Is It Legal to Sell Guns Privately?

The legal side of selling guns is quite complicated and ever-changing. If a person does not have a license to sell firearms, they can only do so if they are not engaged in the business of selling them. In some states, selling guns privately is legal, but it is only possible if certain conditions are met. Find out when is it legal to sell a gun privately and when you need to be a licensed gun dealer by reading this article. 

What Are the Laws for Selling a Gun Privately?

Guns can be sold privately without a license if the seller does not sell firearms for a living under federal law. Even if an individual sells firearms occasionally or part-time, they must be licensed as a federally licensed firearms dealer. The requirements for private gun sales vary widely from state to state, so you should know your state’s law to learn how to sell a gun legally.

What Are Private Sellers of Firearms Required To Do?

A private seller is not required by federal law to conduct a background check on the purchaser or to keep records of the sale. However, state laws may differ. Some states do require background checks to be run, even for a private sale. It is important to know the laws of your state before engaging in a private firearm sale. Further, private sellers should not sell firearms of any type to someone who is not over the age of eighteen or to anyone that the seller knows is legally barred from owning a firearm. If you have reasonable cause to suspect a person is prohibited from possessing a firearm, you should not make the sale. Some states have a seven-day waiting period between the purchase of a gun and its transfer to the buyer. You should know whether your state has such a waiting period. 

When privately selling a gun, it is wise to take the following steps:

  1. Understand and follow the laws of your jurisdiction.
  2. Check the purchaser’s identification and ensure they meet the minimum age requirement of your state.
  3. Ask the purchaser if there is any reason they can not or should not own a gun.
  4. If your state requires a background check, ensure you conduct the background check properly.
  5. If your state has a waiting period before transferring a firearm, ensure you comply with the required time period.
  6. To document the sale of the gun, use a bill of sale, which should include the name of the seller and buyer, the date of the transaction, and the serial number.

Download and print out our Bill of Sale Form to use it safely when privately selling a firearm.

Am I Required To Conduct a Background Check on the Purchaser?

While federal law does not require a background check for a private gun sale, several states do require it. More states are enacting stricter gun laws each year. It is critical that you know the laws in your state before you engage in the sale of a gun or ammunition as a non dealer.

What If I Am Only Selling a Handgun?

According to Current Law 2022, some states only require a private firearms sale background check for handguns, but not for shotguns and rifles. Some states that make the distinction between background checks for handguns versus other firearms include, but may not be limited to:

  • Pennsylvania;
  • New Jersey;
  • Hawaii;
  • Maryland; and
  • Florida.

Am I Required To Make Sure the Purchaser Has a Permit?

Whether the seller must ensure that the purchaser has a permit depends on where the seller and purchaser reside. Some states only permit private firearms sales to people who have a state permit. In those states, it is essential that a seller establish proof that the purchaser has a valid state license or permit for possessing a gun. Before selling any firearm, be sure you know and understand your state’s gun laws. Go to Lawrina Match to locate a law firm near you and schedule an appointment to discuss your questions.  

What Are Some Restrictions on Gun Possession?

Depending on your jurisdiction, there may be numerous restrictions on the possession of firearms. Some common restrictions include:

  • The age of the person purchasing a firearm;
  • The type of firearm being purchased;
  • The purchaser’s background, including any legal issue such as felony convictions or other legal restrictions;
  • Whether the person purchasing has a valid permit or license, if required; and
  • Locations, such as restrictions on possessing a gun on school property, a church, workplace, etc.

How Do Gun Laws Differ From State to State?

Gun laws vary significantly from state to state. Some states, such as California, have restrictive gun laws, while others, such as Texas, have much more lenient gun laws. Because the United States Constitution protects its citizens’ right to bear arms, there are fewer federal laws restricting firearm possession than there are state laws. Most gun laws are state laws rather than federal laws. 

The states have varying degrees of restrictions on issues such as the sales of firearms from a private buyer, as well as the laws concerning gun ownership and the carrying of a gun in different public places. You must understand how the laws of your state regulate selling firearms by a private individual. 

Do I Need To Talk to a Criminal Law Lawyer?

It is always wise to talk to an experienced attorney when you have questions or concerns about any legal matter. The issues surrounding the sale, ownership, possession, and carrying of firearms are complex. Additionally, violating a state gun law can be devastating. There are various laws that govern firearms at the federal and state levels, so it is important that you are aware of how they affect you. Before making a sale or purchase of a firearm privately, you should absolutely speak to a criminal law attorney to ensure that you abide by all applicable laws. You must also know whether it is necessary to register your gun and how to register a gun bought from a private seller.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I sell my guns legally?

It depends on the laws of your state. Some states have few restrictions and allow you to sell your guns to a willing buyer who has no restrictions. Other states have extensive gun laws that would prohibit the sale of any firearm without a license. For this reason, it is critically important that you seek the advice and guidance of a good criminal law attorney in your jurisdiction before engaging in a firearms transaction to know how to legally sell a gun privately. 

Is it legal to buy a gun from someone?

Whether or not it is legal to buy a gun from someone depends on your specific circumstances and your state’s laws. In all states, a buyer must be at least 18 years old and have no legal restrictions from possessing a firearm. You should consult with a criminal law attorney in your area to ensure that you meet all the legal requirements to purchase a gun and that you purchase from a person legally permitted to sell a firearm.

Why do I need to use a bill of sale when selling a firearm?

There are many reasons why using a bill of sale is essential for a gun sale. One of the most important reasons is to prove that you no longer own the gun in the event it is later used in the commission of a crime. With a valid bill of sale document, you can prove that you transferred ownership of the gun to another person on a specific date.

Article by Megan Thompson

Megan Thompson is a legal writer at Lawrina. Megan writes about different law practice areas, legal innovations, and shares her knowledge about her legal practice. As a graduate of the American University's Washington College of Law she is an expert of law in Lawrina's team and has a slight editing touch to all content that is published on the website.

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