Guns as Gifts

By Rick Vasquez

Have you ever wanted to give someone a firearm as a gift, but you weren’t sure of the legal aspects of the transfer? The issue of giving a firearm as a gift is not as confusing as a person may think. Gifting a firearm is perfectly legal under the Gun Control Act (GCA. However, you must ensure that you follow the proper regulations.

One of the most important aspects of gifting a firearm is to consider if the recipient of the gift may or may not be prohibited from possessing a firearm. If the recipient is your child or a close relative, it would appear that you would know whether the person had ever committed a crime that would prohibit him/her from possessing a firearm. However, when it comes to casual friends and distant relatives, you need to ask that question.

A large portion of firearms gifts are prized possessions or family heirlooms. Many of these firearms will fit in the Curio&Relic (C&R) category or are antique firearms. C&R firearms are categories of firearms over 50 years of age or for some reason have been identified as collectable by ATF. C&R firearms are still regulated under the GCA. Antique firearms are firearms that were made before January 1, 1989, or firearms with antique ignition systems such as flintlocks, matchlocks, percussion caps, etc. Antique firearms are not regulated under Federal statutes and can be possessed by anyone of any age. There are certain states that regulate antiques under state law so you must ensure that if gifting an antique firearm it is lawful in the stat you reside in.

Under federal guidelines, a background check is not required for personal transfers of firearms. They can simply be handed over to the recipient. The requirement for a background check on transfers is only when purchasing a firearm from a licensed firearms dealer. However, in certain states, under state law, all handgun transfers and to some extent all firearms transfers, require the use of a dealer to facilitate these transactions. In those states, even the gift of a firearm to a family member would require that the transfer be made through a licensed dealer.

There are many people who hesitate gifting a firearm because of the confusion of what is a straw purchase. A straw purchase is when a firearm is purchased for a person that is prohibited from owning a firearm, or when there is intent to circumvent the regulations pertaining to the transfer of firearms. Giving a legitimate gift of a firearm is not a straw purchase.

If a person intends to purchase a new firearm from a licensed dealer and gives this new firearm as a gift, this is provided for in the Gun Control Act. When the firearm is purchased under these circumstances, the purchaser will complete a Form 4473 and undergo a background check. The purchaser must ensure that he/she checks question (11.a.) of the Form 4473 that he/she is the actual buyer of the firearm. Of course, the purchaser could always select a firearm and buy a gift card to cover the cost for the person he/she wants to give the firearm to. This person could then purchase the firearm and complete the required paperwork himself/herself.

When purchasing a firearm or giving a firearm to someone, the age restrictions are somewhat different. Under federal guidelines, a person must be at least 21 years of age to purchase a handgun or a firearm that is classified as an “other” from a licensed dealer. When purchasing a shotgun or rifle from a licensed dealer, the federal age requirement is 18 years old. When giving a firearm or making a private sale, the age restriction is 18 years for either rifle or pistol. Additionally, a person less than 18 years of age can possess a firearm with written permission from a parent or guardian, and it must specify a purpose, such as farming, hunting, or target practice


With hunting season upon us and Christmas around the corner, if you want to gift a firearm don’t hesitate to do so. Ensure you follow all regulations, and if you have any questions, you can contact the local ATF office or the author of this article.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V20N10 (December 2016)
and was posted online on October 21, 0201


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