Semiautomatic Pistol Packed gun gift
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If you’re gifting a gun this year — and yes, there are guns out there to buy and to give — the NSSF has put together this helpful guide to help you do it right and comply with the laws involved . . .

It’s natural for gun owners who enjoy target shooting, hunting, collecting or just plain plinking to want to share their enjoyment of firearms with others this holiday season. What better way to do that than to gift 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 ownership of a firearm brings with it some serious responsibilities and legal obligations that other consumer products don’t. So, let’s look at some questions you may have about giving a firearm as a gift.

Gift Card
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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.

Buying a Gun as a Gift

Let’s assume, however, you do not want to give a gift card because you want to give “Old Betsy,” your favorite old deer rifle, to your son or daughter or you want to see the joy on their face when they unwrap their present. The first question you then must ask is whether the intended recipient can legally own a firearm at all.

Remember, 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. Pre-1898 antique firearms are generally exempt, but be safe and check with your retailer or local law enforcement before you hand over your prized possession.

The next question is whether the person can own the gifted 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 and some states restrict certain types of firearms and magazine sizes. Check out the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) website for an overview of local laws or contact your state’s attorney general’s office.

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It is legal to purchase a firearm from a licensed firearms retailer that you intend to give as a gift. There’s no law that prohibits a gift of a firearm to a relative or friend who lives in your home state.

However, whether you purchase a new firearm or want to gift a gun you already own, keep in mind that a few 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 licensed 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 a 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.

If the person you want to give the gift of a firearm to does not reside in the same state as you, then under federal law you have to ship the firearm to a licensed firearms retailer in the state where the recipient lives who can transfer the firearm after a background check.

united parcel service UPS truck delivery
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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.

Handgun Still In A Box Under A Christmas Tree
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Giving a Gun as a Gift

As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when making a gift of firearm to ensure you do it properly. Using a gift certificate from a firearms retailer near where the gift recipient lives might be the best solution in order to avoid legal pitfalls and state law variations.

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.

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24 COMMENTS

  1. Living in a Free State seems to make a big difference. These are the consequences for living behind enemy lines and allowing Tyranny to Prevail.

    • Here behind the curtain in the Demokratic Peoples’ Republik of Kalifornia, if the gun is registered with CADOJ, then you have little option. But if it’s not, then hahahahahahaha!

      I know of multiple people who adhere to Free America and the Constitution when gifting to family or close friends and do not bother telling our Dear Leaders in Sacramento (you know, the ones who tell us to mask up and be content with takeout while they dine indoors at their favorite restaurants).

      In Trump-esque fashion, one could simply shrug the shoulders while placing hands up halfway in a classic New Yorker mafioso alibi, and say “well, that’s what some people say, anyhow…”

  2. The article fails to explain how to complete a 4473 if you are going to, “purchase a firearm from a licensed firearms retailer that you intend to give as a gift.” You are the actual buyer, since it is not a straw purchase, but you are also not, since you are simply passing the firearm on to the actual end user – especially if you have taken them out to pick out their choice of weapon since you are now buying on their behalf.

    • No one smart is going to answer this. Most people have a hard time with the legal concept of purchasing for versus gifting. And your comment illustrates just how confusing it can get.

    • It’s just a timing issue, Katy. At the time you are buying the firearm, you are the actual buyer. You didn’t take anyone’s money and are not under anyone’s direction to purchase the firearm. People buy firearms all the time with the recommendation of friends and family, so if your daughter points at the case and says, “That one!” it’s merely a recommendation.

      As soon as the gun is in your possession, it is yours to do with as you wish. You can shoot it, stuff it in a safe, sell it, or give it away. The 4473 has no box to check regarding your intentions when buying the gun. As long as it is legally purchased, you can legally give it to someone who can legally own it, following local regulations. (Or in those locales where draconian laws are not being enforced, eschewing those regulations, at your discretion.)

        • Because maybe, and I know this is crazy but bear with me, just maybe… Some older folks have seen the writing on the wall and are more than willing to untraceably give guns as gifts to younger people who may benefit from not having their names on records in the coming years. Maybe they recognize that over 90% of Americans don’t comply with onerous gun restrictions and that the 90% might want to have stuff on hand to supply the 3% if things go south.
          I’ve given away plenty of stuff to friends and family (and in one case, most of the parts needed to build an AR to a total stranger who said he was legally able to own it – because freedom) I even gave an AR lower to a young fudd who didn’t think that people should get to own ARs because it forced him to reconcile with the idea that HE’S not a bad person… why shouldn’t HE be allowed to own things? Also, his wife liked ARs so it was kind of a poke in the ribs to man up because his she wanted one…
          I’m on record as having bought MANY guns. but I’m also not on record for having bought many…

    • That’s why you skip all that dumb shit and just give them one from your collection followed up by you going out to find it’s replacement shortly after. That way you can still wrap it and hand it to them.

    • I have bought a gun as a gift for my best friend for his wedding. Handed it to him right there in the gun store when it was over, no problem. I just made sure to tell the dealer that up front.

  3. Hell yes the ATF wants you to give a gift card, that way the owner of the firearm is the one who filled out the “it’s not registration” 4473 form.
    I’m guessing that firearm so discreetly wrapped is either a Ruger Mark3 or a Luger p08.

  4. What one gives as a gift is between the gift giver and the gifted. No need to involve third parties or the scribbles of fools.

  5. Or don’t tell anyone…I have a friend who told me he has NEVER bought a gat through a dealer. He’s got a lot too. Give and it shall be given unto you😎

  6. DON’T BE A PU$$IE!!! BE AN AMERICAN.

    F’ atf.

    Buy the gun for yourself, decide you don’t want it and give it away as a gift.

    The new 4473 IS registration.

    Give the gift of Teaching your friends and children that REGISTRATION EQUALS CONFISCATION……..ALWAYS.

  7. ……and TTAG……..stop being such cheer leaders for atfyou……..every atf agent should f’ themselves and GO TO HELL.

    NO AMERICAN would work for such an unconstitutional baby killing organization.

  8. I routinely buy some guns “for myself” that I later find I don’t like anymore about a year later which ends up getting gifted to friends and family.

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