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Can You Buy a Gun in a State You Don’t Live In?

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At some point, you might be interested in owning a firearm. Whether for hunting, target shooting, or protection against potential home invaders, many people are interested in buying guns. However, if you’re not a resident of the state where you’re buying your gun, can buy a gun in a state you don’t live in?

You cannot buy or sell a gun in a state you don’t live in. However, if the laws of the state where you’re buying the gun from and those of the state allow, you can buy the firearm through a dealer who has a Federal Firearms License.

Read on to learn more about buying a gun in a state you don’t live in, the steps to follow when buying a gun in a state you don’t live in, and eligibility requirements to own a firearm in the United States.

What the Law Says About Buying a Gun Your Non-Resident State

Man Holding a Gun in a Holster

Generally speaking, if you want to buy a firearm outside of the state where you live, you need to find a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) that will handle the firearm transfer from an out-of-state seller to you.

The FFL can charge a fee for this service and must comply with federal and state laws when selling or transferring a gun.

To buy a gun in a state you don’t live in, first check your local and state laws on owning firearms. Some states make it more difficult than others for nonresidents to own guns, while some even ban them completely.

Once you’ve checked your state’s requirements on gun ownership, do some research on FFLs near your location, as well as the process required by each one. After choosing your FFL, call and ask a few questions about the process of buying a gun in a state you don’t live in. 

If you’re satisfied, go ahead with meeting them at their place of business.

If you don’t have an FFL near your location, use GunBroker to find one. Once you select one, contact them directly as listed on their webpage. While it might seem difficult for you to meet an out-of-state seller in your home state to coordinate the sale, this is the safest option.

The Procedure When Buying a Gun In Your Non-Resident State

When you buy a gun in a state that is different from where you live, the steps to follow and laws to comply with depends on two things: whether or not your home state allows this type of sale and if the selling state’s law permits it.

Generally, you must follow these steps to buy a gun in a state you don’t live in:

  1. Contact a Federal Firearms Licensee in your state of residence to request an FFL Dealer near you if you don’t already have one.
  2. Make arrangements to visit the dealer’s place of business, usually a shop or shooting range. The seller must meet with you face-to-face and do a background check on you before transferring the firearm from their inventory to yours.
  3. Fill the necessary forms, submit your photo ID, and pay any fees required by both states.

These might include processing fees, taxes, and any applicable gun license applications. In some cases, this could mean three separate fees involved just to buy a gun in a state you don’t live in.

Here’s a video that describes the process of buying guns across state lines:

However, these steps vary depending on whether your state’s law allows you to buy the firearm and if the selling state’s laws permit this type of transaction.

Let’s talk about some states that allow non-residents to buy guns and the conditions to meet.

California

Non-residents can buy guns in California only if their home state allows the sale of these types of firearms and they meet all the legal requirements.

Notably, the gun must be shipped to a Federal Firearms Licensee in your state of residence. In addition, you must pass the background check performed by that FFL Dealer before taking possession of it.

Also, under the Penal Code section 27510, a licensed dealer in California is prohibited from delivering a firearm to any person under 21 years of age. 

Exemptions to this law include:

  • Active law enforcement officers or special agents employed by law enforcement agencies, state or federal.
  • Any person who is a member of the military, honorably discharged.
  • Peace officers employed by a California city, county, or district while working within their official capacity during an emergency.
  • Any person 18 years or older who possesses a valid hunting license.

New Hampshire

Non-residents may only purchase long guns in New Hampshire if their home state allows them to own these types of firearms. In addition, the firearm must be shipped to a Federal Firearms Licensee located in your state of residence.

Texas

Texas allows non-residents to buy long guns across state lines if their home state allows them to own these types of firearms. Since this is a private sale, the buyer and seller must follow the legal requirements in both states. 

The firearm must be shipped to an FFL Dealer in your state of residence or to an FFL Dealer near your residence that agrees to transfer the gun into your name.

Florida

Florida law also allows non-residents to purchase guns. However, these types of sales are restricted to handguns only.

Because the firearm is being transferred through an FFL Dealer, both buyers and sellers must follow the applicable state laws for this transaction. The firearm must be shipped to an FFL Dealer in your state of residence or near where you live that agrees to transfer the gun into your name.

New Jersey

Non-residents may not buy firearms in New Jersey unless their home state has a reciprocity agreement with New Jersey allowing them to own these types of weapons. The buyer must fill out forms for a background check, show photo ID, and submit them to fingerprinting.

The same holds for residents of New Jersey buying in any other state. They must follow their home state’s laws when purchasing a gun from another jurisdiction.

Who Is Eligible to Own a Firearm in the United States?

Those eligible to own a firearm in the United States should be at least 18 years old, though some states and localities may require you to be 21 years old. In addition, according to federal law, you must not have any restraining orders and must be a legal resident of the United States. 

You must also meet the following requirements:

  • You cannot have been convicted of any crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year.
  • You cannot be an illegal alien or illegal drug user, addict, or dealer.
  • Not fall under any of the prohibitions related to firearms, such as being a convicted felon.
  • Never have been convicted of a domestic violence charge or other assault-related charges, such as stalking or sexual assault.
  • Never been committed against your mental health.

If you’ve ever renounced your U.S. citizenship, you are excluded from owning firearms (18 U.S Code § 922).

Why Licensed Dealers Are Required When Buying a Gun Across State Lines

Man Aims a Rifle at Gun Counter in a Shop

When you buy a gun from a licensed dealer in another state, they must follow the same federal regulations as if you had bought it from them directly. This means that they can only charge what is allowed by federal law and conduct a background check of prospective buyers.

An FFL Dealer must:

  1. Fill out your form 4473 (the ATF’s Firearms Transaction Record).
  2. Ensure all laws concerning the sale of firearms have been followed within both states before delivering the firearm to you after passing the required background check.

Therefore, FFL Dealers strictly follow these regulations when selling guns to non-residents of their home state, just as they would for residents.

Key Takeaway: Buying a gun in another state can be complicated, but that’s where an expert FFL Dealer comes into the picture. They follow all applicable laws and regulations, making it easy for you, which ensures you are both compliant with state and federal gun laws.

6 Crucial Considerations When Buying a Gun Across State Lines

Because the laws for buying a gun in another state are complicated and each state has its own set of rules, it would help to ensure you break neither federal nor state laws when buying a gun across state lines.

In that regard, here are six crucial things to consider when buying a gun from a state you don’t live in.

1. Check Your State’s Firearm Laws

As a gun owner, you should know your state’s laws on purchasing firearms from another state. For example, as I mentioned, New Hampshire residents may only buy long guns from other states if their home states allow it.

Residents of California must have the firearm shipped through a licensed dealer and cannot be purchased at a private sale or online.

2. The FFL Dealer Must Ship the Gun to Your State of Residence

When buying a firearm across state lines, an FFL Dealer needs to ship it to your local FFL Dealer near where you live, not directly to you or into your name. The first FFL will handle all the paperwork and background checks. 

Then, they’ll transfer the firearm to your local FFL Dealer on your behalf.

3. Be Mindful of the Waiting Periods

Every state has its own waiting period before being allowed to possess or receive a firearm after you have purchased it from an out-of-state dealer.

As long as you’re of legal age and meet all other requirements for buying a gun in your home state of residence, you can expect this waiting period to be as short as three days or as long as 10 days.

In exceptional cases, you may wait for weeks. Just know how your state’s laws work on this and plan accordingly.

4. Know How To Buy a Firearm From an Out-of-State Dealer

When you buy a gun from another state, there’s more than just the price of the firearm to consider. Taxes and all associated fees come into play as well. Taxes usually depend on where you live and can sometimes be waived for buying firearms across state lines due to federal law but check with your local FFL Dealer.

5. Do Your Research First

If you want to buy a firearm across state lines, you should do your due diligence first and learn as much as possible before going through with it. Don’t just show up at a gun shop or range and expect them to know the gun laws in your state of residence.

You can always call a local firearms dealer near you to see what they recommend and if they’ll help you with purchasing a gun from another state. Be sure to understand all the rules that apply to buying a firearm from another state before going through with it, or it could be a costly mistake.

6. Don’t Violate Interstate Gun Laws During Transportation

You should be aware of federal gun laws when buying a firearm across state lines, especially if you don’t have a carry permit and plan on transporting the firearm from one state to another. In this case, you should check all associated regulations with both states’ transportation rules for firearms and those governing what is considered “interstate” travel.

Your local FFL Dealer can help you understand these laws properly and give you tips on avoiding unintentionally violating any federal firearms law while traveling with your new firearm across state borders.

Tip: Besides the legal aspects, you should know how your gun works, how to keep it safe, and how to choose the best gun to buy. In that regard, reading Guns 101 by David Steier (available on Amazon.com) may help. The author explains how to use your gun safely, as well as how to perform minor repairs when necessary.

Final Thoughts

If you plan on buying a new firearm from another state, make sure to do your due diligence first and get advice from a local firearms dealer regarding the different federal and state regulations that apply.

That way, you can be sure of what you’re getting into and don’t run the risk of being accountable for any potential violations in transporting or possessing your gun across state lines. Also, you’ll know all the details and costs involved with buying a firearm across state lines and be aware of any potential waiting periods you’ll need to abide by.

For more, check out What Is the Cheapest Way to Buy a Gun? | 5 Vendors Compared.

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