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Here's What You Need to Know When Giving a Firearm as a Gift

The holidays are just around the corner. As hunters, shooters collectors or just plain plinkers, it’s a natural instinct to want to share our enjoyment of firearms with others. What better way to do that than to make a gift of a firearm to a family member, close friend or relative?

The first thing to remember if you’re thinking about giving someone a gun is that . . . it’s a gun! You already know that ownership of a firearm brings with it some serious legal and ethical obligations that other consumer products don’t. So let’s look at some questions you may have about giving a firearm as a gift.

Here's What You Need to Know When Giving a Firearm as a Gift

Buying a Gun as a Gift

There’s no federal law that prohibits a gift of a firearm to a relative or friend that lives in your home state. Abramski v. United States, a recent Supreme Court decision involving a “straw purchase” of a firearm did not change the law regarding firearms as gifts. The following states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington State) and the District of Columbia require you to transfer a firearm through a local firearms retailer so an instant background check will be performed to make sure the recipient is not legally prohibited from owning the gun. Maryland and Pennsylvania require a background check for private party transfer of a handgun.

There are exceptions, so it’s important to carefully check the law of your state or ask your local firearms retailer.The first question you have to ask is whether the intended recipient can legally own the firearm where he or she lives. With more than 20,000 different gun laws on the books, even the kinds of firearms that law-abiding citizens can own vary from place to place; for example, juveniles (under age 18), generally speaking, are precluded by law from possessing a handgun.

Here's What You Need to Know When Giving a Firearm as a Gift

Check out the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) website for an overview of local laws and, whatever you do, don’t forget that you can never under any circumstances transfer a firearm to someone you know — or have reasonable cause to believe — legally can’t own one. That’s a federal felony, so be careful.

Here's What You Need to Know When Giving a Firearm as a Gift

Consider a Gift Card

The ATF recommends that if you want to give someone a new firearm, rather than going to a gun store, buying it on your own and giving it to, say your father, consider instead purchasing a gift certificate from that retailer and giving it to Dad as his present. That way he’ll get the exact gun he wants, and there’s no question about who is “the actual buyer of the firearm,” which is a question any purchaser must certify on the Federal Form 4473 at the time of purchase.

Here's What You Need to Know When Giving a Firearm as a Gift

Shipping a Firearm

You can only ship a handgun by common carrier (but not U.S. Mail) and a long gun by U.S. Mail or common carrier to a federally licensed retailer, but not to a non-licensed individual in another state. With all carriers, federal law requires you to declare that your package contains an unloaded firearm. To be safe, always consult your carrier in advance about its regulations for shipping firearms.

Here's What You Need to Know When Giving a Firearm as a Gift

Giving a Gun You Own as a Gift

What if you want to give “Old Betsy,” your favorite old deer rifle, or that classic wheel gun to your son or daughter as a college graduation gift? Again, in most states, there’s no law that says you can’t, but some states require even inter-family transfers to go through a licensed retailer.

Remember, you can never transfer a firearm directly to another person who is a resident of a different state. In that case, you must transfer the firearm through a licensed retailer in the state where the person receiving the gift resides. Using a gift certificate from a firearms retailer near where the recipient lives might be a good solution.

Pre-1898 antique firearms are generally exempt from the retailer requirement. Be safe, though, and check with your retailer or local law enforcement before you hand over your prized possession.

It’s often an emotional moment when a treasured family heirloom is passed down to the next generation. These moments are part of what our cherished enjoyment of firearms is all about and represent that unique bond that sportsmen have with their fellow enthusiasts.

So enjoy the holidays and do it right!


This article originally appeared at and is reprinted here with permission. 

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      • Lol!
        More guns get lost that way…
        It’s amazing POTG will even step foot on a boat after all the firearms that have been lost to Davey Jones.

        • With all that extra metal resting on the bottom, it’s a wonder our Navy could track any submarine using MAD gear. For you non-swabbies, MAD is Magnetic Anomaly Detector gear, picking up large amounts of metal under water where it shouldn’t be, enabling our surface, sub-surface, and airborne naval assets to track a submarine a bit easier.

        • Unfortunately, our Navy left any MAD Gear out of the P-8 Poseidon, which is replacing the great P-3 Orion.

    • Mike is correct.

      I’d like to do it their way, but they made it purposely onerous/burdensome as to punish me for enjoying something they disapprove of, under the guise of “reducing gun violence.” When it is really, just about hating people like me. They hate me, and they hate that I like guns, that is basically what this is about. So… yeah. Mike’s got the right idea.

  1. Still waiting for someone to give me a Browning Auto-5 for Christmas…I’ve been really, really, extra good this year!

  2. Connecticut does not require an FFL to facilitate private transfers. Private transfers require a state facilitated authorization, by calling SLFU to obtain the authorization (criminal background check) during normal business hours, and completing a DPS 3 & 67 for long guns, handguns, and others.

    • Basically, as long as there’s a marriage or a child or sibling every way along the way, you’re good. Trusts are an easy way to facilitate procurement as well. (You and your buddies set up a trust with each other, out all the guns in, and everyone can maintain possession of all of them) CO also says you can “loan” or borrow guns for 3 days, but not any longer. Who’s to say when that 3 day period started? Or multiple times? There’s plenty of ways around.

      • “Basically, as long as there’s a marriage or a child or sibling every way along the way, you’re good.”

        Not at Cabela’s. They wouldn’t let me pay for a gun for my wife. They made me transfer her money so that “the same person paid for the gun as had the background check”. Total horseshit because they watched me transfer her the money, obviously I was paying for the gun, but homeslice behind the counter insisted that she pay or no sale in Colorado. He also “advised” me that if I bought it I had to wait 60 days to give it to my wife or it was “illegal”.

        That’s the last time I’ll ever give that store a nickle for a firearm.

    • Same in Pennsylvania. Father, Mother, Sister, Brother, Grandmother, and Grandfather – private transfers of both long guns and handguns are good to go.

  3. Michigan requires a permit to purchase a pistol. I had to go to the local police department for a background check before I bought one in a private sale.

    • I also live in Michigan. I gifted my Taurus G2C to my brother and had to go with him to the Oakland County Sherriff for him to get a background check and for me to sign off on the transfer. If it had been a long gun there would have been no need for all that hassle.

      • How did you know all that was required? I gave my brother, in another state, a Kahr .40 while he was visiting once, researched sending it back in his luggage and had no idea of requirements at his end, he wasn’t into guns and had no idea, he carried it home and went about his business. Today I’d probably wait until I was driving past his house, stop in and hand it to him.

  4. The future son in law recently announced he is moving the family to Kentucky for a job. I was planning on giving him one of the 3 AR15’s I put together for his Birthday in June but he will be out of state by them. Looks like he might get it for Christmas instead so he will still be in Florida. I’ll save the ammo for his pistol for the birthday.

  5. For anyone who got their first rifle as a Christmas or birthday present, that is almost always one of their happiest childhood memories. It was their first step toward maturity. It gave you a sense of trust and responsibility that you can’t get from Legos or an Xbox.

  6. Black Powder mail order kits for those in ” commie ” states behind the lines.

    Dixie Gun works and many others, so much FUN !

    Now …… don’t put your eye out.

  7. The three biggest Guns-as-a-gift events in my shop:
    Christmas, naturally.
    Father’s Day, again, naturally.
    And Valentine’s Day. Yes, really. What better way to say to your sweetheart “I love you and want you to be safe” than to buy her a new gun? But for the love of Cooper, do it right: SHE needs to pick her gun. It absolutely drives me nuts when some well-intentioned dude walks in alone and picks a tiny pocket pistol out for the lady in his life or worse, drags her meekly along and TELLS her which one she needs. My best advice for those guys? Don’t try to surprise her with a gun they chose for her, let her make the decision herself by making a fun date of it. Take her out for lunch or dinner and afterwards say “hey, look! A gun shop! Let’s go in!” Let her peruse the stock and whisper to me what your budget is (I’ll keep it under that limit, I promise) and then keep his mouth shut, just stand back and keep the credit card warm while I work my magic. When she finally finds one that makes her face light up, pull out the money and say Merry Christmas/Happy Valentine’s/birthday/anniversary/whatever. She gets the gun she really wants and you get to be her hero.

    • Then there’s the gun you buy for yourself and she takes a strong liking to. Bought myself a stainless S&W Model 60, for concealed carry, brought it home and layed it on the table. Wife saw it, picked it up and said it fit her hand perfectly. Long story short, she took it away from me and I had to go buy another revolver for myself. Best part about it, though, is she’s better with her little “tack driver” than I am.

  8. Give ammo…the gift that “really” keeps on giving…and lets them start the new year off with a real bang.

  9. Illinois has its own version of “universal” background checks. For a private transfer, you need to go to the State Police web site and input the buyer’s FOID card number. If it’s all good, you can print out your permission slip to lawfully sell a lawful product to a lawful person.

    Though blatantly unconstitutional, it’s pretty quick and painless.

    • ‘Laws repugnant to the Constitution are null and void’ – Marbury v Madison. ‘It is not the function of the government to keep the citizens from falling into error. It is the function of the citizens to keep the government from falling into error’ – Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.

  10. Looks like a Remington 550-1 that the young man is holding in ad. Got one myself from mom and dad in 1968 or so for Christmas. Shot either short or long rifle using a floating-type of chamber. Still have it and it’s a great shooter.

    • It is! I still have the one my Dad gave me for Christmas in the early 60s when I was eight or ten. After I’d grown up and moved 75 miles away, he’d borrowed it so many times that I bought another one in the mid-70s so he could have one of his own. Still have that one, too. Great memories with those rifles…

      • Got mine too. It followed me 1/2 way across the country and through about 50 years. Got rid of it in MI and re-bought it in VA 1/2 a century later. Cost me more the 2nd time.

        • I love my 550 but I’m not a dispassionate observer – my Grandfather taught me to shoot with that rifle. I have that 550 and a 512, the bolt action sibling. My 512 is a bit more accurate than my 550 but both of them are still great examples of what a first rifle used to be.

  11. What I love ate those old ads. Some not even in gun rags. I used to shove men’s magazines under my Dad’s nose as he sat in the barber’s chair. “Please buy me this!” I picked up pop bottles for the 2 cents deposit to contribute. Dad and I shot since I was six, but I didn’t my own shotgun until I was twelve. Now here I sit in a deer stand with a Kimber Montana in .270 Winchester with a Leopold 3.5-10×40 loaded with Hornady Interlock 140 grain wondering, ‘How am I going to kill one of the half dozen deer I see without a 6.5 Creedmoore?’ The anguish!

  12. What about leaving guns to family members after death. My father in law wants to leave some to me and my children, but we’re out of state. Thats the real scenario.

  13. “With all carriers, federal law requires you to declare that your package contains an unloaded firearm.”

    Not correct.
    The only time federal law requires you to declare that you are shipping a firearm is when you are shipping interstate to a nonlicensee. Licensed dealers do have to fill out a post office form when shipping handguns.
    The ATF FAQ you used for your research is wrong and ATF admits such. Read the actual law.

    • AngryWhiteGuy, what law are talking about? I found this referenced by the ATF and it sounds like you MUST declare firearms. 27 CFR 478.31 – Delivery by common or contract carrier.

      Do you have a reference to the law that says you don’t have to declare firearms? I’m really interested in shipping them to myself when I travel to other states, but fedex and ups won’t allow it even though the atf says it’s ok and even sends people to them (fedex/ups) to ship to themselves.

      • § 478.31 Delivery by common or contract carrier.

        (a) No person shall knowingly deliver or cause to be delivered to any common or contract carrier for transportation or shipment in interstate or foreign commerce to any person other than a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, licensed dealer, or licensed collector, any package or other container in which there is any firearm or ammunition without written notice to the carrier that such firearm or ammunition is being transported or shipped.

        That means when you ship a firearm TO A LICENSED DEALER notification is not required. The law prohibits shipping interstate to a person other than a licensed dealer. etc.

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