Online Firearm Sales and Compliance


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With the holidays fast approaching and the present-day shopping shift from in-store to on-line shopping, we thought it was a good time to discuss some of the important compliance factors to remember when buying firearms online.

Purchasing a firearm online through one of the various firearm auction sites such as Gunbroker.com or GunsAmerica.com, 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. Many 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.  Keep in mind, there may be state law requirements based on this transfer type.

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.

The Internet is a great place to shop and opens up access to some rare, one-of-a kind type purchases.  Work with your local FFL to find the best way to complete the transfer and always be cautious of deals that look “too good to be true” (they often are).  Happy Holidays!