRC. I'm talking about the telephonic NICS check that asks the same questions as the ones on the 4473.

February 20, 2013, 08:00 PM
...he then has to give them the make, model, and serial number for both my purchases.

I've never, ever, heard of that before and in fact, that is one of the universal facts we tell folks is that NICS does NOT get that info.


Ah HA! You're in TN! That's it. TN uses their own system: TICS. That system does indeed require all the information on the gun you're purchasing.

From the link:
Potential Recipient Information
Name – LAST, First and Middle (middle name is important)
Race – Black (B), American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacific Islander
(I), White (W) which includes Latin American and Hispanic, and Unknown (U).
Sex – Male (M) or Female (F)
Date of Birth – Month, day and year (MMDDYY)
Place of Birth – The state where potential recipient was born.
State of Residence – The state where potential recipient currently lives.
Social Security Number – Solicitation of the number is required by TCA 39-
17-1316 but provision of the number by the potential recipient is voluntary. Use
of this number will greatly decrease the chances that false-positive “hits” against
same/similar names and dates of birth will be returned, resulting in a denial. It is
in the interest of the potential recipient to supply this number. It is not retained
by the TICS Unit on approved transfers and is only used for identification
purposes. For further information, see pp. 136-137, 27 CFR 178.124:
FIREARMS TRANSACTION RECORD, ATF Rule. 2001-5, in the “Federal
Firearms Regulations Reference Guide -2005” and TCA 39-17-1316 (c) (4)(G)
Address – This must be a complete street address. A Post Office Box or a
Route/Box combination is not acceptable – the purchaser does not LIVE at a Post
Office Box.
Identification – Identify the type of identification given and any applicable ID
numbers. (Example: Tennessee Drivers License – Drivers License Number)

Firearm Information
Make – Example: Beretta, Browning, Colt, etc.
Model – Example: Single Six (Ruger), 66-2 (Smith & Wesson), etc.
Type – Example: Revolver, Single-Shot, Pump, Semi-Automatic, etc.
Caliber – Example: 38 Special, .357 (Magnum), 9 mm, etc.
Serial Number – Please do not provide a manufacturer’s inventory or shipping
number from the box – obtain the serial number directly from the firearm. Do
NOT use hyphens (dashes) or any other special characters to record the
serial number.

February 20, 2013, 08:00 PM
You can do three guns on a 4473 and the previous post said the ATF requires it for two or more purchases.

February 20, 2013, 08:08 PM
The first two parts, A & B, contain the information for the NICS check. Parts C & D are for the gun information and the recertification. The gun need not be present to get the check done unless that's some kind of state law where you reside. Once I have a tracking number I get the check done. Had to educate some Gander Mountain employees on that one. If you're waiting for the gun to arrive at the transferring FFL then you're waiting too long.

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dogtown tom
February 20, 2013, 08:11 PM
PGT You can do three guns on a 4473 and the previous post said the ATF requires it for two or more purchases.
There is no limit on the number of firearms that may be transferred using one 4473. While the form has five spaces, the instructions tell the dealer to attach additional pages if needed. (I've transferred 225 guns on one 4473)

February 20, 2013, 08:13 PM
There was a manufacturer (loosely applied term) a few years back who would do a 4473 for a purchaser and then later add rifles/lowers till the form was filled (I think it was 5 at the time) to cover his ass for off the books sales.
He got burned and the rest of us are paying for it in addition to others performing the same crap. I doubt this goof was the originator but he did seem to be the most prolific at it.

February 20, 2013, 08:19 PM
Thanks SAM1911, that would explain it. So I guess this is more of a state level problem. Still, the question remains valid. Why would they NEED the SN of my new guns? Seems kinda cheesy to me...

February 20, 2013, 08:20 PM
I'd agree. TN is usually considered a great RKBA state. Perhaps some TN dealers or members can explain this for us.

February 20, 2013, 10:29 PM
If I'm not mistaken, when I bought my .30-06 they gave NICS the serial number, but when I bought my AR lower, they did not. Both of these were purchased within the last 6 months or less. I do not recall them giving the SN for the used guns I've purchased, but it could just be that they did and I've forgotten.

February 20, 2013, 10:34 PM
The same is true in Oregon. The OSP do the BG checks and, for a single gun (not multiple purchases), the dealer reports the make, model and SN to the OSP.

February 21, 2013, 07:00 AM
IIRC, Since there's no assurance that the gun shipped in is always new "new" they default to running the NCIC Stolen Firearm Query as part of TICS on every transaction. Part of the trade off for having a state vs. fed system.

February 21, 2013, 07:47 AM
Why would they NEED the SN of my new guns? Seems kinda cheesy to me...

....it's backdoor registration. That way they don't have to start a firearms registration program and start an uproar.

February 21, 2013, 08:36 AM
HSO is correct. Unlike NICS (the FBI's system), TICS checks not only the background of the buyer, but also searches NCIC for info on the firearm to make sure it hasn't been reported stolen.

February 21, 2013, 08:43 AM
Does TN have a policy/rule to say that the information must be destroyed within ?? hours? (Yes, I know many won't believe they really do destroy it...I'm just asking if the rule exists.)

The Lone Haranguer
February 21, 2013, 09:14 AM
Sam, there is also a mandatory ten-spot fee for the TBI check.

I must not have been paying attention when the dealer "ran" my purchase in 2011, because I don't recall him giving the serial number. :o But it was a busy, noisy gun show, too.

February 21, 2013, 09:31 AM
I guess I never realized that I live in a 'gun friendly' state.

In Illinois my local transferring FFL dealer simply calls in the NICS info on the purchaser, with no information on the individual firearm (except perhaps whether is is a handgun or a long gun). Once approved I then have a 24 hour waiting period for long guns and a 72 hour waiting period (gives me time to 'cool off' I guess) for handguns before I can receive the firearm. That seems to make Illinois more 'gun friendly' than Tennessee, although it is certainly less gun owner friendly than our friends farther south.

February 21, 2013, 09:33 AM
Yep, all the info has to be purged in, I think, 72-hrs.

I wouldn't say IL in any way is more gun friendly.

You need a FOID card just to purchase ammo or handle a gun and I don't need one for anything.

I can walk in and walk out with an AR or XD if I clear TICS, you have to wait days to take possession.

February 21, 2013, 10:38 AM
Tennessee uses its own background check system through the Tenn Bureau of Investigation called TICS.

Our handgun carry permits do not give us an exemption from this when we buy from dealers.

When a dealer calls in or uses TICS on the computer, they send in the serial number of the gun to see if it is stolen. Supposedly that info is destroyed but i wouldn't count on it.

It also costs us ten dollars for a background check

February 21, 2013, 11:10 AM
Prior to the passage of the Brady Bill, TN had a waiting period in place for the background check which was not nearly so automated. Now it is all automated. That was a "good" result of the passage of the NICs background check requirement.

February 22, 2013, 10:01 AM
NICS does not. All they know is "Handgun, long gun, other"

The Serial number goes on the 4473 form, and that stays in the FFL's possession for the next 20 years (or, if they go out of business they ship to ATF)

Now, you may be on some funky state system and not NICS, and they might want the serial, but NICS does not.

February 22, 2013, 10:03 AM
You can do three guns on a 4473 and the previous post said the ATF requires it for two or more purchases.
Actually, you can do as many guns as you want on a single 4473, and the multi purchase form is only required for 2 or more HANDGUNS at one time

February 22, 2013, 11:30 AM
Sam, TN is a good RKBA state, not a great one. Our handgun carry laws have loopholes other states don't that causes confusion. But that's a whole 'nother discussion.

The TICS requires the SN so they can tell the dealer if the gun has been reported stolen. As a buyer, it's nice to know the transaction isn't going to come back to bite you sometime.

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