Gun laws are controlled by state regulations for everyday self-defense and hunting weapons such as handguns or short-barreled rifles (SBRs). At times, gun owners might be looking into something more tactically advanced or stealthy. In these cases, licensing has to be done at a federal level instead of statewide agencies.
The ATF handles such unique cases and either approves or denies licensing for certain weapons or gun attachments. Part of the application process requires collecting fingerprints and there is a specialized card used for this purpose. Getting around ATF fingerprint cards is very tricky but here is a useful guide to obtaining and filling out this crucial documentation in 2022.
FD-258 fingerprint form
Whenever filling out a federal firearm licensing form, applicants need to file an FD-258 to accompany the applications. The FD-258 form is very important when applying for a federal firearms license since it captures your fingerprints. From then, the fingerprints are run against the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). The IAFIS system holds fingerprint records of federal firearm ownership and any criminal offenses.
This database is maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and has been used since 1999. IAFIS has nationwide records which is why it is important to run any federal firearms licensing through this system.
The ATF uses this system to vet federal firearms licenses and relies on insights from IAFIS when granting or declining all applications. Obtaining and filling out the FD-258 form is a challenge for firearm owners that would like to purchase attachments or high-caliber weapons. An incorrectly filled FD-258 can lead to an outright application failure since it is such an important section of federal firearms licensing.
Importance of ATF fingerprint cards
ATF fingerprint cards are important when filing a federal firearms license because it helps the government understand how responsible you are. If any prior arrests raise a red flag on the application, it will be declined and not pushed through to the next qualification phase. ATF fingerprint cards help shed light on any federal weapon purchases or historical crimes which could paint a clearer picture about each applicant.
The fingerprint cards ultimately work to protect national security from domestic threats and prevents organized crimes or mass shootings. Using this vetting criterion contributes to gun control and also might help build a list of persons of interest.
The bigger picture is making the U.S. safer but also avoiding contravening the 2nd amendment rights of Americans. Additionally, ATF fingerprint cards are an official government document used to keep track of federal firearms. Should the firearm be used for illegal activities, it will be easier to track it down.
When do you need ATF fingerprint cards?
Whenever applying for a federal firearm license, you are required to fill out an ATF fingerprint card and send it with the rest of the application. A federal license is required for any special-purpose or tricked-out firearms. Buying a short barrel rifle is a good example of when you will need to file a fingerprint card. A short barrel rifle is barred from some states but those that allow ownership of this special-purpose firearm require federal licensing.
Short barrel rifles are perfect when conducting operations or self-defense in confined spaces. However, these firearms pose a concern since they can be easily concealed and used for illegal activities. Therefore, the ATF has control over licensing these special-purpose weapons. Pistol and rifle suppressors or silencers are also attachments that require a federal license to own.
These attachments make a weapon stealthy and might be conveniently used for illegal activities as well. Making it harder to access can reduce the mass distribution of these attachments. Also, the entire process makes gun owners more accountable and could reduce negligence.
How to obtain ATF fingerprint cards
The ATF has a wealth of online resources for gun owners and potential applicants. However, the process has purposefully been made inconvenient to reduce application volumes. Some forms can be found easily on their online resources page but finding the fingerprint cards is not an easy task. To apply, you have to call the local ATF distribution center and obtain the cards directly there.
ATF distribution centers provide blank fingerprint cards and you have to do the rest yourself. The process of obtaining fingerprint cards is long and tedious.
Due to this fact, some gun shops claim to provide fingerprint cards that you can use for your application. Before going this route, just remember that there might be scammers trying to make a quick buck. At the same time, going to a police station could yield better results since some districts do help citizens with these requests.
ATF forms eFiling
Gradually, fingerprint forms seem to be reaching the end of their runway. With digital NFA form eFiling systems, it seems to be getting more convenient for potential federal firearm owners to file their applications. The ATF has begun accepting some forms with digital fingerprints on their cloud-based live scan system. For example, the Form 4 application can be filed using digital fingerprints through the live scan software.
The process involves going to an FFL dealer and scanning fingerprints on a biometric system so they can be captured digitally. From then, the dealer can fill out all pertinent details required for that application and there is no need to fill out paper forms or have ink all over your hands.
Currently, this is available with certain NFA forms that are available on the ATF eFiling system. Hopefully, as time goes on, the process will be widespread and can simplify the application process for federal firearms licenses.
How to fill out a fingerprint card
Fingerprint cards do not come with clear instructions or advice on how to fill the detail fields. To make matters worse, there are a lot of fields throughout the fingerprint card making it hard to fill out. Firstly, you need to understand the formatting that has to be followed when filling out the details. Since this form is shared between the ATF and FBI, you need to use the standardized formatting required by these two bureaus.
For example, when filling out your name, use the last name-first name-middle name and suffix format. If your name is John Doe Smith III, the application will more or less like this: Smith, John, Doe III.
Also, remember that fingerprint card details must have a residential address instead of using a P.O Box. Any address fields should be filled out with residential details including the zip code and state. Fill out the card in its entirety and then attach it to the application form.
Acronyms and jargon
Throughout the application, there are acronyms and jargon that might throw you off if it’s your first time applying for a federal firearms license. Understanding the acronyms and jargon is critical before filling out the application because there are fields that need to be filled out using shorthand letters recognized by the FBI and ATF. If the fingerprint card is not filed out using these acronyms and jargon, it might not be recognized by approving authorities.
This could lead to an unsuccessful application which is a waste of time and money. Some of the acronyms used include gender classifications. Males can fill out M and females should input F on their application. However, there are other options such as unknown and this can be classified with an X.
Hispanics are categorized as white under the race section and thus should fill out W. Blacks fill out B and Indians use I while Asians input A. Search for reference guides to help you throughout the entire fingerprint card detail sections. After filling out the fingerprint card in its entirety, you will have to roll your fingerprints and complete the application.
Is it legal to take your own fingerprints?
The million-dollar question when filling out a federal firearms license is whether it is legal or not to take your own fingerprints. Law enforcement agencies and ATF distribution centers provide fingerprint cards but can you do it by yourself at home? It is not illegal to take fingerprints at home if you do have a fingerprint kit.
There is no clear rule barring applicants from taking their own fingerprints. However, ensure that you are fully equipped for the task beforehand. If not, consider calling the local police station or Sherrifs’ office and enquire if they do provide fingerprint-taking services.
If that is the case, consider asking them for an appointment or walking in to get your fingerprints taken by professionals. Alternatively, you can get yourself a fingerprint kit and do it at home.
The bottom line
Applying for a federal firearms license is not an easy task because there isn’t enough information about the application procedure. One of the major disqualifying criteria is the ATF fingerprint card. Obtaining one is not easy because of the obscurity behind its availability and legibility when obtained from other entities. Even after obtaining an ATF fingerprint card, filling it out is a mission and to properly do this, you need a reference guide.