Gun Purchase Laws

Gun Purchase Laws

The laws surrounding the purchase and ownership of firearms in the United States are a complex and often debated topic. With federal and state regulations in place, the process of acquiring a firearm can vary depending on different circumstances. In this article, we’ll delve into the various ways individuals can legally obtain firearms, the laws that govern these acquisitions, and the steps involved in purchasing a firearm.

Gun Acquisition Means

Assembling a Firearm From Scratch

While there are some federal restrictions on assembling firearms, the practice has been largely allowed until recently. Shorter rifles might require registration and taxes, but certain auto firearms are strictly prohibited.

Buying a Firearm

Purchasing firearms from private individuals has a long history in the United States. It’s considered an expression of personal freedom and involves a straightforward exchange of personal property. However, private sales faced restrictions beginning in 1934 with the requirement for registration on specific firearms.

Gun Shows

Gun shows serve as platforms for buying, selling, and trading firearms. They provide a place for licensed individuals to engage in business, but they also facilitate private sales. The perception of a “gun show loophole” exists due to the federal law not mandating background checks or waiting periods for private sales.

Getting a Firearm as a Gift

Gifts of firearms are generally not heavily regulated, making them accessible to those who wish to provide or receive them. However, this lack of regulation raises questions about trust and responsibility.

Getting a Firearm as an Inheritance

Inheritances of firearms follow a similar pattern to gifts. NFA firearms, or those restricted by the 1934 Gun Control Act, require ownership transfer and potentially taxes upon inheritance.

See also  National Firearms Act

Laws That Deal with The Purchase of Firearms in the US

The Gun Control Act of 1968

This significant piece of legislation regulates the interstate commerce of firearms, establishes licensing systems for various aspects of the industry, and sets restrictions on firearm ownership. It also introduced minimum age requirements and created paperwork for record-keeping.

Brady Bill

Originating from the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, the Brady Bill led to the creation of the national background check system. It also mandated waiting periods, though many states no longer enforce them.

National Background Check

Implemented in 1998 by the FBI, the National Background Check system determines if a buyer meets the criteria outlined in the 1968 Gun Control Act. This system only applies to licensed dealer transactions and is not universal across states.

Waiting Periods

Once present under the Brady Bill, waiting periods are now largely absent at the federal level. However, some states still enforce them, though their effectiveness in crime control remains debated.

Laws Restricting Who can Purchase a Firearm in the US

Different statutory limitations exist at both federal and state levels, barring certain individuals from firearm ownership:

  • Age restrictions, varying by state
  • Protective order recipients
  • Felons
  • Individuals with involuntary psychiatric admissions
  • Those convicted of a misdemeanor or domestic violence charges
  • Fugitives from justice
  • Unlawful drug users and addicts
  • Immigrants with visas and non-citizens

Process of Buying a Firearm in the US

  1. Means of Identification: Buyers must provide identification that matches the information on the ATF Form 4473.
  2. Requesting Background Check: Buyers without concealed carry permits undergo an FBI background check through the FFL dealer. Delays can occur due to name matches in the FBI database.
  3. In Case of Denial: If denied, buyers cannot purchase firearms. The dealer informs the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) of the denial.
See also  2nd Amendment Day


Navigating the laws surrounding firearm acquisition in the US requires understanding federal and state regulations. From the various methods of obtaining firearms to the intricacies of background checks and waiting periods, the process can be complex. Awareness of these laws is crucial for responsible firearm ownership.


Can I assemble any firearm from scratch?

Short rifles may require registration and taxes, but auto firearms are restricted.

Are private sales regulated?

Private sales were largely unregulated until 1934 when registration became mandatory for certain firearms.

Do gun shows facilitate private sales?

Yes, private sales occur at gun shows alongside dealer transactions.

Are waiting periods still enforced?

Waiting periods were once required under the Brady Bill but are now mostly absent at the federal level.

Who is prohibited from firearm ownership?

Individuals under protective orders, felons, those with involuntary psychiatric admissions, and more are prohibited.

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