Online Firearm Sales and Compliance

One of the terms floated about by pro-gun control advocates with regard to closing the so-called “gun show loophole” pertains to the sales of firearms on the internet. This was central to the “Manchin-Toomey” amendment of the universal background check bill (S 649) which was shot down in flames in the US Senate this past April.

It is but another example of politicians advocating and campaigning for legislation about which they are ill-informed. It conjures up images of gun owners purchasing rifles, pistols and machineguns online; paying for them and having the firearms shipped to their front door; under the guise of what they refer to as a legal loophole.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Purchasing a firearm online through one of the various firearm auction sites such as or, a firearms forum or even ordering a custom gun from a small manufacturer or gunsmith with a website is little different than having a dealer special order the firearm in question from a distributor.

First of all the buyer of the firearm in question needs to make sure that ownership of the firearm is in compliance with all federal, state and local laws.

The buyer still needs to have the firearm transferred through a local FFL (federal firearms licensee), complete a Form 4473 and undergo a background check as if they were buying a firearm from the dealer’s inventory. The buyer still needs a local dealer to fax or mail a signed copy of his license to the seller. Although there is no requirement for the seller to have an FFL or ship through one, most dealers require it in the event that the firearm needs to be returned and for consistency in their bound book. Most FFLs will charge an additional fee for this type of transfer.

The only time when a buyer may forgo this requirement is when both buyer and seller reside in the same state. If the seller is an FFL, the background check and 4473 must be completed.

When buyer and seller are both non-licensees, the sale must still comply with local firearms laws. States such as California and cities like Las Vegas, Nevada, mandate that these transactions must either go through a dealer or (in the case of Las Vegas) through a local police station.

An Individual shipping modern firearms (made after 1898) across state lines to another individual is in violation of the Gun Control Act of 1968. Person to person sales in states or cities that do not allow these types of transactions are in violation of state and/or local ordinances.