Is It Legal To Sell A Gun Privately? Complete 2023 Guide

Is It Legal to Sell a Gun Privately?
Alfred Mendoza

Selling a firearm to another person may be something you consider doing. However, there are essential steps you have to take first, and this includes finding out if this kind of transaction is permitted under the law.

Our team spent 72 hours researching to help you figure out if selling firearms privately is considered legal.

Under Federal Law, private gun sales are considered legal. However, you must ensure that the seller is a licensed gun dealer conducting a legitimate gun sale operation.

The legality of handgun sales varies in different countries. While there are legitimate private sellers, there are those who try to find a way around the law.

A private seller with no license usually doesn’t conduct a background check, commonly called the “gun show loophole.”

Selling Guns Privately: Is It Legal?

What Make a Gun Sale Private

The Federal Law states that a licensed dealer of guns must do a background check before conducting private sales. It also states that the buying and selling may proceed through a dealer with a federal firearms license. This means that the private seller should act as if the gun was from their inventory and follow all the federal and state laws throughout the transaction.

Things To Consider

Things To Consider

State Gun Laws

Before you start to sell a firearm, always check all the applicable laws in your state because the regulations may vary from place to place. 

States like New York and Rhode Island allow unlicensed dealers to proceed with the buying and selling transactions without conducting universal background checks.

The Federal Firearms License (FFL) will not transfer the firearm to the buyer unless the background checks are cleared. Universal background checks are therefore essential to the conduct of successful private transactions.

Eligibility Of The Purchaser To Own A Gun

One of the essential requirements for successful private sales is to ensure that the buyer is eligible and holds a permit to own a firearm. Some states also don’t allow private gun sellers to transact with minors [1].

Most states prohibit anyone from giving handguns to those convicted of a crime, who has been in prison for a year, or anyone who is prohibited under the eyes of the state lines.

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Proper Papers & Documents

When buying firearms like rifles, long guns, and handguns, there must always be a Firearm Bill of Sale to prove the transaction.

Note that each state has its ways of processing papers and documents, so make sure to ask beforehand what documentations are necessary to proceed. 

Almost all states require background checks, so always ask to see the buyer’s gun permit to ensure that they are permitted to own a gun.

Proper Papers & Documents

Conduct Of Background Check

According to state law, it is essential to conduct background checks, especially if you are involved in the private sales of firearms, whether in your shop or gun shows.

Knowing the identity of the buyers can help prevent anyone from selling a firearm to a notorious crime maker. Doing so may also restrict convicted felons, those with a history of domestic abuse, and those with restraining orders from possibly harming others through their violent activities.

In short, a national instant criminal background check is necessary to restrict offenders from making gun purchases.

Securing Of Permit To Purchase

As the Federal Law states, securing permits can easily be done in state government agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.  However, gun owners need to have the essential licenses to proceed with firearms sales to private parties.

Minors may purchase a gun either from a store or from a gun show, provided they can give a valid reason for their purchase along with their parents’ permission. It is also important to make copies of the permits and to avoid delays in the transactions.

Securing Of Permit To Purchase

Gun Registry

Registering the firearm bought from a private sale and with a licensed dealer may take some time, but the process will be smooth if you have the necessary documents needed. Make sure to fill the necessary forms with your complete name as the recipient and authorization number to conclude the sale successfully. The payment methods may vary in every state, so it is better to inquire to the nearest office or gun store to find out more details.

Bill Of Sale Document 

The bill of sale document refers to the document showing the purchase record and transfer of ownership of the private gun from the merchant to the buyer. This document also serves as a legally binding contract between the seller and the gun owners if any conflicts arise after the conduct of the private gun sales.


The penalty for improperly selling a gun may include jail time and a fine, depending on what state you are in. Some violators may be fined from $1,000 up to $10,000.

No, you cannot make private sales to clients from other states. The state considers this act a violation of the laws of the land unless the person you are going to contract with is a gun dealer. Do note that different states have different laws about private sales, so make sure to study them carefully.

There is no specific limit on the number of guns you can sell in a year. However, one important thing to remember is that you cannot proceed with the sale without the FFL, especially if the state mandates it.

So, Is It Legal To Sell A Gun Privately?

The legality of the sale of private guns is determined by the law where the transaction is to be conducted. In most states, private sales of firearms are legal as long as the necessary buying and selling steps are followed and the necessary documents for the legality of the transfer of ownership are at hand. Conducting an instant criminal background check before conducting private sales is necessary and can easily be done through a criminal background check system. 

To reiterate, here are the things you must consider first before getting engaged in private gun sales:

  • State Gun Laws
  • Eligibility Of The Purchaser To Own A Gun
  • Proper Papers & Documents
  • Conduct Of Background Check
  • Securing Of Permit To Purchase
  • Gun Registry
  • Bill Of Sale Document



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