Can You Legally Buy a Gun for Someone Else?

Technically, it would depend on how you define the word “buy.” If you went to a gun dealer with someone, and they chose a gun, filled out all the paperwork, and you paid for the gun, there would not be much of an issue. The reason being is that the person whose gun you paid for is on record as the gun buyer. Federal Law does not say you cannot buy a gun and give it as a gift, only that you cannot purchase a gun and give it away to someone you suspect is not allowed to own a gun. When you buy a gun for a person who is prohibited from owning a gun in the United States, they call that type of gun sale a straw purchase. When you make a straw purchase of a firearm, you are breaking the law and if caught, you will be charged with a federal felony.

Also of note: Form 4473 requires that the transferee fill out the form – as a buyer who is gifting a gun, you cannot be the transferee.

A Straw Purchase occurs when someone buys a gun for another person, but the other person does not undergo a background check and whose background prevents the legal sale of a gun to that person. Any licensed dealer or FFL holder that identifies that type of purchase will stop the transaction. It is against federal law to purchase a gun for someone else when the person who will receive the gun has a criminal history and the purchase of the gun is to avoid the NICS background check. Straw purchasing is a federal crime.

The ATF does not prohibit the buying and gifting of a gun to a third party so long as the buyer of the gun is certain that the person receiving the gun is qualified under federal law to possess a gun. That rule; however, is just at the federal level. You will need to understand how that process works at the state level for both the state where you live and the state where the person receiving the gun lives. While this is legal, it is generally discouraged. A better practice is to buy a gift card so that the actual recipient of the firearm can complete the paperwork.

The ATF also makes it possible for a parent to buy a gun as a gift for a child so long as the child is 18 years of age or older. There is also a stipulation that the parent gives written permission and there are restrictions for what the gun may be used for – work, farming, ranching, etc. Also, a gun may not be given as a gift from a parent to a child if the child does not meet the criteria for being allowed to own a gun. 

How to Know if You Can Buy a Gun Legally for Someone Else

The laws vary between states. It is important that you know the laws of your state. The only time, generally, that you would need to purchase a gun for someone else is when the person you are purchasing the gun for is prohibited from owning a gun under state or federal law. Convicted felons – those with state or federal felony convictions – are often denied.

People who under the US gun law code are prohibited from owning a gun include but are not limited to:

  • Certain Felony Convictions
  • Criminal Convictions involving narcotics
  • Convictions involving violent crimes
  • Convictions involving spousal or child abuse
  • Being the subject of a restraining order
  • A history of narcotic abuse
  • Are recognized as having a mental illness
  • Certain categories of misdemeanors
  • Has prior firearm offenses

The alternative to a straw purchase is to buy a gift certificate or gift card and allow the person to go through the paperwork process to purchase a gun on their own.

The Process of Buying a Gun

The general process of buying a gun is a matter of transfer. The process checks that the person buying the gun is not prohibited from owning a gun. That is the background process by the FBI or state agency, depending on which state you are a resident of. The rest of the process moves the gun from the gun seller – the gun owner – to the buyer. That also means that once the transfer is complete you are the legal and responsible owner of the gun, and the FFL gun broker is released from legal responsibility and any criminal activity involving the gun that occurs after the date of purchase.

Those two actions are what is important in the gun buying and selling business.

The other way to buy a gun without going through all of the hoops is to buy the gun from a private party. You cannot buy a gun out of state and give it as a gift without the person receiving the gun undergoing a NICS background check. You will also need to understand the state laws involved. For example, you may not purchase an assault weapon in one state and transfer it to another state where assault weapons are banned. Doing so is a felony.

Brush Up on Your State and Local Laws

Going outside of your state to buy a gun may not make the transaction completely legal. If you buy from an FFL gun broker, they will check your address, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms will look at your physical address. If the gun you are buying is prohibited in the state you live, your application will be denied. For example, if you want to buy an assault weapon but they are banned in your state, you will not be allowed to purchase one out of state. The person to who you plan to give the gun will also need to undergo a NICS background check when you purchase out of state. Once you bring the gun back to your home, you will be in violation of state law.

Also of note is the responsibility of private sales of guns. The seller is still required to take reasonable cause into consideration before selling a gun. If the seller suspects that the buyer may be a person who does not meet the criteria for owning a gun, they should not sell the weapon. Since there is no way for an individual to be sure of someone’s identity or background, individuals should err on the side of caution and perform private sales at a licensed FFL or save themselves some money and get an FFL themselves to avoid being charged criminally with dealing without a license.

In-state transfers:

Certain states, such as California, require that all gun transfers occur through a Federally Licensed Firearm gun store. This is a very good example of why you need to understand the gun laws in your state and also at the federal level. The process is that the federal gun laws offer broad coverage or regulation, but the state laws not only differ but also can be much more restrictive. In states like Illinois, Chicago has even more strict regulations than the rest of the state.

Gift Giving

We do not recommend or condone giving guns as gifts outside of the family (parent-child or grandparent-child). Gifting a firearm to someone carries huge risks for everyone involved. Go for a gift card instead, as this is a much safer option.

Legally speaking, you can buy a gun and give it as a gift so long as the person receiving the gun is over the age of 18 and their criminal background does not prohibit them from owning a gun. Other considerations include mental health and narcotic use and convictions. If you are purchasing the gun from out of state, the person you give the gun to will still need to undergo a criminal background check. Again, we do not endorse this outside of one’s immediate family.

Straw Purchases

What is a Straw Purchase? – A straw purchase is when someone buys a gun for another person and the buyer knows that the person receiving the gun is not permitted to own a gun under federal or state law. In short, the purchase is designed to bypass the NICS background check which would otherwise prevent the sale of a firearm to the buyer. The actual transferee, in this case, is a straw dummy and they are at risk of federal felony charges should they be caught.

The forms ask specifically if you are the actual transferee or buyer and then add that if you are giving the gun to someone else you are not the actual transferee. The person receiving the gun is the transferee and they will need to complete form 4473 before an FFL can transfer the gun to them.

Simplify Compliance with FastBound

FastBound is an online cloud-based platform that makes the process of purchasing and managing gun transfers fast, accurate, and secure. FastBound helps gun buyers and sellers handle the process and paperwork needed to keep FFLs compliant. Our software is the only firearms compliance software that comes with an ATF compliance guarantee backed by attorneys. The system helps prevent false statements by buyers and is accessible from any device that can connect to the internet.

FastBound’s features and value props make firearm transfers easier. If you are worried about breaking the law or failing to stay in compliance, FastBound can help. It offers comprehensive coverage for both state and federal laws.

All FastBound subscriptions include a guaranteed legal defense, backed by attorneys who were also involved in the process of developing software. You will need basic information to use the form completion and submitting features, such as serial number, make, model, and buyer information including address. FastBound allows you to easily complete federal ATF forms for gun purchases and transfers and it helps you to include information about concealed handgun permits, compliant advice, and more. The process helps you avoid timely mistakes that can cause the application to be rejected. It works on your computer, phone, or tablet, so long as you have access to the internet.

For the Federal Firearms Licensee, FastBound help you create and store bound books, which you can now submit electronically to the ATF. You also have access to universal background checks for regular and concealed firearm permits.

While the laws of gun buying are complex and often seem to counteract each other, they are there to help reduce gun-related crime. Your licensed retailer is obligated to follow this long list of federal and state rules and that is where FastBound earns its keep. It is not only designed to help produce completed forms quickly and easily, but it will also help you check the accuracy of data, prevent false information, and keep you in compliance.

Learn more about how FastBound helps keep your gun store in compliance and as a tool to grow your business by reaching out to our team.

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