Buying a gun? Read This First:

Buying a gun for the first time can be intimidating. Let’s discuss the process of how to buy a gun and the three most common mistakes that are made when buying a gun for the first time.

So, you’ve decided which gun you want to buy and are heading to the gun store. What can you expect once you get there? When you get to the store you’ll be asked to fill out a Form 4473. This form is a transaction record for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms or “ATF,” and is required in order to purchase a firearm from a Federal Firearms Licensed dealer or “FFL.”

The form will ask questions such as: have you ever been convicted of a crime; are you a fugitive from justice; and are you purchasing the firearm for another person (that is, making a strawman purchase). The form also requires you to provide information about yourself such as: your date of birth, address, height, and weight. To purchase a handgun from an FFL, you must be at least 21 years of age.

Once you’ve correctly filled out the form, the sales clerk will ask you for your ID. This is generally a valid government-issued photo identification card or state-issued license or permit to carry a handgun.

Mistake One: Forgetting Proper Identification

The first mistake we see when someone is trying to purchase a firearm is forgetting to bring their Driver’s License, applicable state firearms permit or license with them. If you do not have a valid government-issued ID card, the FFL will not be able to sell the gun to you. You’ll have to leave and come back with your ID, so make sure to bring your ID with you when you head to the gun store.

If that’s not an issue, once you’ve filled out the form and handed over your ID card, the FFL will run a

on you. NICS stands for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. There are three responses that NICS will provide to the FFL: either proceed with the transaction, delay, or deny.

If the response is “proceed,” the FFL will complete the gun purchase and you’ll be on your way. If the response is “delay,” the FFL will have to wait to finish the sale, and the ATF has three days to research the applicant further and notify the FFL to proceed or deny. If the FFL has not heard back from the ATF within three days, then you can proceed with your gun purchase. If the response is “deny,” then you’re denied from purchasing the firearm and the FFL will not be able to complete the sale.

Mistake Two: Ignoring a Wrongful Denial

The second mistake we see people making when purchasing a gun for the first time is not appealing a wrongful denial. If you believe you’ve been wrongfully denied the right to buy a firearm, then you can request an appeal by submitting a request to the FBI.

You should always appeal a wrongful denial. We’ve seen an increase in wrongful denials as the federal government and states have taken measures to “clean up” their criminal history records. As a result, records are being wrongfully associated with one another, names are getting mixed up, and responsible gun owners are paying the price. You shouldn’t lose your gun rights because a bureaucrat made a typo. Appeal your denial.

Mistake Three: Not Documenting Transfers

The last mistake we see made is people not keeping their sales receipts or bills of sale. Whether it’s from an FFL or a private individual (if your state allows for private sales), it’s important to have and keep a record of your firearm’s particulars, and where and from whom you obtained the gun. This serves two important purposes:

  1. First, if your firearm is ever stolen or lost, your chances of getting it back are nearly zero without a record of the make, model, and serial number of the gun to provide to police.
  2. Second, if (for example) the firearm that you purchased in a private sale later comes into contact with law enforcement—let’s say on a routine traffic stop—and hits as “stolen,” you’ll be able to show law enforcement when and from whom you purchased the gun, saving you a considerable headache.

We hope you found this information helpful and encourage new gun owners to learn the law and best practices when it comes to your Second Amendment rights.

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


The information provided in this presentation is intended to provide general information to individuals and is not legal advice. The information included in this publication may not be quoted or referred to in any other publication without the prior written consent of U.S. LawShield, to be given or withheld at our discretion. The information is not a substitute for, and does not replace the advice or representation of a licensed attorney. We strive to ensure the information included in this publication is accurate and current, however, no claim is made to the accuracy of the information and we are not responsible for any consequences that may result from the use of information in this publication. The use of this publication does not create an attorney-client relationship between U.S. LawShield, any independent program attorney, and any individual.