What Do I Need to Buy a Gun?

What Do I Need to Buy a Gun?

What you need to purchase a gun for the first time varies from state to state, and sometimes from municipality to municipality. In some states (see below), it is perfectly legal for one otherwise non-prohibited, non-felon resident of the appropriate age (18 years old for rifles and shotguns, 21 years old for handguns) to purchase a standard firearm from another private resident of the same state without going through a dealer or undergoing a background check.

Man grabbing 9mm handgun from holster

In other states, private sales of long arms (rifles and shotguns) are permitted, but all handgun sales must involve an FFL (a Federal Firearms License holder, or in other words, a licensed gun dealer) and a background check. In more restrictive states (again, see below for more details), all firearms sales must take place via an FFL, you may need to obtain additional permits or licenses from the state before purchasing, there may be an extended waiting period, and some types of firearms and/or magazines are completely prohibited.

PLEASE NOTE: We have made a reasonable attempt to provide accurate information at the time of this writing, but we are not lawyers or lawmakers, and firearms laws can change frequently. It is your responsibility to always check and confirm with your local laws. Neither Liberty Safe nor the author assumes any liability for the use or misuse of this information.

Federal firearms purchase requirements

In every US state, when you purchase a gun from an FFL (like a gun store or other licensed firearms dealer) you will need to provide a valid photo ID such as your driver’s license, government-issued identification card, passport, or military ID, and typically another form of ID or evidence confirming your current address, such as a CCW (carrying concealed weapon) permit or a utility bill. You will need to fill out and sign an ATF Form 4473 Firearms Transaction Form that attests you are legally eligible to purchase a gun. The gun dealer will review your information and then run it through the federal FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) database for a criminal background check. There may also be state-level checks performed where required. Important note: As of April 1, 2023, the ATF has implemented revisions and there is a new ATF Form 4473. Click to learn more information about 2023 revisions to ATF Form 4473.


ATF Form 4473 — Firearms Transaction Form


By federal law, 18-year-olds may purchase shotguns and rifles, and 21-year-olds may purchase handguns, shotguns, and rifles. However, many states, cities, and municipalities have passed their own, more restrictive firearms laws, and you are subject to all applicable local, state, and federal laws when purchasing a firearm. One of the best resources is often a local gun shop or shooting range. Ask a gun dealer in your area what is needed in your location and they nearly always have a very good idea and can help you stay in compliance with the laws. State government websites also often have FAQs or copies of relevant firearms laws.

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT BUYING OR SELLING FIREARMS ACROSS STATE LINES:

If you want to purchase a firearm (or sell a firearm, or give a firearm, or be gifted a firearm) across state lines, the transaction absolutely must go via an FFL dealer. Private sales between residents of different states are not exempt, even if private party sales between in-state residents are legal in both states. Gifts are not exempt. If your uncle who lives in another state wants to give you your grandpa’s old hunting rifle, for example, that transaction must be handled by an FFL in the state in which you reside. Your uncle can deliver the firearm to your local FFL dealer, who will process the transfer and any additional state paperwork. Even if your buddy lives 3 miles across the border in another state, you can’t sell or buy a firearm from him without that transaction being handled by an FFL in the state in which the receiving party resides. Violation is a felony, and the ATF has no sense of humor. Don’t do it.


Permitless Carry States

Last Updated: April 4, 2023


Gun Laws Vary Between States

In some states, you need a specific permit to purchase a handgun (see below). In others, you don’t. There may be an extensive waiting period that’s longer than the (up to) 3 days it might take to get your criminal background check results. Other states have no required waiting period. Refer to our list below or ask your local gun shop.

If you want to open-carry or conceal-carry your new gun, you may need to seek an additional permit. Where you can carry your gun in public might have limitations.

You might also be interested in reading about the Biggest Proposed and Implemented Changes to 2022 Gun Laws.

Based on our information as of the date of publication, the following states have no prohibition or licensing requirements for private firearms sales between individual residents (again, please check your local laws):

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Next, let’s take a closer look at specific state laws regarding what is needed for you to purchase a gun in the more restrictive states. Note that we will largely be restricting our discussion to firearms purchase requirements, as a comprehensive list of banned firearms/features, magazine capacity restrictions, permitted concealed or open carry laws, etc. would not be practical or possible.

Buying a Gun in California

California State Flag

In California, all firearms purchases and transfers, including private party transactions and sales at gun shows, must be made through a California licensed dealer under the Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS) process. California law imposes a 10-day waiting period before a firearm can be released to a purchaser or transferee. You must be 21 years old to purchase any firearm. Firearm purchases require a Firearm Safety Certificate and proof of residency unless the individual purchasing the firearm is active-duty military, honorably retired military, or a peace officer. Military reservists must provide proof of residency in order to purchase a firearm.

The Firearms Safety Certificate (FSC) can be purchased and completed at firearms dealers with California Department of Justice (DOJ) instructors (often located at gun shops) on the same day. To obtain an FSC, you must be 18 years or older and pass a written test with a grade of 75% or higher. The FSC is valid for five years. Additionally, before you can take possession of a purchased firearm, you are required to perform a safe-handling demonstration with that firearm in the presence of a DOJ-certified instructor. See California’s Firearms laws FAQ for more info, and exceptions to the above for transfers between spouses, or parents/grandparents to adult children.


California’s Firearms Laws FAQ's

  1. Where do I find laws regarding the possession of firearms?
    • The laws governing control of deadly weapons, including firearms, are found in Part 6 of the Penal Code, beginning at section 16000. These laws define the various types of dangerous weapons as well as restrictions and crimes related to their manufacture, sale, possession, and transportation. Of particular note, the laws relating to firearms are found in Title 4 of Part 6, beginning at section 23500, and the applicable definitions and general rules are found in Title 1 of Part 6, beginning at section 16000. Laws that pertain to both firearms and other types of deadly weapons are found in Title 2 of Part 6, beginning at section 17500.

  2. I'm not sure whether I have a California record that would prevent me from owning/possessing a firearm. Is there a way to find out before I attempt to purchase one?
    • Yes, you may request a California Personal Firearms Eligibility Check (PFEC) by submitting a(PFEC) application, pdf to the Department of Justice. For more information about how to request a PFEC, please refer to the PFEC FAQ.Applications are also available through your local firearms dealer. Please be advised that a PFEC does not include a Federal NICS check. Therefore, you may still be prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm even though you receive a PFEC response indicating you are eligible to own or possess firearms.

    (Pen. Code, § 30105)

  3. What is the process for purchasing a firearm in California?
    • Generally, all firearms purchases and transfers, including private party transactions and sales at gun shows, must be made through a California licensed dealer under the Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS) process. California law imposes a 10-day waiting period before a firearm can be released to a purchaser or transferee.

      Pursuant to Penal Code section 27510, a California licensed dealer is prohibited from selling, supplying, delivering, transferring or giving possession or control ofany firearmto any person under the age of 21 years, except as specifically exempted. The exemptions apply to the sale, supplying, delivery, transfer, or giving possession or control of a firearm that is not a handgun to a person 18 years of age or older.

      The Exemptions Include:

      1. A person 18 years of age or older who possess a valid, unexpired hunting license issued by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
      2. An active peace officer, as described in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2, who is authorized to carry a firearm in the course and scope of his or her employment.
      3. An active federal officer or law enforcement agent who is authorized to carry a firearm in the course and scope of his or her employment as a reserve peace officer.
      4. A person who provides proper identification of his or her active membership in the United States Armed Forces, the National Guard, the Air National Guard, or active reserve components of the United States.
      5. A Person who provides proper identification that he or she is an honorably discharged member of the United States Armed Forces, the National Guard, the Air National Guard, or active reserve components of the United States.

      As part of the DROS process, the purchaser must present "clear evidence of identity and age" which is defined as a valid, non-expired California Driver's License or Identification Card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). A military identification accompanied by permanent duty station orders indicating a posting in California is also acceptable.

      If the purchaser is not a U.S. Citizen, then he or she is required to demonstrate that he or she is legally within the United States by providing the firearms dealer with documentation containing his/her Alien Registration Number or I-94 Number.

      Purchasers of handguns must provide proof of California residency, such as a utility bill, residential lease, property deed, or government-issued identification (other than a driver license or other DMV-issued identification), and either (1) possess a Handgun Safety Certificate (HSC) plus successfully complete a safety demonstration with their recently purchased handgun or (2) qualify for an HSC exemption.

      (Pen. Code, § § 26800-26850.)

  4. How can I obtain a Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) license?
    • Contact your county sheriff's office or, if you are a resident of an incorporated city, your city police department, for information on obtaining a CCW license. They can answer your questions and provide you with a copy of their CCW license policy statement and the CCW license application. If you live within an incorporated city, you may apply to the police department or the county sheriff's office for a CCW license. However, only residents of a city may apply to a city police department for a CCW license.

      (Pen. Code, §§ 26150-26225.)

  5. Can I give a firearm to my adult child? Can he/she give it back to me later?
    • Yes, as long as the adult child receiving the firearm is not in a prohibited category, pdfand the firearm is legal to possess (e.g., not an assault weapon). The transfer of a firearm between a parent and child or a grandparent and grandchild is exempt from the dealer transfer requirement. The exemption does not apply to step-children/step-parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, or cousins.

      If the firearm is a handgun, the recipient must obtain a Handgun Safety Certificate prior to taking possession and must also submit a Report of Operation of Law or Intra-Familial Handgun Transaction and $19 fee to the DOJ within 30 days after taking possession.

      The same rules apply to the return of the firearm at a later date.

      (Pen. Code, §§ 27870-27875, 30910-30915.)

  6. Can I give a firearm to my spouse or registered domestic partner? Can he/she give it back to me later?
    • Yes, as long as the person receiving the firearm is not in a prohibited category, pdf and the firearm is legal to possess (e.g., not an assault weapon), the transfer of a firearm between a husband and wife or registered domestic partners is exempt from the requirement to use a licensed dealer to perform the transfer.

      If the firearm is a handgun, the recipient must obtain a Handgun Safety Certificate prior to taking possession and must also submit a Report of Operation of Law or Intra-Familial Handgun Transaction, pdf and $19 fee to the DOJ within 30 days after taking possession.

      The same rules apply to the return of the firearm at a later date.

      (Pen. Code, §§ 16990, subd. (g), 27915, 27920, subd. (b).)

  7. Is there a limit on the number of handguns that I can own or purchase?
    • There is no limit to the number of handguns that you may own but you are generally limited to purchasing no more than one handgun in any 30-day period. Handgun transactions related to law enforcement, private party transfers, returns to owners, and certain other specific circumstances are exempt from the one-handgun-per-30-day purchase limit.

      (Pen. Code,§ 27535.)

  8. Does California have a law regarding the storage of firearms?
    • Yes. If you keep any loaded firearm within any premise which is under your custody or control and know or reasonably should know that a child (person under 18 years of age) is likely to gain access to the firearm, you may be guilty of a felony if a child gains access to that firearm and thereby causes death or injury to any person including themselves unless the firearm was in a secure locked container or locked with a locking device that rendered it inoperable.

      (Pen. Code,§§ 25100, 25200.)

  9. Are large-capacity magazines legal?
    • Generally, it is illegal to buy, manufacture, import, keep for sale, expose for sale, give or lend any large-capacity magazine (able to accept more than 10 rounds) in California. However, continued possession of large-capacity magazines that you owned in California prior to January 1, 2000, is legal provided you are not otherwise prohibited. A person prohibited from possessing firearms is also prohibited from owning or possessing any magazines or ammunition.

      (Pen. Code, §§16150, subd. (b), 30305, 32310.)

  10. May I carry a concealed firearm in California?
    • Generally you may not carry a concealed firearm on your person in public unless you have a valid Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) license. CCW licenses are issued only by a California county sheriff to residents of the county, or the chief of police to residents of the city. California law does not honor or recognize CCW licenses issued outside this state.

      (Pen. Code, §§ 25400-25700, 26150-26225.)

  11. Who is prohibited from owning or possessing firearms?
    • Any person who has a conviction for any misdemeanor listed in Penal Code section 29805 or for any felony, or is addicted to the use of any narcotic drug, or has been held involuntarily as a danger to self or others pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 8103 is prohibited from buying, owning, or possessing firearms or ammunition. There are also prohibitions based on mental conditions, domestic restraining/protective orders, conditions of probation, and specific offenses committed as a juvenile. A list of prohibited categoriesis available on the Bureau of Firearms website.

      (Pen. Code, §§ 29800, 29805, 29815, 29820, 29825, 29855, 29860, 29900, 29905, 30305; Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 8100-8103; 18 U.S.C. § 922, subd. (g), 27 C.F.R. § 478.22.)

  12. I live in another state and have a permit to carry a concealed handgun that was issued in my home state. Does my permit allow me to carry a concealed handgun while in California?
    • No. CCW licenses/permits issued in other states are not valid in California.

      (Pen. Code, §§ 25400-25700.)

  13. How much is the state fee when purchasing a firearm?
    • • The total state fee is $37.19. The DROS fee is $31.19 which covers the costs of the background checks and transfer registry. There is also a $1.00 Firearms Safety Act Fee, and a $5.00 Safety and Enforcement Fee. In the event of a private party transfer (PPT), the firearms dealer may charge an additional fee of up to $10.00 per firearm.

      If the transaction is not a PPT the dealer may impose other charges as long as this amount is not misrepresented as a state fee. When settling on the purchase price of a firearm, you should ask the dealer to disclose all applicable fees.

      (Pen. Code, §§ 23690, 28055, 28230, 28300, 28233.)

  14. Can I sell a gun directly to another person (i.e. non-dealer)?
    • • Generally, no. This type of transaction is referred to as a “private party transfer” and must be conducted with both parties, in person, through a fully licensed California firearms dealer. Failure to do so is a violation of California law. The purchaser (and seller if the purchaser is denied), must meet the normal firearm purchase and delivery requirements.

      Firearms dealers are required to process private party transfers upon request but may charge a fee not to exceed $10.00 per firearm for conducting the transfer. For example:

      1. For private party transfers, the total allowable fees, including the DROS, safety, and dealer transfer fees, are not to exceed $47.19 ($37.19 DROS fee and $10.00 PPT fee), and $10.00 for each subsequent firearm.

      "Antique firearms," as defined in section 921(a)(16) of Title 18 of the United States Code, and curio or relic rifles/shotguns, defined in section 478.11 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations that are over 50 years old, are exempt from this requirement. For additional exceptions, refer to Penal Code sections 27850 through 27966.

      (Pen. Code, § 27545, 28055)

  15. My firearm purchase was denied by the DOJ and the dealer won't tell me why. How do I find out the reason for the denial?
    • If your DROS application is denied, you will receive a letter from the DOJ Bureau of Firearms within two weeks. The letter will explain the reason and instructions on how to get a copy of the record that resulted in the denial of your application. There will also be instructions on how to dispute and correct information in your record you believe is wrong.

  16. Can I use a temporary license as identification for firearm purchases?
    • No. Neither temporary driver's licenses nor temporary identification cards are acceptable forms of proof of identity and age.

      (Pen. Code, § 16400.)

  17. Can my driving record prevent me from purchasing a firearm?
    • Yes. If you have a conviction for a firearms-prohibiting offense, such as felony drunk driving, your driving record would affect your ability to purchase a firearm. Furthermore, your driver's license must be valid. A revocation, outstanding ticket, or fine may cause your license to be invalid.

  18. Are there any exemptions from the waiting period?
    • Yes, but they don’t apply to the general public. For example, waiting period exemptions include the following:
      1. Firearms dealers and persons who have obtained special weapons permits issued by the DOJ are exempt from the waiting period.
      2. Persons with a Curio & Relic collector's licenses issued by the ATF and who have a valid Certificate of Eligibility issued by the DOJ are exempt from the waiting period when purchasing curio and relic firearms.
      3. Peace officers with authorization from the head of his/her agency.

      (Pen. Code, §§ 26950-26970, 27650-27670.)

  19. Is the dealer required to give me a copy of the DROS information when I purchase a firearm?
    • Yes, upon request, the dealer must provide you with a copy of the DROS application. In private party transactions, the seller is also entitled to a copy of the DROS application upon request.

      (Pen. Code, § 28210.)

  20. Is there a maximum time limit for me to pick up a firearm after the dealer submits the DROS information?
    • Yes. If you do not take physical possession of the firearm within 30 days of submission of the DROS information, the dealer must cancel the sale. If you still want to take possession of the firearm, you must repeat the entire DROS process, including payment of DROS fees and new 10-day waiting period.

      (Pen. Code, § 26835; 27 C.F.R. § 478.124, subd. (c).)

  21. What is the Firearm Safety Certificate (FSC) requirement?
    • Prior to the submission of DROS information for a fiream, the purchaser must present an FSC or provide the dealer with proof of exemption pursuant to California Penal Code section 31700.

      (Pen. Code, §§ 26840, 31700.)

  22. How do I get an FSC?
    • To obtain an FSC you must score at least 75% (23 correct answers out of 30 questions) on the FSC Test covering firearm safety and basic firearms laws. The true/false and multiple choice test is administered by Instructors certified by the Department of Justice who are generally located at firearms dealerships.

      (Pen. code, §§ 31610-31670.)

  23. If I lose my FSC, can I get it replaced?
    • Yes. A replacement FSC is available only through the DOJ Certified Instructor who issued your FSC. The FSC replacement cost is $5. The replacement FSC will reflect the same expiration date as your original FSC.

      (Pen. code, § 31660.)

  24. I am a collector of firearms and I want to purchase a pair of consecutively-numbered pistols. Is there an exemption from the one-handgun-per-30-day restriction for curio or relic collectors?
    • Yes, but you must have a valid federal Curio & Relic Collector's license and a valid Certificate of Eligibility.

      (Pen. Code, § 27535.)

  25. I am moving into California and I own several firearms. What are the new-resident registration requirements?
    • You are considered a personal firearm importer as defined by California law. You may bring all of your California-legal firearms with you, but you must report them all to the California Department of Justice within 60 days as required utilizing the New Resident Firearm Ownership Report (BOF 4010A), pdf. You may not bring ammunition feeding devices with a capacity greater than ten rounds, machine guns, or assault weapons into California.

      (Pen. code, §§ 17000, subd. (a), 27560.)

  26. How do I know if my firearms need to be registered?
    • There is no firearm registration requirement in California except for assault weapon owners and personal handgun importers. However, you must submit a Firearm Ownership Report (FOR) Application (BOF 4542A), pdf to the California Department of Justice (the Department) for any firearm you are seeking return where no other record is on file with the Department identifying you as the most recent owner/possessor. Having a FOR application on file with the Department will authorize the return of your firearm in the event it is subsequently lost or stolen. With very few and specific exceptions, all firearm transactions must be conducted through a firearms dealer. If you purchased a handgun from a properly licensed California firearms dealer and underwent a background check via the state’s Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS) process, a record of your handgun purchase is already on file with the Department. Therefore, it should not be necessary for you to submit a FOR application for handguns previously purchased in California. Unfortunately, this is not the case with regards to rifles or shotguns. Prior to January 1, 2014, the Department was prohibited by law from retaining DROS long gun information.

  27. Can I get a list of the firearms for which I am listed as the purchaser, transferee, or owner?
    • Yes. To obtain a list of firearms listed in your name, complete and submit an Automated Firearms System Records Request, pdf to the Automated Firearms Unit, P.O. Box 820200, Sacramento, CA 94203-0200. The request must be signed, notarized, and include a photocopy of your photo ID card (i.e., driver's license or DMV ID).

  28. How is the waiting period for firearm purchases calculated?
    • The waiting period for the purchase or transfer of a firearm is ten (10) 24-hour periods from the date and time the DROS information is submitted to the DOJ.

  29. I’ve been working in a firearms dealership for several years. My duties include showing various firearms to customers. My employer recently told me I have to get a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). Is it lawful for him to require a COE?
    • Yes. Licensed firearms dealers shall require their employees who handle, deliver, or sell firearms to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the DOJ. Upon application, a firearms eligibility check will be conducted to determine whether the applicant is eligible to lawfully possess firearms. If so, the applicant is issued a COE. A copy of the COE must be provided to the employer by the employee/applicant, and must be renewed annually, as required by the licensed dealer. For more information, please see the Firearm Dealer FAQs.

  30. Who answers questions regarding the applicability of sales tax to the DROS fee?
    • Questions regarding sales tax should be directed to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration. Their website address is www.cdtfa.ca.gov.

  31. My firearm is in the possession of a court or law enforcement agency. What do I need to do to get it back?
    • Once the court or law enforcement agency in possession of your firearm notifies you the firearm is available for return, you must submit a completed Law Enforcement Gun Release (LEGR) application, pdf with the appropriate processing fee to the California Department of Justice (the Department). The processing fee for an LEGR application is $20.00 for the first firearm and $3.00 for each additional firearm listed on the application.

      If the court or agency in possession of your firearm determines that the firearm was reported stolen, the fee for the stolen firearm will be waived. You must send documentation from the court or agency confirming the firearm was reported stolen along with the LEGR application to qualify for the fee waiver.

      Once the Department receives your LEGR application, a firearms eligibility check will be conducted to determine if you are lawfully eligible to possess firearms. DOJ will also confirm the firearm is recorded in the Department’s Automated Firearms System (AFS) as being owned by or loaned to the individual seeking its return. If you have not previously reported your firearm to the Department, you must also submit a Firearms Ownership Report (FOR) application (BOF 4542A) along with the appropriate fees to the Department. If the firearm you are seeking return is a rifle/shotgun, the prior completion of a Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS) background check does not satisfy the aforementioned firearm reporting requirement. However, if the rifle/shotgun was registered as an assault weapon or 50 BMG rifle, the reporting requirement has been satisfied.

      You will receive a notice of the results. If this notice states that you are eligible to possess firearms and the firearm is recorded to in your name, you should then take the notice to the court or law enforcement agency in possession of your firearm to claim it. The notice must be presented to the court or law enforcement agency within thirty (30) days of the date listed on the notice. Failure to do so will result in the need to submit a new application and fees and undergo another firearms eligibility background check.

  32. My firearm, ammunition and ammunition feeding devices are in the possession of a court or law enforcement agency. What do I need to do to get it back?
    • Follow the instructions for submitting an application for LEGR. Once the Department receives your LEGR application, a firearms eligibility check will be conducted to determine if you are lawfully eligible to possess firearms. If you are eligible to possess firearms, the court or law enforcement agency can release the ammunition and/or feeding devices at the same time as the firearm.
  33. My ammunition and/or ammunition feeding device are in the possession of a court or law enforcement agency. What do I need to do to get it back?
    • If you are seeking the return of ammunition and/or feeding devices ONLY, DO NOT submit a LEGR Application. Please visit the law enforcement agency or court that has custody of your property or contact the Bureau of Firearms by email at https://oag.ca.gov/firearms/contact for further instructions.

      Effective July 1, 2020, the Department will be required to perform eligibility checks on individuals who are attempting to retrieve ammunition and/or ammunition feeding devices that are in the custody of a law enforcement agency or court.

  34. I was arrested for a crime several years ago but no charges were filed against me. Can this affect my ability to purchase a firearm or to obtain a firearms license or permit?
    • An arrest on your criminal history record without any disposition information explaining the outcome of the arrest may affect your ability to purchase a firearm or to obtain a firearms license or permit. If you are applying for a license or permit involving the possession of a firearm or dangerous weapon and the Department cannot determine the outcome of the arrest, you must first correct or complete the information in your criminal history record before the Department may issue you the license or permit. If you are trying to purchase a firearm and the Department cannot ascertain the outcome of the arrest and you do not correct or complete the information on your criminal history record, the decision whether to sell you the firearm rests with the firearms dealer. For further information on how to correct or complete the information on your criminal history record, please see https://oag.ca.gov/fingerprints/security_faq#incorrect.

      (Pen. Code, §§ 851.6, 11115, subd. (b), 11116.5, 28220, subd. (f)(4).)
  35. What if my firearm/(s) is destroyed how do I report it to DOJ?
    • You must submit a No Longer In Possession (NLIP) BOF 4546 form along with providing the proof of the destroyed firearm(s):

      • Pictures of before & after the destruction of the firearm(s) with the serial number visible.
      • Copy of an insurance claim for the destroyed firearm(s) or statement from a gunsmith or a manufacturer stating that the firearm(s) was not repairable and could not be made operable.

      Other ways to destroy the firearm(s) (need to be reported on the NLIP BOF 4546 form) are:

      • Surrender it to Law Enforcement.
      • Surrender it to a gunsmith or a firearm manufacturer.

California also has a roster of approved handguns: As of January 1, 2001, no handgun may be manufactured within California, imported into California for sale, lent, given, kept for sale, or offered/exposed for sale unless that handgun model has passed firing, safety, and drop tests and is certified for sale in California by the CA Department of Justice. Private party transfers (through an FFL), curio/relic handguns, certain single-action revolvers, and pawn/consignment returns are exempt from this requirement. See the state website for more information and a list of CA-approved firearms.

Not only do you need a permit to purchase a firearm in California, but since July 1, 2019, all purchases of ammunition are required to have an ammunition purchase authorization from the California DOJ. This section requires the ammunition purchaser to submit to a background check and to have an entry in the California DOJ Automated Firearms System that matches the information presented at the time of purchase.

In California, you are required to lock your handgun in a locked container or your vehicle’s trunk when you transport it. In California, the term locked container means a secure container that is fully enclosed and locked by a padlock, key lock, combination lock, or similar locking device. This includes the trunk of a motor vehicle but does not include the utility or glove compartment.

Transporting Firearms in California

HANDGUNS

Pursuant to California Penal Code section 25610, a United States citizen over 18 years of age who is not prohibited from firearm possession, and who resides or is temporarily in California, may transport by motor vehicle any handgun provided it is unloaded and locked in the vehicle’s trunk or in a locked container. Furthermore, the handgun must be carried directly to or from any motor vehicle for any lawful purpose and, while being carried must be contained within a locked container. Pursuant to California Penal Code section 16850, the term "locked container" means a secure container that is fully enclosed and locked by a padlock, key lock, combination lock, or similar locking device. This includes the trunk of a motor vehicle, but does not include the utility or glove compartment.

SHOTGUNS AND RIFLES

Nonconcealable firearms (shotguns and rifles) are not generally covered within the provisions of California Penal Code section 25400 and therefore are not required to be transported in a locked container. However, as with any firearm, nonconcealable firearms must be unloaded while they are being transported.

REGISTERED ASSAULT WEAPONS

California Penal Code section 30945, subdivision (g) provides that registered assault weapons may be transported only between specified locations and must be unloaded and stored in a locked container when transported. Pursuant to California Penal Code section 16850, the term "locked container" means a secure container that is fully enclosed and locked by a padlock, key lock, combination lock, or similar locking device. This includes the trunk of a motor vehicle, but does not include the utility or glove compartment.

Colorado firearms purchases

Colorado State Flag

For private party transfers of firearms between Colorado residents, the seller must request that a licensed dealer (FFL) perform a background check of the buyer and must get approval of the transfer from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Transfers of antique firearms, bona-fide gifts or loans from immediate family members, and transfers to estate executors or trustees are exempt. Temporary transfers are strictly regulated.

Colorado doesn’t have a state permit requirement or separate approval process before purchasing a firearm from a dealer, so you can visit your local FFL, fill out the standard Form 4473 and get a NICS background check, and you should be good to go.

Connecticut: what do you need to buy a gun

Connecticut state flag

In Connecticut, a state-issued Certificate of Eligibility for Pistol and Revolvers, or Long Guns, or Ammunition is required to purchase handguns, long guns, or ammunition, respectively, or a State Permit to Carry Pistols and Revolvers to purchase any of the above. Applicants must complete an approved safety course and pass a NICS background check as well as a mental health records check prior to the issuance of a certificate. Certificates of Eligibility are granted on a may-issue basis (which means you are not guaranteed to get one) to qualified applicants and are valid for five years. Long guns and ammunition purchased outside of Connecticut are not subject to the long gun and ammunition eligibility requirements (even if one is a Connecticut resident) other than the two-week waiting period must be observed for long gun transfers out of state, unless one has a valid hunting license or carry permit.

Any firearm transfer, whether from a dealer or between private parties, must be accompanied by an authorization number issued by the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) Special Licensing and Firearms Unit, and a form containing personal and weapon identification (DPS-3-C) must be submitted to the DESPP and local police. This form is collected and maintained on all guns purchased from FFL dealers as well. The DPS-3-C form is not required for long gun transfers made out of state, and there is no legal requirement to register firearms purchased out of state (or lawfully obtained before April 1, 2014).

Delaware gun purchases

Delaware state flag

In Delaware you aren’t required to get a permit or permission from the state to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer, but you are not permitted to engage in a private, person-to-person firearms transfer to anyone other than family members without going through an FFL and undergoing a background check (see exception below). Private party transfers of firearms to persons other than family members must be conducted through a licensed dealer, who is required by federal law to conduct a background check and keep a record of the sale. However, a transfer to a person who possesses a valid License to Carry a Concealed Deadly Weapon is exempt from this requirement.

How do I buy a gun in Hawaii?

Hawaii state flag

The Aloha state is not very laid back when it comes to firearms laws. A state permit is required to purchase any firearm, and you must be 21 years old to acquire a permit. A person who wants to purchase a handgun or long gun from a private individual must first obtain a permit to acquire the ownership of a firearm, which requires a background check of the applicant. In addition, all firearms purchased or brought into Hawaii must be registered with the county police chief within 5 days of purchase or arrival to Hawaii. Registration is not required for black powder and pre-1899 firearms.

Illinois requirements for firearm purchases

Illinois state flag

In Illinois you must have a state issued FOID (Firearm Owner's Identification) card before purchasing or owning a firearm. After purchasing a firearm, the waiting period before the buyer can take possession is 72 hours.

For private sales between individuals, effective July 1, 2023, the transaction must be done through a gun dealer with a Federal Firearms License, who will initiate a background check.

The sale of firearms Illinois defines as assault weapons is prohibited as of January 10, 2023. Existing assault weapons are grandfathered in if registered with the state police by January 1, 2024. These restrictions are being challenged in various state and federal courts, and several state courts have issued temporary restraining orders against the law. Some local governments have banned the possession of assault weapons, prior to the preemption deadline of July 20, 2013.

Maryland gun laws for purchasing firearms

maryland state flag

In Maryland, non-prohibited persons may purchase long guns (rifles and shotguns) from a dealer without a state-issued permit, but for handguns, a state Handgun Qualification License is required, unless exempted (active duty/retired military members with identification cards, active/retired law enforcement with department credentials, FFLs). Training is required unless exempted, fingerprints are required, and background checks are required. Every handgun purchase or transaction requires a comprehensive background check. The state police maintain a permanent record of all handgun transfers.

All private transfers of state-regulated firearms (handguns or “assault weapons”) must be processed through a licensed dealer or designated law enforcement agency which must conduct a background check on the buyer. Private sales of long arms that don’t fall under Maryland’s definition of “assault weapons” appear to be permitted without involving an FFL or law enforcement.

How to buy a gun In Massachusetts

Massachusetts state flag

The Bay State is not a great place for gun owners. A state-issued Firearm Identification (FID) or License to Carry (LTC) is required before owning or purchasing any firearm. These permits/FID cards are issued by local police departments, and some (such as Boston) have required an applicant to justify the need for a firearm and have denied purchase permits/FID cards based on the police department’s view that an applicant has an insufficient justification of need. This discretionary (some would say discriminatory) issue of purchase permits/FID cards is currently being challenged in the state courts.

Although firearm registration is not specifically required by law, all transfers of firearm ownership are required to be recorded with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS), by the seller if in state, or by the buyer if out of state. The Massachusetts EOPSS also provides the option to register a firearm, although, other than obtaining a firearm from out of state (a transfer of ownership), this is not required by law.

For private purchases/transfers, the seller must verify the buyer’s FID or LTC with the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services, and all parties must conform to the above regulations.

Like most blue states, Massachusetts has bans in place for what it deems assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Are private firearms sales allowed in Michigan?

michigan state flag

In Michigan, otherwise non-prohibited persons may purchase long guns (shotguns and rifles) and handguns from an FFL dealer without any further permission from the state, but for private sales of handguns, a license to purchase (issued by the sheriff in the county of one’s residence) or a state-issued Concealed Pistol License is required.

If an individual purchases or otherwise acquires a pistol, the seller shall fill out the license forms describing the pistol, together with the date of sale or acquisition, and sign his or her name in ink indicating that the pistol was sold to or otherwise acquired by the purchaser. The purchaser shall also sign his or her name in ink indicating the purchase or other acquisition of the pistol from the seller. The seller may retain a copy of the license as a record of the transaction. The purchaser shall receive 2 copies of the license. The purchaser shall return 1 copy of the license to the licensing authority within 10 days after the date the pistol is purchased or acquired. The return of the copy to the licensing authority may be made in person or may be made by first-class mail or certified mail sent within the 10-day period to the proper address of the licensing authority. A purchaser who fails to comply with the requirements of this subsection is responsible for a state civil infraction and may be fined not more than $250.00. If a purchaser is found responsible for a state civil infraction under this subsection, the court shall notify the department of state police of that determination.

Minnesota: restrictions on handguns and pistol-grip long guns

Minnesota state flag

In Minnesota, a permit to purchase is required to transfer/purchase long guns with a pistol grip and handguns through FFL dealers. A permit to carry also acts as a permit to purchase for Minnesota residents. Traditional rifles and shotguns may be purchased without a permit. Private sales of standard long guns are permitted without a background check, but if the long gun has a pistol grip, or if the firearm is a handgun, a background check is required.

Nebraska gun purchase laws

Nebraska state flag

For handguns, a Firearm Purchase Permit (issued by the sheriff in the county of one’s residence) or a Nebraska-issued Concealed Handgun Permit is required for both FFL and private transactions. In addition to federal law, Nebraska state law prohibits sales of handguns to those under 21, including in private transactions. Additionally, the city of Omaha requires the registration of all handguns. The city of Lincoln requires reporting of firearms sales other than long guns commonly used for sporting purposes.

What do you need to buy a gun in Nevada

Nevada state flag

A state license to purchase or similar permit is not required in Nevada when buying from an FFL dealer, but for private sales, background checks are required for both long guns and handguns. In November 2016, Nevada voters approved Ballot Question 1, changing the law to require background checks for private sales. Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt stated that the law was unenforceable, and a revised version was signed into law on February 15, 2019 to fix the deficiencies of Question 1. The new law went into effect as of January 2020. Some local counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions in opposition to this law.

New Jersey gun purchase rules

new jersey state flag

A lifetime state-issued purchaser identification card is required for purchase of rifles and shotguns, as well as for purchases of handgun ammunition. Additionally, a permit to purchase a handgun, valid for 90 days, is required for each handgun purchase. Only one handgun can be purchased within a 30-day period.

The New Jersey State Police Firearms Investigation Unit (NJSP FIU) maintains a record of all handgun transfers, except for inherited firearms or firearms brought to the state by new residents moving to the state. Firearm registration is voluntary, but since handgun purchase permits are also a form of register, there is de facto mandatory handgun registration for handguns purchased in-state. Purchases by New Jersey residents must either be from a licensed FFL dealer in New Jersey, or a private individual who is a resident of New Jersey. In either case, a copy of the purchase permit must be sent to the NJSP FIU. Private firearm sales require a background check conducted through a federally licensed gun dealer except for temporary transfers, transfers between law enforcement officers, or transfers between immediate family.

How to buy a firearm in New Mexico

new mexico state flag

In New Mexico, no additional state permit or license is required to purchase firearms from a licensed dealer. However, for private sales between individuals, a NICS background check is required. Effective July 1, 2019, New Mexico Senate Bill 8 established the requirement. Exceptions exist for active/retired law-enforcement officer (LEO) transfers and transfers between immediate family members. Some local counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions in opposition to these universal background check laws.

New York: Are gun purchases allowed?

new york state flag

Let’s just state up front that New York state laws and New York City firearms laws are very different. In NYC, you require an additional, city-issued permit to own a gun. As far as New York state is concerned, only handguns and semi-automatic rifles require a permit for purchase and possession. Permits are issued by NY county or state Supreme Court judges/justices outside of New York City, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk Counties, with a background check. Permits for those wanting to carry concealed or possess handguns in the home are now issued on a "shall-issue" basis. There is an application fee for each permit, as well as an amendment fee for each handgun added to the permit if you purchase another gun later. No state permit is required for shotguns and non-semiautomatic rifles. Firearms NY deems "assault weapons" cannot be purchased. The minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle in New York state is 21.

For firearm transfers between private parties, a licensed dealer must conduct a background check, provide documentation of the check to the New York State Police, and keep a record of the transaction.

North Carolina handgun purchase update

north carolina state flag

On March 29, 2023, the North Carolina House voted to override the Governor’s veto and enact a bill allowing the sale of handguns in the state without obtaining a special permit from the local sheriff. Handgun buyers who purchase pistols from gun stores/FFL dealers are still subject to a national background check, and concealed weapons permits are still required.

Oregon Ballot Measure 114 and private party firearms purchases

oregon state flag

As of the time of this update, Oregon Ballot Measure 114 (which would require anyone purchasing a firearm to first take a gun safety course and obtain a permit, ban magazines holding more than 10 rounds, and supercede the federal law which allows a firearms transfer to go forward if a background check is not completed after three days) is being challenged in court, and for now, purchasing firearms from an FFL dealer does not require a special permit or permission from the state.

Oregon private party firearm transfers must be conducted through an FFL while both parties are present. Transfers between family members (spouse, parent/stepparent, child/stepchild, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, aunt/uncle, first cousin, niece/nephew, or spouse of any of the above) are exempt from this requirement for private transfers.

Pennsylvania firearms purchase laws

pennsylvania state flag

All handgun buyers in the state must undergo a PICS (Pennsylvania instant check system) check at the point of sale, a record of which is maintained by the state police in a sales database. All private party transfers of handguns in Pennsylvania must be processed through an FFL dealer, or at a county sheriff’s office. In either case, a background check is required.

What is needed for a Rhode Island gun purchase?

rhode island state flag

All purchasers of firearms in Rhode Island must complete and pass a safety exam managed by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM). At this time, they will receive a DEM-issued blue card allowing the purchase (A R.I. Hunter Safety Education card is equivalent). Active-duty military members, active and retired law enforcement officers, correctional officers, and persons licensed to carry concealed firearms are exempt. Private party transfers require a background check by law.

Texas: Do you need a permit to buy a gun?

texas state flag

There is no required waiting period when you buy a gun in Texas. You do need a valid state-issued ID, but you need that for purchasing any firearm from any FFL in any state in the country. Private sales between legal individual residents of the state are permitted without involving a dealer. If you want to conceal or open carry your handgun, you may do so in Texas without a permit: Permitless carry took effect in Texas on September 1, 2021. However, Texas has locations not allowed for permitless carry that are not allowed for permitless carry, which ARE allowed if you have a CCW license that Texas issues or honors. You can carry your handgun, loaded and within reach inside your vehicle, without a permit if you keep it concealed. Rifles and shotguns can be open-carried without a permit. You do not need to conceal rifles or shotguns in Texas.

Utah firearms purchase rules

utah state flag

In Liberty Safe’s home state of Utah, private sales between lawful individual residents are permitted without involving an FFL. If you buy from a dealer, you don’t need a special permit to buy or own a handgun, shotgun, or rifle. As of May 5, 2021, you don’t need a permit to carry a concealed loaded weapon, but of course, there are exceptions to where you’re allowed to concealed carry a firearm: airports, courthouses, prisons, post offices, etc. You don’t need a permit to transport a handgun inside your vehicle, as long as it’s legal for you to have the gun, it’s not in plain view from the outside, and it stays locked securely in the vehicle (or in a locked container attached to the vehicle). Regardless of whether you have a CCW permit or not, in Utah, it’s not legal to carry a loaded rifle, shotgun, or muzzleloading rifle in your vehicle.


Index

Utah Code

Title 76

Utah Criminal Code

Chapter 10

Offenses Against Public Health, Safety, Welfare, and Morals

Part 5

Weapons

Section 505

Carrying loaded firearm in vehicle or on street.


Vermont gun buying laws

vermont state flag

In Vermont, you must be 21 to purchase any firearm (there’s an exception for long guns if the buyer holds a valid hunter’s safety course certification). All private firearms purchases (as well as purchases from FFL/dealers) require a background check.

Virginia gun permits and laws

virginia state flag

In Virginia, no state permit is required for gun purchases via licensed dealers. As of July 1, 2020, firearms sellers, with some exceptions, must obtain criminal history information (background check) from the Virginia State Police to determine if the buyer is permitted, under applicable state and federal law, to purchase or possess firearms. Notably, the law does not apply to transfers of firearms in which nothing of value is exchanged for the firearm.

Washington laws on being 21

Washington state flag

Washington residents must be 21 to purchase a pistol or semiautomatic rifle. As of July 1st, 2019, the purchase of a semiautomatic rifle will require that the buyer provide proof that they have completed a recognized firearm safety training program in the last five years. Private-party firearm transfers in Washington must be conducted through a licensed dealer.

Always learn and follow your local firearms laws

Hopefully, this article is helpful in giving you a better idea of what you might need in order to purchase a gun in your state. And remember that gun laws can change, so anything you find published online, including this article could be outdated. You should always check your state’s government listing for the latest laws in your state.

If you’ll be traveling with your handgun, check out our portable handgun vaults. They’re a safe and legal way to transport your handguns in all 50 states, including California.


*Made in the U.S.A. from U.S. and Global Parts.


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