Is It Legal To Sell Guns Privately?

Updated January 8, 2024
10 min read
Is It Legal To Sell Guns Privately?


Dealing with the legalities of selling guns can be complex and continuously evolving. An individual without a firearms selling license is permitted to sell them only if trading firearms isn't their primary business activity. While private gun sales are lawful in certain states, strict conditions often apply.

This article covers the circumstances under which is it legal to sell a gun privately and when one is required to be a licensed firearm dealer.

What Are the Laws for Selling a Gun Privately?

Under federal law, guns can be privately sold without a license if the seller does not sell firearms for a living. This may evoke a question — is it legal to trade guns? If an individual sells or trades firearms occasionally or part-time, they must be licensed as a federally licensed firearms dealer. The requirements for private gun sales and trades vary widely from state to state, so understanding your state's law is vital to knowing how to sell gun legally.

What Are Private Sellers of Firearms Required To Do?

A private seller is not required by federal law to conduct a background check on the purchaser or to keep records of the firearm private sale. However, state laws may differ. Some states do require background checks to be run, even for a private sale. It is important to know the laws of your state before engaging in a private firearm sale.

Further, private sellers should not sell guns of any type to someone who is not over the age of eighteen or to anyone that the seller knows is legally barred from owning a firearm. If you have reasonable cause to suspect a person is prohibited from possessing a firearm, you should not make the sale. Some states have a seven-day waiting period between the purchase of a gun and its transfer to the buyer. You should know whether your state has such a waiting period. 

When selling firearms privately, it is wise to take the following steps:

  • Understand and follow the laws of your jurisdiction.

  • Check the purchaser's identification and ensure they meet the minimum age requirement of your state.

  • Ask the purchaser if there is any reason they can not or should not own a gun.

  • If your state requires a background check, ensure you conduct the background check properly.

  • If your state has a waiting period before transferring a firearm, ensure you comply with the required time period.

  • To create and sign the gun bill of sale, which should include the name of the seller and buyer, the date of the transaction, and the serial number.

Download and print out our bill of sale form to use it safely when privately selling a firearm.

Am I Required To Conduct a Background Check on the Purchaser?

While federal law does not require a background check for a private gun sale, several states do require it. Is it illegal to sell a gun without understanding the specific legislation in your state? It could be, as more states enact stricter gun laws each year. Therefore, it is critical that you know the laws in your state before you engage in the sale of a gun or ammunition as a non-dealer.

What If I Am Only Selling a Handgun?

Some states only require a private firearms sale background check for handguns, but not for shotguns and rifles. Some states that make the distinction between background checks for handguns versus other firearms include, but may not be limited to:

  • Pennsylvania;

  • New Jersey;

  • Hawaii;

  • Maryland; and

  • Florida.

Am I Required To Make Sure the Purchaser Has a Permit?

Whether you're wondering can you sell guns in your particular state or not, it's important to note that the obligation of the seller to ensure that the purchaser has a permit largely depends on the states in which both parties reside.

Some states only permit private firearms sales to individuals who have a state permit. In those states, it is essential that when you decide to sell guns, you establish proof that the purchaser has a valid state license or permit for possessing a firearm. 

Before engaging in such a transaction, ensure you know and understand your state's gun laws thoroughly. If you're uncertain, consider seeking legal advice. Go to Lawrina Match to find a law firm near you and schedule an appointment to discuss your questions.

What Are Some Restrictions on Gun Possession?

Depending on your jurisdiction, there may be numerous restrictions on the possession of firearms. Some common restrictions include:

  • The age of the person purchasing a firearm;

  • The type of firearm being purchased;

  • The purchaser's background, including any legal issues, such as felony convictions or other legal restrictions;

  • Whether the person purchasing has a valid permit or license if required; and

  • Locations, such as restrictions on possessing a gun on school property, a church, a workplace, etc.

How Do Gun Laws Differ From State To State?

The answer to the question discussed above — are private gun sales legal? — depends on the state in which a person wants to sell firearms. Gun laws vary significantly from state to state.

Some states, such as California, have restrictive gun laws, while others, such as Texas, have much more lenient gun laws. Because the United States Constitution protects its citizens' right to bear arms, there are fewer federal laws restricting firearm possession than state laws. Most gun laws are state laws rather than federal laws. 

The states have varying degrees of restrictions on issues such as the sale of firearms from a private buyer and laws concerning gun ownership and the carrying of a gun in different public places. You must understand how the laws of your state regulate the selling of firearms by a private individual. 

Do I Need To Talk To a Criminal Law Lawyer?

It is always wise to talk to an experienced attorney when you want to know the answer to the question, can you sell a gun legally? The issues surrounding the sale, ownership, possession, and carrying of firearms are complex.

Additionally, violating a state gun law can be devastating. There are various laws that govern firearms at the federal and state levels, so it is important that you are aware of how they affect you. Before making a sale or purchase of a firearm privately, you should absolutely speak to a criminal law attorney to ensure that you abide by all applicable laws. You must also know whether it is necessary to register your gun and how to register a gun bought from a private seller.


The legality of selling guns privately depends heavily on the specific laws in your state. While federal law allows private sales without a license, assuming it's not your primary business activity, many states have additional and varying regulations. These can encompass conducting background checks, a requirement of a purchaser's permit, potential waiting periods, and age restrictions. It's essential to be fully informed of your local laws to avoid penalties for non-compliance.

Additionally, documenting the sale and ensuring the purchaser meets all requirements is a good practice. Engaging a criminal law lawyer for queries or uncertainties related to private firearm sales is advisable. Not only can they help navigate through the complexities of gun laws, but they can provide crucial guidance to guarantee that you remain in full legal compliance.

Article by
Alina Kalyna

Alina Kalyna is the Content Specialist at Lawrina. With her experience in content creation, Alina is adept at producing comprehensive and engaging content across various platforms. Her role at Lawrina involves generating high-quality content for the blog, guides, and other materials.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I sell my guns legally?

It depends on the laws of your state. Some states have few restrictions and allow you to sell your guns to a willing buyer who has no restrictions. Other states have extensive gun laws that would prohibit the sale of any firearm without a license. For this reason, it is critically important that you seek the advice and guidance of a good criminal law attorney in your jurisdiction before engaging in a firearms transaction to know how to legally sell a gun privately. 

Is it legal to buy a gun from someone?

Whether or not it is legal to buy a gun from someone depends on your specific circumstances and your state's laws. In all states, a buyer must be at least 18 years old and have no legal restrictions from possessing a firearm. You should consult with a criminal law attorney in your area to ensure that you meet all the legal requirements to purchase a gun and that you purchase from a person legally permitted to sell a firearm.

Why do I need to use a bill of sale when selling a firearm?

There are many reasons why using a bill of sale is essential for a gun sale. One of the most important reasons is to prove that you no longer own the gun in the event it is later used in the commission of a crime. With a valid bill of sale document, you can prove that you transferred ownership of the gun to another person on a specific date.