Buying and selling firearms can be tricky. State laws require firearm registration when you purchase a gun from a dealer: but what about a private party sale? Is a bill of sale enough to transfer ownership, and more importantly, liability? Does the bill of sale need to be notarized? Do you need to make the state aware of the private party sale of a firearm? All of these questions confuse most gun owners who want to sell their firearms in a private party sale.
Understanding the requirements of your state is critical to transferring both ownership and liability in a private party firearm sales and transfers. Not every state allows for private sales. Certain states have restrictions that you should be aware of. Although you would not be required to have a Federal Firearms license like a dealer would, it may be necessary to undergo waiting periods, obtain a background check for the prospective buyer, or even have a dealer present during transfers of ownership.
The one detail that almost all states can agree on is that one absolutely cannot transfer a firearm to anyone who is prohibited by federal law from owning them. To view a list of persons prohibited from owning a firearm, visit Justice.gov. Generally, a person prohibited would be anyone who has been convicted of a felony, is underaged, or a known gang member.
Even in the most gun friendly state, it is highly recommended that one creates a bill of sale even if it is not legally required for a face to face transaction in that state. In the event of a crime or a stolen gun, a bill of sale helps authorities follow the gun and keeps you out of trouble. These days creating a bill of sale is so easy, there is no reason not to. A quick Google search will provide thousands of firearm bill of sale templates for free. At minimum, it is crucial to include the gun’s serial number, the price agreed upon, buyer’s name, and if possible the last few numbers of the buyer’s driver’s license.
Some people prefer to cover all of their bases and simply get a licensed dealer involved with the transaction even if their state does not require this. In these cases, normally the buyer covers the fees required for the licensed dealer.
Being aware and educated on specific state laws and proper procedures for transfers of firearms is the responsibility of the gun owner. Thankfully, these days there are hundreds of reliable resources online to guide you and provide the proper information for your state. Just be mindful of unreliable sources. Try to stick with .org or .gov websites as these are usually more trustworthy sources and most likely state specific as opposed to blogs or forums.