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Private Gun Sale Laws by State

While the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of private citizens to keep and bear arms, there are some limits and regulations on how they are sold and who may possess them. Federally licensed firearms dealers are required by federal law to conduct background checks on prospective buyers, but private (unlicensed) sellers are not. Some states require background checks for private sales, usually through a licensed intermediary, but others have few to no regulations on private gun sales.

Federal gun laws established under the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act prohibit gun ownership by certain individuals, such as the mentally ill or those under protective orders for domestic violence.

Below is a list of private gun sale laws by state, including background check requirements.

  Background Check When Seller Is Not a Licensed Dealer Additional Regulations on Private Gun Sales
Alabama None

Ala Code §13A-11-72, et seq.: Handguns may not be delivered to anyone prohibited under state law.

Alaska None

Alaska Stat. § 11.61.200, et seq.: Concealable firearms may not be tranferred to anyone prohibited under state law; minors may not purchase firearms (including rifles and other long guns).

Alaska Stat. § 08.76.010: Anyone who sells firearms secondhand (such as pawn brokers) must maintain a detailed record of the transaction.

Arizona None Ariz. Rev. Stat § 13-3102(A)(5): No one may knowingly transfer a deadly weapon to someone who is prohibited under state law.
Arkansas None

Ark. Code Ann. § 5-73-109(a), et seq.: No one may transfer a firearm to a minor without the consent of a parent or legal guardian; or who is otherwise known to be prohibited from possessing a firearm by state or federal law.

California

Cal. Penal Code § 28050: When neither party is a licensed dealer, the firearm must be transferred through a licensed California dealer, who is required to conduct a background check.

Cal. Penal Code § 26500, et seq.: All transfers of firearms subject to a 10-day waiting period, and must be unloaded and securely wrapped or locked. Purchaser must show clear evidence of age and identity to seller.

May not knowingly transfer firearms to anyone who has been convicted of crimes related to violence or firearms (including misdemeanors); may not transfer firearms to minors (18), or handguns to anyone under 21, with some exceptions.

May not transfer firearms to someone the seller "knows or has cause to believe" is not the actual purchaser (also known as a "straw purchaser") when the actual purchaser is prohibited from possessing firearms.

Colorado

C.R.S. § 18-12-112: Seller is required to arrange for a licensed gun dealer to obtain a background check on the prospective buyer through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

C.R.S. § 18-12-112: Anyone who transfers a firearm in violation of the law may be held strictly liable for any civil damages caused by the buyer's use of the weapon. These rules do not apply to transfers that are gifts or loans between immediate family members, among other exemptions.

C.R.S. 18-12-108, et seq.: May not knowingly transfer a firearm to someone who has committed a state or federal felony; a minor (specific to handguns); has been charged (but not yet convicted) with misdemeanor domestic violence; or is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms.

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-33(c): All handgun transfers must wait for authorization from the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP), which will perform a background check.

Long guns (i.e. rifles and shotguns) may only be transferred by a federally licensed dealer, who must conduct a background check; prospective buyer must present gun eligibility certificate prior to the background check.

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-217c: May not transfer firearms or ammunition to someone who has been convicted of a serious juvenile offense, is a minor, or is prohibited under state law from owning guns.

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-33, et seq.: Must have a valid permit to carry a handgun in order purchase or receive one; handguns must have a trigger lock, gun lock, or gun locking device; must not be loaded when transferred; purchaser must sign a receipt for a handgun sale, which shall include their name, address, date of sale, details about the gun, I.D. number of permit to carry a handgun, and authorization number provided by the DESPP.

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-571(f): Anyone who knowingly transfers a firearm to someone who is prohibited from owning guns is strictly liable for any injuries caused by that firearm.

Delaware

Del. Code Ann. tit. 11 § 1448B: Any unlicensed seller of firearms must conduct a background check on the prospective buyer through a licensed firearms dealer.

Del. Code Ann. tit. 24, § 904A: All parties must appear in person at the licensed dealer's place of business.

Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 1448, et seq.: May not knowingly transfer firearms to anyone who is a minor (specific to handguns, unless he or she can prove it is solely for hunting); or is prohibited by state law from owning firearms.

District of Columbia

DC Code § 7–2505.02: Seller is required to arrange for a licensed gun dealer to obtain a background check on the prospective buyer through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

DC Code § 22–4503, et seq: May not knowingly transfer a handgun to anyone who has been convicted of a crime punishable by at least one year in prison; is under 21 years of age; or is prohibited by federal law from owning firearms.

Purchases subject to a 10-day waiting period.

DC Code § 7-2502.07: Newly purchased and existing firearms all must be registered with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.

Florida Fla. Const. art. VIII, § 5(b): Background checks are not required by the state. However, county governments have the authority to require background checks and a 3- to 5-day waiting period for private firearms transfers (holders of concealed carry permits are exempt from any such county requirements). Fla. Statutes § 790.065: May not knowingly transfer a firearm to anyone who is prohibited by federal law.
Georgia None

Ga. Code § 16-11.125, et seq: May not knowingly transfer a firearm to anyone who is prohibited by federal law.

Hawaii Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-2, 3: Must acquire a permit to legally obtain any firearm in Hawaii, subject to clearance from the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Haw. Rev. Stat. § 134-2, 3: Both private sellers and licensed dealers may only sell to buyers who have a permit to acquire ownership of a firearm (no exceptions, includes inheritances). Chief of police in buyer's county of residence may issue permits pursuant to fingerprinting and registration. All sales subject to a 14-day waiting period.
Idaho None

Idaho Code Ann. § 18-3302A: May not sell to a minor without written consent of parent or guardian, or to anyone who is prohibited by federal law from owning firearms.

Idaho Code Ann. § 18-3308: May not transfer ammunition to anyone under the age of 16.

Idaho Code Ann. § 18-8505: It is a felony to knowingly transfer a firearm to a gang member.

Illinois

430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/2, et seq: Buyer must have a valid Firearm Owner's Identification Card (FOID), for which a background check is conducted. Exceptions include gift transfers within the family.

430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3: Dept. of State Police must conduct background check on prospective buyer before firearms are transferred at gun shows. Seller must check validity of buyer's FOID card.

430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-3(A), 65/2(a)(1), et seq.: May not knowingly transfer firearms to anyone who is ineligible to possess a firearm or who lacks a valid FOID card. All transfers of firearms must be recorded and maintained for 10 years.

24-hour waiting period for long gun purchases; 72-hour waiting period for handguns.

Indiana None

Ind. Code § 35-47-2-7: May not knowingly transfer firearms to anyone who is prohibited by federal law from owning them. May not transfer a handgun or assault rifle to anyone under 18 (except within a parent-child relationship).

 

Iowa Iowa Code § 724.15(1): Must obtain a permit prior to acquiring ownership of a handgun, which includes a background check (must renew annually). Iowa Code § 724.22: May not make firearms available to minors, with exceptions (such as family members). May not knowingly transfer firearms to anyone who is prohibited by state law from owning them.
Kansas None Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6301(a)(7), et seq: May not knowingly transfer firearms to anyone who has had certain felony convictions within the last 10 years.
Kentucky None Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 237.070: May not knowingly transfer firearms to anyone who has committed certain felonies.
Louisiana None

La. Rev. Stat. § 28:183: May not transfer a firearm to any patient of a mental institution.

La. Rev. Stat. § 14:95.1.1: May not lend, sell, or otherwise transfer firearms to a known convicted felon.

Maine None. However, the Department of Public Safety is tasked with assisting private sellers who prefer to conduct a background check on prospective buyers. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 25, § 2001-A: Upon purchase of a handgun, buyer must sign acknowledgment of receipt of Maine's basic firearms safety brochure (in presence of the seller).
Maryland

Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-101: All "regulated firearms" (handguns and assault weapons) must be purchased through a licensed dealer or local law enforcement agency, which require background checks.

Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-101: Regulated firearms (handguns and assault weapons) may not be sold to anyone whom the private seller knows is prohibited under state law (including minors under 21).

Massachusetts None for purchase. However, private sellers may check the validity of the buyer's Firearm Identification Card prior to the transaction.

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, §§ 122: Must possess a Massachusetts firearms dealer license in order to transfer firearms, unless you transfer "not more than four" firearms per year.

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 123, 128: Every firearm transfer must be recorded, including a complete description, serial number, date of transfer, and buyer's residence, and firearm identification card (FID). Private sellers must submit this information must be submitted to the Dept. of Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) within seven days of the transaction.

Michigan

Mich. Comp. Laws Serv. § 28.422a: Prospective purchasers of handguns must have either a handgun purchase license or a conceal carry license, both of which require a background check.

No background check requirement for private sales of rifles or shotguns.

Mich. Comp. Laws Serv. § 750.222(g), et seq: May not knowingly sell firearms or ammunition to someone under indictment for a felony or prohibited from possessing or carrying a weapon under Michigan law.

Mich. Comp. Laws Serv. § 750.229: Pawnbrokers, second-hand shops and junk dealers may not accept nor offer handguns for resale.

Minnesota

Minn. Stat. § 624.7132, subd. 12(1): All sales of handguns and semiautomatic, assault-style rifles must be recorded with the local police department, which will conduct a background check (seller is criminally liable if the firearm is used within one year of the transfer in the commission of a violent felony, if that person was prohibited from owning such a weapon).

No transaction record or background check required for private sales of non-assault-style rifles or shotguns.

Minn. Stat. § 624.7141: Seller may not intentionally transfer a handgun or semiautomatic, assault-style rifle to someone who is ineligible to do so under state law; has been found to be ineligible by a sheriff or chief of police; or has been denied a permit to carry a weapon.

 

Mississippi None

Miss. Code Ann. § 97-37-13, 35(2): May not knowingly transfer any deadly weapon to a minor (18 and younger) or someone who is intoxicated. May not knowingly transfer or attempt to transfer a stolen firearm.

 

Missouri None

Mo. Rev. Stat. § 571.060.1(3): May not knowingly transfer a firearm or ammunition to someone who is prohibited from doing so under state law; younger than 18 (without parental consent); or intoxicated.

Montana None Mont. Code Ann. § 45-7-307: Firearms may not be knowingly transferred by or to someone subject to official detention.
Nebraska

Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 69-2403: May not receive transfer of a handgun without first obtaining either a handgun certificate or concealed handgun permit, both of which require a background check.

No background check requirement for private sales of rifles or shotguns.

Neb. Rev. Stat. § 28-1206: May not knowingly transfer firearms to anyone who is prohibited from doing so under state law.
Nevada None. However, private sellers of firearms may request that the Central Repository for Nevada Records of Crimninal History conduct a background check on the buyer. Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 202.300, et seq: May not knowingly transfer firearms to anyone under 18; or to anyone prohibited under state law.
New Hampshire None N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 159:7: May not transfer firearms to a convicted felon.
New Jersey N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:58-3a, 3f, 3i: Buyers of handguns must first obtain a permit and buyers of rifles and shotguns must first obtain a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card (FPIC), both of which require state and federal background checks.

N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:58-3a, 3f, 3i: May not transfer handgun to anyone under 21, or a long gun to anyone under 18; may not transfer firearms to anyone prohibited under state law.

N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:39-11: Pawnbrokers may not sell, lend, or give away firearms.

New Mexico None N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-22-12(A): May not transfer firearms to a person in custody or confinement without the consent of the officer in charge.
New York N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law Art. 39-DD & DDD, § 898: All firearms sales in the state (including private and gun show transactions) are subject to a check via the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law Art. 39-DD & DDD, § 898: Sellers must maintain records of each transaction.

N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(9): Purchasers of handguns must first obtain a license, which must specify each handgun owned. Licenses must be amended when a gun is acquired or transferred.

N.Y. Penal Law § 265.10(7): Must first notify (in writing) the state police or licensing officer in Suffolk or Nassau Counties, or New York City before transferring a handgun, short-barreled long gun, or assault-style rifle.

North Carolina

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-402: May not transfer a handgun to an individual who has not obtained a permit, for which a background check is required.

No background check requirement for private sales of rifles or shotguns.

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-315(a1): May not transfer handgun to a minor (under 18) unless it is lent for a temporary, lawful use or is transferred to an adult custodian.

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-258.1(a): May not transfer weapons or ammunition of any kind to an inmate (penal or mental institution).

North Dakota None N.D. Cent. Code § 62.1-02-02: May not transfer firearms to anyone who is prohibited from possessing them under state law.
Ohio None Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.20(A)(1):
May not transfer firearms to anyone prohibited from possessing them under state law.
Oklahoma None Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, § 1289.12: May not transfer firearms to anyone prohibited from possession them under state law.
Oregon Or. Rev. Stat. § 166.410, et seq: All private sales of firearms must be conducted through a federally licensed firearms dealer (FFL), who is required to conduct a background check (2015 law). A private seller at a gun show must either go through an FFL, request a background check, or obtain approval from the Dept. of State Police. Or. Rev. Stat. § 166.250: May not transfer firearms to anyone prohibited from possession them under state law.
Pennsylvania

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111, et seq: Private sales of handguns or short-barreled rifles/shotguns may only be conducted in the county sheriff's office or the place of business of a licensed importer, dealer, or manufacturer.

No background check requirement for private sales of rifles or shotguns (regular sized).

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105: May not transfer firearms to anyone who is prohibited from possessing them under state law.
Rhode Island R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-47-35, 11-47-35.1, and 11-47-35.2: All transfers of firearms require background checks (exceptions: purchaser is retail dealer, peace officer, or concealed handgun license holder).

R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-47-35, 11-47-35.1, and 11-47-35.2: There is a seven-day waiting period for the purchase of firearms. Seller must maintain certain records of the transaction.

R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-47 (various sections): May not transfer firearms to anyone who is prohibited from possessing them under state law.

South Carolina None

S.C. Code Ann. § 16-23-30(A): May not transfer firearms to anyone who is prohibited from possessing them under state law.

S.C. Code Ann. § 16-23-530(B): May not knowingly transfer firearms to anyone unlawfully in the United States.

South Dakota None

S.D. Codified Laws § 22-14-16: May not transfer firearms to anyone who is prohibited from possessing them under state law.

S.D. Codified Laws § 23-7-46: May not transfer firearms to minors (under 18) if you have any reason to believe it could be used to commit a crime of violence.

Tennessee None

Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1303, 1316: May not transfer firearms to anyone who is intoxicated or otherwise prohibited from possessing them under state or federal law.

Tenn. Code Ann. § 33-1-101 and § 33-3-904(a)(4): Anyone who transfers a firearm to someone receiving services for a mental illness, serious emotional disturbance, or developmental disability may be charged with a felony.

Texas None

Tex. Penal Code § 46.06(a): May not knowingly transfer firearms to anyone intending to use it unlawfully; a child under 18 (without parent or guardian's permission); or an intoxicated person.

Utah None

Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-503(8): May not transfer firearms to anyone who is prohibited from possessing them under state law.

Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-509.9: May not sell firearms to a minor without an accompanying parent or guardian.

Vermont None

Vermont Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4017: May not transfer firearms to anyone who is prohibited under state law.

Vermont Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4007: May not transfer firearms or ammunition to minors under 16 (parents and guardians are exempt).

Vermont Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4006: Pawnbrokers and retail merchants must keep detailed records of all firearms transactions.

Virginia None

Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:1: It is a felony to knowingly transfer firearms to someone who is prohibited under state law, including those younger than 18 and non-citizens of the U.S.

Va. Code Ann. § 54.1-4201.2: State Police must be available at gun shows to conduct voluntary background checks for private firearms transfers.

Washington

Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.010, et seq: All private firearms transfers must be done through a federally licensed firearms dealer, which requires a background check (with some exeptions, including tranfers between relatives).

Sale on hold until buyer is cleared, or 10 business days have passed.

Out-of-state firearms transactions involving Washington residents must follow the background check procedures.

Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.080: May not knowingly transfer firearms to anyone who is prohibited under state law.
West Virginia None

W. Va. Code § 61-7-10, et seq: May not knowingly transfer firearms to anyone who is prohibited under state law. May not sell or publicly display firearms or ammunition where a passerby can see it.

W. Va. Code § 28-1-8: May not transfer firearms to any minor in a state youth correctional facility.

Wisconsin None Wis. Stat. § 948.60, et seq: May not transfer firearms to anyone under the age of 18, or otherwise prohibited under state law.
Wyoming None None

Unsure About Private Gun Sales Laws? Talk to an Attorney

Gun laws vary quite a bit from state to state and tend to change frequently. Even an honest mistake, such as misinterpreting the law, can get you into big trouble when firearms are involved. If you need more clarity, consider speaking with a criminal law attorney licensed in your state.

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