Beginner Basics: Requirements to Buy a Gun

NICS background check

Contrary to what the media may tell the general public, there is a very formal process you need to follow in order to buy a gun. In short, no…you can not walk into the local mega mart, throw a pistol into your cart along with shampoo and dog food and simply check out at the register. Firearms are one of the most highly regulated items in the country.  In fact, there are over 20,000 individual federal, state and local firearms laws on the books.  To some the idea of buying a gun seems a daunting task because they do not really know what is involved. To help with this I will breakdown the general process for buying a gun.

First and foremost, it is important to know the firearms laws in your city and state. They can vary greatly by location and affect how long your purchase may take. In Arizona for instance there are no additional requirements to the federal firearms laws while in Massachusetts you are required to have a permit to even buy a firearm to begin with. With that being said, let’s look at the general process once all the state and city piece are squared away. The first step is to head down to the gun shop. Search for the gun you desire, and we will begin the purchase process.

The first thing the shop will ask for is your driver’s license. Firearms can only be directly sold to residents of the state in which the shop is set. For example, you will need to be a resident of Ohio in order to purchase a firearm in an Ohio gun shop. Now, if you are visiting another state and fund a gun you can’t live without, that shop can transfer it to a shop in your state where you can then make the official purchase. These are called transfers and are very common. I will go into more detail on this when we discuss online purchasing. O

nce the clerk has your i.d., you will be required to fill out a form from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  This form is called a 4473 and gathers your general information such as address, license number etc.  It will also ask you a series of questions to ensure you are not a prohibited possessor of a firearm. Once complete and signed, the clerk will then contact the NICS system either by phone or online. The NICS staff performs a background check on the buyer. That background check verifies the buyer does not have a criminal record or isn’t otherwise ineligible to purchase or own a firearm. If you pass the federal background check, your purchase will be completed.  If it is denied or held for any reason, the purchase will need to wait until your background details can be cleared up. Most states do not have a waiting period any longer and in most cases, you can take your new gun home with you that day. If you live in a “wait state” you will need to wait the designated number of days before you can pick up your gun. This process is thorough and is designed to keep guns out of the hands of the criminal element.

Buying a gun online is something many people do not understand as well. It appears as if you just hit Amazon, buy a rifle and it is delivered to your home. This is far from the case. There are many fantastic online sites where you can buy guns and get great deals. If you find such a deal, you will follow the online purchase process. The final step in that process however will be you deciding which local gun shop your new gun will be shipped to. Guns purchased online can not be shipped directly to a customer. They need to be shipped to a federally licensed firearms dealer. Once your online transaction is complete, the seller will ship your new gun to the shop of your choice. That shop will in turn contact you when the gun arrives.  Once it is there you will need to go through the same form 4473 process you would as if you were buying directly from that shop. In that you are not actually buying a gun from that shop’s inventory, they may charge you a minor “transfer fee” to cover their time and effort.  These fees can range from $20 to sometimes hefty levels depending on the shop. Make sure you know what the shop is going to charge for your transfer prior to the shipment.

While it seems like a paperwork intense ordeal, it can be done quickly. Most shops are skilled at processing paperwork and can have you in and out in short order.  If you are interested in buying a gun, don’t let the fear of a little paperwork slow you down. Find a good shop and make the decision to get a gun. You won’t regret it.