Can I Legally Buy a Gun for Someone Else?

Can I Legally Buy a Gun for Someone Else?

Answering Your Questions About Buying a Gun For Someone Else

I often encounter questions about the legalities surrounding gun ownership and purchasing. One question frequently arises: “Can I Legally Buy a Gun for Someone Else?”. Typically this is a very simple question; the answer is a “no” in most cases. That said, I tend to get many follow-up questions and figured I do a quick blog for the folks with those questions.

In this blog post, I will delve into the intricacies of this topic, exploring the laws and regulations that govern firearms transfers and explaining the implications for individuals considering such actions.

Understanding the Basics of Firearm Transfers

firearms transfers

When buying a firearm, the process typically involves completing a background check and the necessary paperwork. However, these requirements are specific to the individual purchasing the gun, the buyer. The laws regarding purchasing a firearm for someone else, known as a straw purchase, are quite different.

The Legalities of Straw Purchases

I was going to write a great section on this when I ran across a post by Tom Grieve on the USCCA website rather than try to improve on what he said so well. Here it is;

A straw purchase is any purchase in which a second person agrees to acquire a firearm for someone else. This is not the same thing as purchasing a firearm as a genuine, bonafide gift. It is legal to purchase a firearm as a gift for another, since you are actually buying the firearm for yourself to gift to another. However, it is illegal to purchase a firearm posing as the real buyer for someone else. If you do, it is called a straw purchase because the person posing as the buyer likely has a clean background and is doing so on behalf of another, often because that second person may not pass the background check.

A purchaser of a firearm from an FFL who lies on the Federal Form 4473 about the identity of the ultimate possessor of the gun can be charged with making false statements on a Federal Firearms Transaction Record. Lying on this form is a felony and can be punished by up to five years in prison in addition to fines, even if the transaction is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

Tom Grieve in a post on the USCCA website

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has issued guidelines to clarify the legal aspects of straw purchases. According to these guidelines, buying a firearm on behalf of someone else is illegal if you know or have reason to believe that the person is prohibited from owning or possessing a gun. It is essential to understand that ignorance of the buyer’s prohibited status is not a valid defense if the transaction is found to be a straw purchase.

Exceptions to the Rule

While straw purchases are generally illegal, certain exceptions allow for the legal transfer of firearms to someone else. Let’s explore these exceptions in more detail:

Gifting a firearm
  • Gifting Firearms: One lawful way to transfer a firearm to another person is through gifting. Federal law allows transferring firearms between immediate family members, such as spouses, parents, children, and siblings in the same state. However, ensuring that the recipient is legally eligible to possess a firearm is crucial. Consider also checking your local state laws. It is still recommended to have an FFL Dealer do a legal transfer.
  • Inheritance: When someone passes away, their firearms can be legally inherited by their lawful heirs. Similar to gifting, immediate family members can inherit firearms without undergoing a background check or needing an FFL. It’s worth noting that the legality of inheriting firearms can vary between states, so it’s advisable to familiarize yourself with local regulations. Further, this does not include NFA items.
  • Transfers between FFLs: Federal firearms licensees (FFLs) are authorized dealers who can legally transfer firearms between themselves. This means that if the intended recipient of the firearm resides in a different state, the purchase can be made through an FFL in the recipient’s state of residence. This process involves complying with the regulations of both states and conducting a background check on the recipient.
  • Transfers for sporting or official duties: Certain exceptions exist for firearms transfers within specific contexts. For instance, if a firearm is being transferred for sporting purposes, such as a temporary loan at a shooting range, or for official duties, such as law enforcement officers borrowing firearms during an operation, these transfers are generally allowed. However, it is essential to understand that these exceptions have strict limitations and may vary depending on local laws.

The Importance of Due Diligence

Friends looking at tguns in gun shop

Regardless of the exceptions mentioned above, it is vital to exercise caution and conduct due diligence when transferring firearms. To ensure compliance with the law, consider the following guidelines:

Before transferring a firearm, confirm that the recipient is legally eligible to possess the firearm. This includes verifying their age, criminal background, and any other

disqualifying factors that may apply. It is crucial to prioritize safety and legality in all firearm transactions.

Document The Transfer

Ideally, having a licensed FFL Dealer do your private party transfer ensures the transaction is done professionally. Regardless, to protect yourself and ensure a transparent transfer process, it is advisable to document the transfer of firearms. This documentation should include a written agreement between the buyer and the recipient, clearly stating the details of the transfer, including the make, model, and serial number of the firearm. Keeping a transaction record can help establish that the transfer was conducted legally and in good faith.

Consult Local and State Laws

Firearm laws can vary significantly from state to state, and you must familiarize yourself with the specific regulations in your jurisdiction. Some states may have additional requirements or restrictions on firearm transfers, such as waiting periods or mandatory background checks for private sales. You can ensure a lawful transfer process by staying informed and compliant with local laws.

State gun laws

If you are unsure about the legality of a firearm transfer or have any concerns, seek legal advice. Consulting with an attorney specializing in firearms law can provide the necessary guidance.. It is better to be cautious and informed than to inadvertently violate the law.


In conclusion, buying a gun for someone else is generally illegal unless you fall within the specific exceptions. Engaging in a straw purchase, where the buyer knowingly purchases a firearm for someone prohibited from owning one, is a federal crime with severe penalties. However, certain situations, such as gifting, inheritance, transfers between FFLs, and transfers for sporting or official duties, may legally allow for the transfer of firearms to someone else.

Understanding and abiding by the laws and regulations surrounding firearms transfers is crucial. Conducting thorough background checks, documenting transfers, and seeking legal advice when necessary are important steps.. By prioritizing safety and legality, we can help promote responsible gun ownership and prevent firearms from ending up in the wrong hands.

Remember, this blog post is intended to provide general information and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have specific questions or concerns about buying a gun for someone else, consult a qualified attorney or legal expert familiar with firearms laws in your jurisdiction. Stay informed, stay responsible, and prioritize the safety and well-being of yourself and others.

Can You Legally Buy a Gun for Someone Else FAQs

What is a straw purchase?

A straw purchase is when someone buys a firearm for someone without a legal exception. It is considered illegal under the Gun Control Act of 1968.

Is it ever legal to buy a gun for someone else?

Yes, some exceptions allow for legal firearm transfers to someone else. These exceptions include gifting firearms to immediate family members, transferring firearms through inheritance, transfers between federal firearms licensees (FFLs), and transfers for sporting or official duties.

Can I gift a firearm to a friend or non-family member?

Gifting firearms is generally allowed between immediate family members, such as spouses, parents, children, and siblings. Depending on local laws, this can be done without needing a background check or an FFL. However, gifting to a friend or non-family member may require going through an FFL and complying with relevant state and federal laws.

Can I buy a gun and transfer it to someone else through an FFL?

Yes, transfers between FFLs are generally allowed. Suppose the intended recipient resides in a different state. In that case, the purchase can be made through an FFL in the recipient’s state of residence, following the regulations of both states and conducting a background check on the recipient.

What if I am unsure about the legality of a firearm transfer?

If you have any doubts or concerns regarding the legality of a firearm transfer, it is advisable to seek legal advice. Consulting with an attorney specializing in firearms law can provide you with accurate guidance based on your specific situation and local laws.


  • Michael Hodgdon

    A firearm, shooting, outdoor, and hunting enthusiast for over 35 years. Thank you all for the suggestions on topics you would like to see; we'll keep posting as you keep sending them in. Please comment; we will try to answer all comments quickly.

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