Before buying or selling a gun, both parties may need to prepare a proper firearm bill of sale. Also, the registration of the gun may be required depending on the state law. While there are federal firearms laws, owners of guns are subject to the firearm laws of the state that they reside in. Find out more information about this document and laws regulating the purchase and sale of firearms in the US.
How Is the Possession of Guns Regulated in the USA?
In the USA, the laws regulating the manufacture, trade, transfer, and other operations with guns are enforced by state agencies and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
There are two principal federal firearms laws in force at the moment:
- The National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA). It was the first significant piece of legislation regulating the sale and possession of firearms.
- The Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA). The purpose of this piece of legislation is to stop the rise of violence by taxation and registration of weapons.
State and local governments regulate many other aspects of the sale and possession of guns, for example, how they can be carried in public. Currently, 40 US states have a provision protecting the right to own and bear firearms. It is very similar to the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.
What Is a Bill of Sale?
A bill of sale is a document that can be used in selling and buying transactions as proof of ownership transfer. It is very similar to receipts proving that a transaction has actually taken place.
It also contains other essential fields, such as:
- Names of the seller and the buyer
- A description of a property
- The date of sale
- The amount of sale
Other fields may also be included in the bill of sale form.
Do You Need This Document to Buy a Firearm in the US?
Stores selling guns in the US use records of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This database includes information about persons prohibited to purchase and use firearms. In the case of finding a match, the buyer will not be able to complete the transaction.
Customers have to fill in a special form issued by the ATF. It is called the Firearm Transaction Record and used to ensure the safety of firearm sales. Usually, no bill of sale is required for registering a gun. However, it is an important document for the transfer of ownership between individuals. If you are a seller, you want to be protected against possible charges due to the use of the gun that you have sold to someone else. In this case, you will need to provide a document proving that you are not the current owner of the weapon any longer.
If you are a buyer, you want to make such a transaction legal. Since this document works as a receipt, you will be able to prove that the money for the purchase has been paid and that the weapon belongs to you.
On our site, it is possible to find various free bill of sale forms available in PDF format. A buy or seller can pick a printable template that they like the most. Usually, they should be able to fill it out using their PCs and then print the document. A firearm bill of sale must be signed by two parties of the deal.
Do You Need to Register a Firearm?
Most US states do not require buyers to register their guns. Moreover, under federal law, it is illegal to run a national gun registry. Eight US states have bans on such a registry. Guns registration is required in the following states:
- California. Gun registration is required in California for personal handgun importers and assault weapon owners. All other gun owners must submit a Firearm Ownership Report to the California Department of Justice.
- Hawaii. With a few exemptions, gun owners must register their firearm at the Hawaiʻi Police Department.
- Maryland. A resident of this state is required to obtain a valid Handgun Qualification License.
- New York. You will need to apply for a license at the office of the court clerk.
- The District of Columbia. Gun owners must register their guns at The Metropolitan Police Department.
States that require no registration of firearm but collect information on firearm sales:
- Michigan. Sellers of handguns must keep records of such transactions. Sales by private sellers must be reported to a local law enforcement.
- New Jersey. All relevant copies must be sent to a local law enforcement.
- Washington. Firearm dealers must keep a record of every gun sale. The Washington Department of Licensing keeps relevant copies and applications.
How Can You Buy a Gun in the US?
To buy a gun in the US, follow the steps described below:
Step#1 — Determine whether you can purchase a gun
There is a list of cases when it is unlawful for certain people to buy a firearm. Among others, they include people that have been convinced of any crime and punished for imprisonment for at least one year. Read the full list of such cases.
Step#2 — Make sure that you meet age requirements
There are certain age requirements, which depend on the type of firearm that you want to purchase. For example, you can be 18 years of age to purchase a rifle and 21 years of age to buy a handgun.
Step #3 — Familiarize yourself with the state gun law
Sale, registration, and other operations with a firearm are regulated depending on the state. In particular, you will need to find out whether you need to register your purchase. If you are required to do so, check what documents you need to bring to the authorized state registration body. If you are not required to do it, prepare other documents that you can use to make such a transaction legal.
Step #4 — Decide where you want to purchase a gun
There are two options that you have as a buyer:
- Purchase your gun from a licensed dealer
- Buy a firearm from a private person
In the first case, you will need to find the list of Federal Firearms Licensed (FFL) dealers.
The dealer will ensure that you can purchase a firearm legally. Please note that you may be charged additionally for this procedure. Also, you may have to pay sales tax on your gun.
As for private transfers, they can be made only within the same state. Both the buyer and the seller must not be persons prohibited from being owners of firearms. In some states, even private transfers of guns can be conducted after the universal background check.
It is essential to ensure a safe purchase. Use a bill of sale form to finalize the deal. Make sure that it contains all the necessary information on both parties of the transfer as well as the firearm. Take pictures of the seller’s ID using your smartphone. When picking the seller, ask to make a deal in a public place where your transaction can also be recorded by cameras and witnessed by other people. If there is a problem with a firearm, the seller will refuse such an offer.