Interstate Firearms Sales and Transfers

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding on this subject, a lot of incomplete and incorrect information going around.  So here are the exact requirements and regulations.  These are Federal requirements -- your State may make you do all sorts of nonsense.

How Can I Sell a Gun to Someone In Another State?

A very popular phrase in the firearms ads is "My FFL to yours."  While that certainly would work, only one FFL holder is required, one in the state of destination.  Here is the first question and answer from the ATF Site FAQ's Section:

(B1) To whom may an unlicensed person transfer firearms under the GCA?

A person may sell a firearm to an unlicensed resident of his State,
if the buyer is not prohibited by law from  receiving or possessing a
firearm, or to a licensee in any State. A firearm other than a curio or
relic may not be transferred interstate to a licensed collector.

[18 U.S.C 922(a)(3) and (5), 922(b)(3), 27 CFR 178.29]

Only one FFL holder is needed, in the state you are sending it to.

So if an individual in one state wants to sell a gun to an individual in another state, the seller is not required by law to find an FFL holder.  Only the buyer must find one.

Here are the steps:

  1. The seller, for their protection, needs to verify the receiver is a licensed dealer.  They need to ask for the receiver's FFL Number.
  2. The seller should then go to this website to verify the license and address:  ATF FFL Ez Check Site.
  3. They should print the screen they get.
  4. They can then legally ship the gun to the receiver, but only at the address verified at the Ez Check Site.
  5. The buyer will then go to the receiver's place of business, fill out the forms and pass the background check.
UPDATE:  In May of 2012, the ATF put these two items in their new list of top ten frequently asked questions:

2. May I lawfully transfer a firearm to a friend who resides in a different State?

Under Federal law, an unlicensed individual is prohibited from transferring a firearm to an
individual who does not reside in the State where the transferee resides. Generally, for a person
to lawfully transfer a firearm to an unlicensed person who resides out of State, the firearm must
be shipped to a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) within the recipientís State of residence. He or
she may then receive the firearm from the FFL upon completion of an ATF Form 4473 and a
NICS background check. More information can be obtained on the ATF website at
and The GCA provides an exception
from this prohibition for temporary loans or rentals of firearms for lawful sporting purposes.
Thus, for example, a friend visiting you may borrow a firearm from you to go hunting. Another
exception is provided for transfers of firearms to nonresidents to carry out a lawful bequest or
acquisition by intestate succession. This exception would authorize the transfer of a firearm to a
nonresident who inherits a firearm under the will of a decedent. See 18 U.S.C. 922(a)(5).

7. May I lawfully ship a firearm directly to an out-of-State licensee, or must I have a licensee in my State ship it to him? May the licensee return the firearm to me, even if the shipment is across State lines?

Any person may ship firearms directly to a licensee in any State, with no requirement for another licensee to ship the firearm. However, handguns are not mailable through the United States Postal Service and must be shipped via common or contract carrier (18 U.S.C. §§ 1715). Firearms shipped to FFLs for repair or any other lawful purpose may be returned to the person from whom received without transferring the firearm through an FFL in the recipientís State of residence. FFLs may also return a replacement firearm of thsame kind and type to the person from whom received. 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(2)(A).

How Can I Buy a Gun From Another State?

This is looking at the flip side of the previous question:

(B3) May an unlicensed person obtain a firearm from an out-of-State
source if he arranges to obtain the firearm through a licensed dealer in his own State?

A person not licensed under the GCA and not prohibited from acquiring
firearms may order a firearm from an out-of-State source and obtain the
firearm if an arrangement is made with a licensed dealer in the
purchaser's  State of residence for the purchaser to obtain the firearm
from the dealer.

[18 U.S.C 922(a)(3) and (5), 922(b)(3), 27 CFR 178.29]

Again, only one dealer is needed.  Also note that you don't have to have the dealer "buy" the firearm for you, you can make all the financial and sales arraignments yourself, tell the seller who will be handling the transfer for you.  Only the transfer must be performed by the FFL holder.

On the same subject, an (apparently?) little known fact.  "I'm in another state of which I'm not a resident -- I can't buy a gun, can I?"  Yes you can:

(B2) From whom may an unlicensed person acquire a firearm under the

A person may only buy a firearm within his own State except that he may buy a rifle or shotgun, in person, at a  licensee's premises in any State, provided the sale complies with State laws applicable in the State of sale and  the State where the purchaser resides.

[18 U.S.C 922(a)(3) and (5), 922(b)(3), 27 CFR 178.29]

So, you can buy a shotgun or rifle in any state, it just has to be in person (and legal in that state and yours).

(Did you know an individual can buy a shotgun at a gun show in another state, but a licensed dealer cannot?)

Can You Ship That Gun to That FFL Holder in Another State?
To Anyone in Your State?
(B8) May a nonlicensee ship a firearm through the mail?

A nonlicensee may mail a shotgun or rifle to a resident of his own
State or to a licensee in any State. Handguns are not mailable. A common
or contract carrier must be used to ship a handgun. A nonlicensee may
not transfer a handgun to a non licensed resident of another State.

The Postal Service recommends that longguns be sent by registered
mail and that no marking of any kind which would indicate the nature of
the contents be placed on the outside of any parcel containing firearms.

A carrier must be notified that the shipment contains a firearm.

In addition, Federal law prohibits common or contract carriers from
requiring or causing any label to be placed on any package indicating
that it contains a firearm.

[18 U.S.C. 922(a)(2)(A) and 922(e), 27 CFR 178.31]

Two important items here.  One, if someone in your state wants to buy your shotgun, you can just mail it to them.  No paperwork, no FFL holders, no nothing.  It might be a good CYA move to use an FFL holder for any transfer, but it is not required.

To ship to a different state, the recipient must be an FFL holder (as previously noted).

You can mail a rifle or shotgun, but not a handgun.  (BTW, a FFL holder can mail a handgun to another FFL Holder).  You can send anything you want via UPS, etc.  Say to UPS "It is being returned for repair" and they will go along.  There is a common belief that an individual can ship only if being sent for repair and return back to them, but that is fiction.

Back to Firearms Page

Can I Mail It?

Long guns, yes.  Handguns, no.  (*unless you are an FFL Holder):

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