The FFL and the Non-Resident Customer

Federal and state laws embody a clear preference for in-person, over-the-counter firearms transactions.  From federal law to ATF publications, local sales with solid customer relationships are the gold standard.  In this scenario, the FFL has an established routine to comply with federal, state, and local laws, and the customer is a recognizable face.  

What are some tips when a customer is both unknown to the FFL and from out-of-state?

First, be familiar with the ATF position, which is clearly stated in their “Conduct of Business – Licensees” webpage:  “Generally, a firearm may not lawfully be sold by a licensed dealer to a non-licensee who resides in a State other than the State in which the seller’s licensed premises is located.”  While there are exceptions to this broad principle, it is a prudent benchmark when considering the ability to complete a sale with an out-of-state resident.  The statutory language can be found at 18 U.S.C. §922(b)(3).

Second, do you have an established relationship with an FFL in the state of residence of the purchaser?  FFL to FFL shipments can be a valid process through which the home state FFL then accepts the responsibility for compliance with home state requirements prior to release of the firearm to the customer.  If you don’t have an established relationship with such an FFL, the customer may have such a relationship.  Although many customers are not FFL-level collectors, chances are the out-of-state purchaser is a firearms enthusiast who has found something sought-after within your inventory that he or she would like to add to his collection.

Third, distinguish between purchases that are handguns and purchases that are long guns.  Both the federal government and state governments offer distinctions between types of firearms.  For example, a long gun sale may be completed with an out-of-state purchaser, if it complies with home state requirements.  This puts the burden on you to have working knowledge of the foreign state requirements, and FFLs with frequent interstate foot traffic may well develop that expertise to facilitate sales.

If you’re looking for some addition detail on this topic, pick up the Department of Justice issued a Memorandum Opinion (dated January 30, 2012).  Additional and different rules may apply for members of law enforcement agencies and for active duty members of the U.S. armed services.

Orchid Advisors provides electronic newsletter (“Advisory and Alert”) and blogs for general informational purposes only. It should not be considered a formal or informal interpretation of law. It is not intended as professional counsel, should not be considered legal advice and should not be used as such.