So You Want to Gift a Gun

posted on December 24, 2020

It’s the holiday season, and perhaps you’re looking for that perfect gift for someone special in your life. This holiday season, if you’re considering gifting a gun, there are a few things you need to know before sharing this cherished tradition that dates back to our nation’s founding.

First and foremost, you need to be certain that your intended recipient can legally own a firearm. It is a felony to transfer a firearm to someone that you know, or have reasonable cause to believe, cannot own one.

Now, that you’re past that step, let’s go about getting the actual firearm.

One of the easiest things you can do is simply buy a gift card to your local gun store in lieu of buying the actual firearm itself; that way the recipient can make sure they get the exact gun that’s right for them, and there will be no dispute over who it is actually for, which is a question on the required Federal Form 4473 at the time of purchase.

Should you want to pick out the firearm yourself, there’s no federal law that prohibits you from gifting a firearm to a friend or relative in the same state; however, some states require you to transfer it through a local licensed firearms retailer. Some states also require a background check for a private transfer of a handgun, so be certain you’re in accordance with all local and federal laws before doing so.

If this person is not in the same state as you, federal laws mandate that you ship the firearm to a licensed firearm retailer in the recipient’s state, who will then transfer the firearm after conducting a background check to make sure that the recipient can legally possess the firearm.

Perhaps it’s not a new gun you want to gift, though. Maybe there’s been a rifle in the family for generations that is imbued with sentimental value. Firearms that predate 1898, either in manufacture or design, are generally exempt, but it’s better to be safe and check.

As for shipping your gifted firearm, there are further laws to follow. A handgun can only be shipped via a common carrier, but not the U.S. mail. A long gun, on the other hand, can be shipped by U.S. mail or a common carrier. Federal laws mandate that you declare the package contains an unloaded firearm. To be safe, consult your carrier in advance to make sure you’re in accordance with all regulations.

And most importantly with your gift, extend the offer to help this new gun owner-to-be learn about how to safely and responsibly exercise the right to keep and bear arms. The NRA has extensive resources for new gun owners.

When in doubt, always double—even triple—check to make sure that you’re following the proper procedures when giving this incredible gift. While you may find this overview helpful and enlightening, it is certainly no substitute for the advice of an attorney; especially in those states with more onerous restrictions. 

Many people don’t fully grasp what the Second Amendment is until they literally grasp it in their hands and begin to exercise their freedom. With the cherished tradition of gifting firearms having a pedigree that dates back to the founding of our nation, it deserves to be carried forward to new generations. 

Already, 2020 has seen an astonishing number of Americans purchase a firearm, many of whom are first-time buyers.


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