It’s long been known that nonimmigrant aliens may purchase and own firearms in the United States for hunting or for sporting purposes.
To legally purchase firearms from federally licensed dealers, non-resident aliens have to show a legal hunting license or that they “have been admitted” for sporting purposes. The easiest way to obtain a document to allow purchases at gun stores is to obtain a hunting license.
Some Chinese students in Arizona recently fell afoul of the law by purchasing resident hunting licenses when they weren’t technically eligible to do so. From azcentral.com:
In recent months, federal and state officials have cited at least eight Chinese students at the University of Arizona for fraudulently obtaining resident hunting licenses, and also seized from them a number of firearms obtained using those licenses.
A high-ranking federal official told the Star his agency has no evidence of “malicious intent” by the eight students. Nevertheless, the purchases reveal what officials say is a potentially troubling vulnerability in federal and Arizona firearms laws, which exempt international students and other non-immigrant visa holders with hunting licenses from prohibitions on gun ownership.
The students had been living in the United States for up to two years when they purchased their resident licenses. This would seem to meet the requirement for being “domiciled in this state for at least six consecutive months.”
In 2010, that would have been sufficient. From the 2010-11 AZ regulations:
A person who has been a bona fide resident of the state of Arizona for six months immediately preceding the date of application for a license or a tag or a member of the armed forces who has been stationed in Arizona for a period of 30 days immediately preceding the date of application for a license or a tag.
But another requirement was added in 2015.
Domiciled in this state for at least six consecutive months immediately before the date of the application for a watercraft decal, hunting or fishing license, permit, tag or stamp and who does not claim residency for any purpose in any other state or country.
Was the extra requirement added at the suggestion of the federal government?
It was this added requirement that tripped up the Chinese students. They were cited for fraudulently obtaining a resident hunting license in Arizona. If they had obtained a non-resident license, they would have been legal.
States vary considerably in what is required to obtain a resident hunting license. In Iowa, a full time student qualifies. From iowadnr.gov:
2. Is a full-time student at an accredited educational institution in Iowa and resides in Iowa while attending the educational institution,
Our Chinese students would have been perfectly legal in Iowa.
The ATF is clear that having a valid hunting license is a lawful exception for nonimmigrant aliens to legally possess firearms. From atf.gov:
May a nonimmigrant alien who has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa possess a firearm or ammunition in the United States?
An alien admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa is prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing a firearm or ammunition unless the alien falls within one of the exceptions provided in 18 U.S.C. 922(y)(2), such as: a valid hunting license or permit, admitted for lawful hunting or sporting purposes, certain official representatives of a foreign government, or a foreign law enforcement officer of a friendly foreign government entering the United States on official law enforcement business.
[18 U.S.C. 922(g)(5)(B) and 922(y)(2); 27 CFR 478.11 and 478.32]
An Arizona non-resident hunting license costs $165 per year. If you are in the US on a nonimmigrant visa, that’s a small price to pay to own a firearm, compared to the enormous costs of legally owning one — if it’s even possible — in most of the rest of the world.
Another suggestion for people here on nonimmigrant visas: join a shooting club and compete in competitions. They could do so with borrowed equipment at first, then use a valid hunting license and copies of your competitions to meet the federal requirements. The law does not limit nonimmigrants to hunting; sporting purposes, which include competition, are included as well.
I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on the Internets. But a valid hunting license and proof of participation in club competitions should be more than sufficient to meet the federal requirements for legal firearm ownership by nonimmigrant aliens.
©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Gun Watch