Can I Go to Jail For Gifting a Gun?

The following is a video transcript.

With the holiday season upon us, what makes a better gift than a firearm? Here’s what you need to know under federal law.

As long as the recipient is lawfully allowed to possess a firearm, the ATF and the Supreme Court of the United States have repeatedly stated that guns may be purchased and given as gifts. The ATF even explains this process on their firearms transaction record (also known as a form 4473), specifically in question 11a. The form explains that a firearm purchased legitimately as a bona fide gift to a third person does not violate the law.

What about those posters you see in gun stores that say, “Don’t lie for the other guy?” Isn’t buying a firearm for another person illegal? Isn’t that what we call a straw man purchase? Simply put, federal law requires that you be the actual purchaser of the firearm. You can still give a firearm as a gift, but you cannot have a side agreement with a third party to make a purchase on their behalf, and you cannot use that person’s money to buy the gun.

With the purchase out of the way, the next question that comes up is the actual transfer or gift. Under state law, the majority of states allow the transfer of a firearm among residents of the same state, so long as the person isn’t disqualified from possessing a firearm. However, you must use caution. The law regarding the possession and transfer of firearms is not uniform throughout the United States and can vary greatly from state to state. Many states impose age restrictions on private transfers of firearms (typically, 18 years of age, but it could be as high as 21).

Many people have questions about sending a firearm gift to another state. To stay legal, you must have a federal firearms licensee, or FFL to facilitate the transfer and shipment of the gun. This is because it is illegal for you to gift a firearm to a person who is a resident of another state without having an FFL in the receiving party’s state conduct a NICS background check. Sending a firearm (even as a gift) to someone in another state without using an FFL could lead to a serious federal felony and a slew of potential state crimes.

Firearms make great gifts, but there may be some hoops you’ll have to jump through. Some states have restrictions on transfers, registration requirements, and even have outright prohibitions on certain firearms, so take the time to educate yourself to stay on the right side of the law.

If you have any questions about gifting a firearm, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.

First Aid for Gunshot Wounds 2A Institute

Comment section

9 comments on “Can I Go to Jail For Gifting a Gun?

  1. My wife has bought me numerous guns during our marriage. She gives me the money and I go decide which one to spend it on. This Christmas it is a Browning Buck Mark URX. I picked it up from Carter’s Country last Thursday and now it is wrapped up in shining paper waiting For Christmas. Simple.

  2. Would it be considered a straw transaction if a friend, who cannot not get to the gun shop in a timely manor, gave me funds to go to a dealer, hand the dealer the money to hold the gun for the friend until he can arrive and fill out the paper work?

  3. I bought a rifle for my daughter when she was younger. The rifle has sat in my safe for years. Now I want to give it to her but she lives in another state, where she is a police officer.

  4. What about a person that has a Will and leaves different guns to other Family members, I seem to remember that the age requirement comes in to play, but also the person receiving needs to be back ground checked before the transfer can take place.

  5. Is there an issue with purchasing a fire arm for your spouse using a joint checking account?

  6. Just be *very* careful to check state laws governing the transfer of firearms. In many of the “anti-gun” states (you know who they are), the person to whom the firearm is transferred must first have obtained a permit to acquire the gun, and the transfer must be reported to the state. Yes, you can give one in those states, but *only* if the paperwork is in place and completed.

  7. It is *very* important to know your State’s laws on the transfer of firearms. Many of the “anti-gun” States require that a person receiving a handgun first obtain a permit from the State authorities. So while you may be able to give a gun without running afoul of federal laws and the straw man question, both the recipient and the giver could violate state laws if a permit is required to transfer a gun.

  8. Here’s a suggestion to those who are considering gifting a gun to a friend or family member. Document it! In NC it is required that a handgun transfer have an accompanying set of paperwork that shows the seller AND the buyer conducted minimal “due diligence”. This can be done with a simple “Word” document or handwritten paper – Describe the gun and include Make, Model, Serial #, the date, full name and addresses on the agreement. Put a signature block for seller and buyer. IF it is a handgun, include a copy of CCH Permit(s) or attach Purchase Permit provided by buyer that they got from Sheriff’s dept (required for handgun purchases if buyer does not have a CCH permit). You can even have this document notarized if you desire – although not necessary. Each keep an original in a safe place. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PROVIDE THIS TO ANYONE in local or state government. Just keep it for your records, that way, IF the firearm is ever stolen, lost or destroyed – or if later recovered at a crime scene – both parties are protected! No price has to be listed as this is not a commercial transaction, and no tax paid. It’s a pain in the butt, however, it covers your butt in the long run.

  9. As an FFL dealer I have a form 4473 in front of me and question 11a on the form does not say anything about gifting a firearm. It only asks are”you the one receiving the weapon”. The only exception is picking up a firearm for someone else that was being fixed under a warranty claim. Your article is very misleading. However it is possible for you to “gift” a firearm, it just doesn’t say anything about that on the 4473.

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