It may not be anywhere close to Christmas yet, but you already have a list and you’re checking it twice. Whether you’re thinking of getting that hunter in your life a new shotgun, or a carry gun for someone who just got a Right-to-Carry permit, firearms are still a very popular gift item. For those who have never gifted a gun before, it may seem as simple as going to a store and picking one up.
Stop. Hold. Wait a second. Before you set foot in the gun store, there are some things to consider. In this part of our Buying and Selling a Firearm series, we’ll discuss the process of giving firearms as a gift. You might want to familiarize yourself with other basics, such as background checks, private sales, and gun shows:
Giving someone a firearm carries a certain level of legal responsibility that does not come with gifting iPads or socks. You should know the laws that apply to buying firearms as gifts for another person.
First things first, if you have reasonable cause to believe the person you’re gifting a firearm to is prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition, or that the person will use the firearm in a crime, you are committing a felony. Don’t do this.
So, you’ve done your research, and are ready to purchase the firearm. Now how do you actually give your intended recipient their gift? Well, if you are in the same state, you could just hand it to them yourself. There’s no national law that prevents someone from giving firearms to a friend or family member in the same state, but there are plenty of state laws regarding it. For example, states such as California, New York, and Colorado require you to transfer the firearm through a local firearms retailer or FFL, where a background check will be conducted on the person you want to give the gun to. In some states, even the transfer of an old family heirloom can require going through an FFL. You can check up on a comprehensive list of state laws at the NRA-ILA website here.
However, if you want to give a firearm to someone who lives in another state, you are required to go through an FFL. Transfers between non-FFL residents of different states cannot be done any other way. Above all, make sure to consult all applicable state laws but reviewing the NRA-ILA website before you give someone a firearm.
So now your friend or family member has their gift – they’re super pleased about it and more than grateful – yet you ask yourself who actually owns the firearm? On the ATF Form 4473 that you filled out when purchasing the firearm from the FFL, you should have checked “yes” to the question, “Are you the actual transferee/buyer of the firearm listed on this form?” If you, the buyer, are buying the firearm with your own money, not at the request of the other person, with the intention of giving the gun as a gift – you are the buyer. Even if you are not keeping the gun, you are the owner of that firearm until you legally transfer it to the intended recipient. This satisfies federal laws, but state and local laws may impose tighter restrictions. And of course, in all cases it is illegal to transfer a firearm to a person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe the person is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition, or that person will use the firearm in a crime. All these are offense with severe prison sentences and heavy fines.
The ATF recommends that if you want to gift someone a firearm, you should purchase a gift card at the store instead. This way, they’ll get the exact gun they want, there will be no legal issues stemming from your purchase, and it can still be a surprise. However, unwrapping a gift card is far less climatic than a real firearm.
To learn more about state and federal firearm laws, visit nraila.com. The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action website has a detailed list of laws and regulations for every state, as well as up-to-date news on firearm-related issues. If you’re curious about how to transport your guns across state lines, or in what establishments you can carry a concealed firearm, the NRA-ILA website will offer a wealth of information.