A common misconception regarding gun purchases is that at the federal level if you can legally purchase a gun in a store, you can legally purchase a firearm online. Laws about transporting the gun and the type of gun you can own still stand.
If everything else checks out, though, you can order your gun online and have it delivered, sometimes even faster than when the same firearm was ordered in person in a store.
The following summarizes what you need to do to complete an online firearm purchase.
The Ground Rules
Before you can make a single purchase of a firearm online, you must make sure you understand the process and what will be required of you for the gun purchase to go through.
Federal Dealers Only
These instructions only cover orders with legitimate Federal Firearms License (FFL) dealers. Those folks can perform the background checks, fill out the paperwork, file that paperwork in the appropriate places, and ship the gun to you in full federal, legal and postal compliance.
If you want to make a private party purchase of a firearm online, you need to do your research. The exception to this is if you have an FFL manage the sale as a disinterested third party to help you and the seller maintain federal and state legal compliance.
State Laws Differ
You will need to find out what your state has on the books regarding online sales. For the most part, the process is streamlined, but there are state specific gun laws.
For example, in Massachusetts, you must apply for and receive a state permit to purchase a firearm, which requires an in-person interview with local law enforcement. The interview is required for every purchase of any firearm, online or in person, in a retail organization. In NH, you have to follow federal law and, in a few specific cases, local regulations.
You also must follow any laws regarding registering your firearm, even if you purchased it online. Using Massachusetts as an example, again, once you complete your purchase, you are required to register the gun in the state’s Transaction Portal. The purpose of the registry is to aid law enforcement when investigating a crime where a firearm was used.
You Need a Pick-Up Dealer
Purchasing a firearm online will be one of the few times where “picking up product from a dealer” is legitimate. In this case, the product is the firearm you just purchased. The dealer is a licensed and certified FFL dealer. This dealer will help with the following:
- Perform a background check to verify you can purchase a firearm
- Oversee an FFL Transfer, which entails an ATF form and passing a background check
- Perform any state-required background checks
- Receive the purchased firearm
- Deliver the purchased firearm to you
Most FFL dealers will have a fee for their services. It typically ranges from around $50 to $100. You must set up the arrangement in advance. If you have a firearm shipped to an FFL dealer without pre-arranging the transfer, they will send your firearm back to the purchaser’s shipper.
Ammo Laws May Differ
Most states have different laws pertaining to the legal purchase of ammunition. Before initiating your firearm purchase, you want to ensure that you can get the type of ammo your firearm can use and that there is an adequate supply of that ammo so you do not have to wait months to replenish your supply.
For example, if you are purchasing an odd gauge shotgun, you might not be able to get anything but low-budget training ammo during parts of the year. With other gauges, you might be able to get basic ammunition easily, but any specialty ammunition must be pre-ordered.
Additionally, different states have different ammo purchase and possession laws. For example:
- In IL and MA, you must have a firearm identification card
- 11 states ban the sale, purchase, or possession of armor-piercing ammo
- Six states have prohibited the sale of large-capacity magazines
- Many states have age restrictions on ammo purchases and ammo types
- All states adhere to federal law and, in some cases, are not as restrictive
How to Make An Online Purchase
The following is the process you will need to follow to legally purchase a firearm online.
Locate and Contact An FFL
You need to find an FFL dealer and arrange for them to administrate the process for making your purchase. That means you will need to pay them their management fee, and they will put you through the appropriate verification processes and checks to ensure you can legally purchase a firearm.
You might have to shop for an FFL dealer willing to oversee your purchase. Some FFL dealers view online sales as direct competition. If you cannot find an FFL dealer or the fees are outrageous, there is the option of getting your own FFL, which delays the sale, but lets you have your firearm purchases sent directly to your home.
If you make many firearms purchases, getting your FFL might be right for you.
Set Up the Transfer
Once you find an FFL dealer, you must pay the required fee and schedule the transaction. Scheduling the transaction includes sending the seller the FFL from your dealer. Sometimes, an FFL dealer will send the license to your seller. An FFL dealer contacting the seller directly is normal for some organizations.
Make the Purchase
You select and pay for your firearm when the transfer is set up. Remember that these instructions do not cover private sales. Shop at a reputable firearms dealer. They will also help with the transfer process.
Pick Your Firearm Up
Once you have paid for your firearm, the seller will coordinate the delivery of the firearm to your FFL dealer. The dealer will call you when the firearm arrives. Upon receipt, all you need to do is bring proof of identification, and you can pick up your new firearm.
Your local firearms dealer probably has what you want in firearms options. In some cases, however, online sales are a better option. These tips and the outlined process will ensure that your firearms sale is legal, timely, and rewarding for all involved.