What you need to purchase a gun for the first time varies from state to state, and sometimes from municipality to municipality. In every state you need to provide a valid photo ID, typically your driver’s license or government-issued identification card, like a passport or military ID.
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 database for a criminal background check. Click here for more information about ATF Form 4473.
In some states, dealers will run the background check on the spot and allow you to purchase the gun then and there.
Gun Laws Vary Between States
In some states, you need a permit to purchase a handgun. In others, you don't. There may be a waiting period and it may be longer than the 3 days it takes to get your criminal background check results. Other states have no waiting period.
If you want to open-carry or carry your new gun as a concealed weapon, you may need to seek an additional permit. Where you can carry your gun in public might have limitations.
Let’s look at what you will need when buying a gun in this small sampling of states:
California gun laws are some of the strictest in the country. If you are buying a gun in this state, you must obtain a Firearm Safety Certificate (FSC) unless you are a current or honorably retired peace officer.
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. Before you can purchase a firearm, you are required to perform a safe-handling demonstration with that firearm in the presence of a DOJ-certified instructor.
In California, you are required to lock your handgun in a locked container or your vehicle’s trunk when you transport it.
There is no waiting period when you buy a gun in Texas. You do need a valid state-issued ID.
If you want to conceal carry your handgun, you must have a concealed carry permit. To carry your handgun openly by using a belt or shoulder holster requires a permit. 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.
In Liberty Safe’s home state of Utah, you don't need a permit to buy or own a handgun, shotgun, or rifle. You need a permit to carry a concealed loaded weapon, and 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). It's not legal to carry a loaded long gun in your vehicle, though.
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.