Giving Guns as Gifts: Doing It Right

If you plan to make a gift of a firearm to a family member, close friend, or relative this season, there are right ways to do that — and some very wrong ways to transfer firearms to loved ones, say Texas & U.S. Law Shield Independent Program Attorneys.

Ownership of a firearm has serious legal implications that other consumer products don’t. So let’s look at some questions you may have about giving a firearm as a gift this holiday season.

Gift Certificates Make the Process Simple

Texas Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Emily Taylor said, “The ATF recommends that if you want to give someone a new firearm, rather than going to a gun store, buying it, and giving it to someone, purchasing a gift certificate from a retailer and giving that as the present makes the process easy.”

“That way,” she said, “the recipient will get the exact gun he or she wants, and there’s no question about who is ‘the actual buyer of the firearm,’ which is a question any purchaser must certify on the Federal Form 4473 at the time of purchase.”

1: Can the Recipient Legally Own a Firearm?

If you decide to go ahead with giving a gun directly to the recipient, you must find out if the intended recipient can legally own a firearm where he or she lives.

“There are more than 20,000 different gun laws on the books, so the kinds of firearms that law-abiding citizens can own vary quite a lot,” said Taylor. Also, she reminded gun givers of a big restriction that many people overlook: Juveniles under the age of 18 generally may not possess a handgun.

Check out the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) website for more details.

2: Know the Recipient Very Well

Taylor pointed out that gift givers must not ever transfer a firearm to someone they know legally can’t own one. That’s a federal felony, so if your sketchy brother-in-law may be disqualified from owning firearms, don’t take the chance. It’s also worth pointing out that if you even have reasonable cause to believe the recipient can’t legally own a firearm, that’s enough to get the giver prosecuted under the law.

3: In-State Transfers Are Easier

There’s no federal law that prohibits a gift of a firearm to a relative or friend that lives in your home state. Abramski v. United States, a recent Supreme Court decision involving a “straw purchase” of a firearm, did not change the law regarding firearms as gifts.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, there are a handful of states that currently require in-state firearm transfers to run through a local firearms retailer. This ensures an instant background check will be performed to make sure the recipient is not legally prohibited from owning the gun. This is the law in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington State. Also, the District of Columbia Maryland and Pennsylvania require a background check for private-party transfer of a handgun.

Taylor said, “There are exceptions, so it’s important to carefully check the law of your state, ask your local firearms retailer, or call Independent Program Attorneys in these states to get clarifications on the law.”

4: Getting the Gift There

If you would like to gift a firearm to someone in another state, you may not simply ship handguns or long guns to that person. If you would like to transfer a gun to an individual in another state, this must be accomplished by using Federal Firearms License Dealers as an intermediary between the individual parties.

Carriers vary in the types of firearms they are willing to transport, and in the specific rules they impose. Taylor added, “With all carriers, federal law requires you to declare that your package contains an unloaded firearm. To be safe, always consult your carrier in advance about its regulations for shipping firearms.”

5: Family Transfers of Meaningful Firearms

During the holiday season, many families want to pass down meaningful firearms to the next generation. What if you want to give a family firearm to your son or daughter?

Of course you can, Taylor said, but she points out that some states require even inter-family transfers to go through a licensed retailer.

“It’s worth emphasizing,” Taylor said, “that you can never transfer a firearm directly to another person who is a resident of a different state. In that case, you must transfer the firearm through a licensed retailer in the state where the person receiving the gift resides.”

If you do it right, giving someone a hunting rifle, a waterfowling shotgun, a plinking handgun, or many other types of firearms can be rewarding gifts. Just keep in mind there are right ways to make the exchange, and wrong ways. It’s better to know the law and follow it closely so the gift-giving is above board and completely legal. Texas & U.S. Law Shield Staff

 Emily Taylor is an Independent Program Attorney at Walker & Byington

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