How to Give a Gun as a Gift


Buying a gun for yourself already involves plenty of red tape, and that red tape gets even stickier if you decide to buy a gun for someone else. Read on for information to make the gift-giving process easier.

Gun laws vary by state, so check your state’s gun laws to make sure you’re in compliance. While many states do not require registration, licensing, or carry permits, others do. Also keep in mind that laws can vary depending on whether it’s a long gun (e.g., rifle or shotgun) or a handgun, and whether it’s an antique or replica firearm.

As the giver, you are also responsible for making sure that the recipient, to the best of your knowledge, is legally allowed to have a firearm. Persons who cannot receive or possess firearms, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), include those who have been convicted of certain crimes, are fugitives from justice, use drugs, or have been dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces.

Want to purchase a new firearm as a gift?

Fill out Form 4473, a form from the ATF that is required when someone purchases a firearm from a Federal Firearm License (FFL) holder, i.e., a gun shop. The form asks for basic information, including name, birthdate, place of birth, and gender, as well as yes or no questions about things like criminal past, drug use, and citizenship.

According to the instructions, you are not allowed to purchase a firearm from an FFL on behalf of someone else with their money – this is called a “straw purchase” and is illegal – but you may purchase a firearm for someone with your own money as a gift. It is also illegal to give a firearm to someone you know or believe unable to legally own one.

Some states do not require purchase through an FFL and therefore do not require this form; again, check your state’s laws.

If your state requires it, ensure that both you and the intended recipient have the correct permits. In Illinois, for example, a valid firearm owner’s identification card is required.

Want to transfer a firearm as a gift?

Under the Gun Control Act, the federal government does not require any records for unlicensed (non-FFL) individuals to transfer or sell a firearm as long as both parties are “same-State” residents. However, some states may require that sales and transfers go through an FFL, even transfers between family members.

Want to gift a firearm to a minor?

Many states do not allow people under 18 to own a gun. Others require written consent from the parent or legal guardian before giving a gun. Washington State, for example, allows individuals between 14 and 18 to possess a rifle or shotgun if they have a valid hunter’s safety certificate or are supervised by an authorized adult, whereas New York State does not have any provisions for individuals under 18 to possess firearms of any kind.

Want to mail a firearm?

Check with individual carriers – including the USPS, UPS, and FedEx – to find out about their policies on shipping firearms.

Want to make it easier on yourself?

Simply purchase a gift certificate from your gun shop and leave that under the tree instead.