Can You Legally Buy a Gun Online? Well, yes and no…
Yes, you can legally purchase a firearm online.
However, many people (mostly anti-gunners) try to claim that anyone can just purchase a gun over the internet like they’re shopping on Amazon and have it shipped to their door without a background check. This is the “no” from above.
Let’s break down what an online gun purchase entails and the laws that surround them.
Laws Concerning Gun Purchases
For our purposes, we are only going to cover federal firearms laws. Each state may have laws restricting or regulating online sales.
There are two types of firearm purchases: those from a Federal Firearm Licensee (FFL), gun dealers, and those from private citizens as a private transaction.
If someone is engaged in the business of making, buying, or selling firearms, then they must have an FFL. FFLs can either be store-front gun dealers or home-based FFLs as a side business. The most common type of FFL costs $150 for the first three years and $90 for each three year period thereafter. If you’re interested in getting your own FFL, we recommend RocketFFL – they walk you through everything you need to know about how to get an FFL. There are many FFLs who sell firearms online (in fact, that’s where you can usually get the best prices and selection).
However, an FFL is NOT required to sell firearms from a personal collection as long as the firearm was not purchased with the intent to sell. Therefore, it is very common for people to sell used firearms to anyone who is not legally prohibited from purchasing a firearm. As with all sales of products, online selling is very popular to reach a wide audience – these online sales are perfectly legal.
Private sales of firearms are popular at gun shows. This is NOT because of the mythical “gun-show loophole” (there is no such loophole). Instead, this is because it is a large gathering of gun enthusiasts looking to buy or sell guns and it is therefore a convenient location for firearm transactions.
As long as the firearm is legal to otherwise possess (the firearm is not prohibited in the purchaser’s home state, the purchaser is old enough, and the purchaser is not a prohibited person), then the firearm may be purchased online.
As a purchaser of a firearm in a private transaction, you can only purchase a firearm from someone in your home state. Interstate gun sales (those that happen across residential state lines) must be processed through an FFL in the purchaser’s home state.
Purchasing Guns Online
Let’s first break down the most popular type of online firearm purchase: interstate online firearm purchases (purchasing a gun online from someone in another state).
An online gun purchase from another state must go through a local FFL. So, yes, you can “purchase” the gun online in that you can pay for the firearm over the internet. However, you may NOT take possession of the firearm by having it shipped straight to you (unless you’re an FFL). After purchasing the gun online, you must direct the seller to ship it to your local FFL where you then must appear in person, fill out the required federal paperwork (and in some cases extra state paperwork), and satisfy the background check requirements.
To learn more about this, check out our article on how to purchase a gun online.
When it comes to in-state online purchases, the rules are different (federally). If you are purchasing a firearm in a private transaction from someone within your own state, the firearm can be shipped directly to you. However, we caution against this as you never now who you’re selling to or buying from online. We recommend always shipping the firearm to an FFL so that you can be sure the transaction is legitimate.
These sales which can legally (under federal law) be shipped straight to someone within the same state scare anti-gunners. They claim that this is how a criminal can purchase a firearm without a background check. However, as we stated above, this is no different than any other in-state private party transaction. First, they’re rare online and second, there is no added risk by allowing the same thing online as is allowed from a classified ad in a newspaper and then meeting in person to trade money/firearms.
Now, some online gun purchases within the same state online must still go through an FFL. If the firearm is being sold by an FFL, and is therefore not a private party transaction, an FFL must always be used.
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