Before I became a dealer, I too, thought the 4473's were a form of registration. Now I realize just how laughable that is. It would have to be the single most inefficient method imaginable.
I've seen pictures of the office in Martinsburg where paperwork from out-of-business dealers goes. Due to the Tiahrt amendment
, the government is prohibited from collating them into any kind of database, so it all just gets stacked in boxes.
Thousands and thousands of boxes, organized only by the name of the dealer, and the date they went out of business. If there's a trace, and it goes back to a dealer who's no longer operating, someone in that office has to physically dig through that whole mountain of stuff. And
, that assumes that the dealer sent in the records in a complete, intact, and organized format.