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Frequently Asked Legal Questions

Find answers to common questions in our searchable FAQ.


1552 views   |   2   |   Last updated on Oct 14, 2020    Guns

Federal law only requires a person to obtain a license to sell firearms if the person is engaged in the business of dealing firearms. According to this handbook [PDF] from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF):

As a general rule, you will need a license if you repetitively buy and sell firearms with the principal motive of making a profit. In contrast, if you only make occasional sales of firearms from your personal collection, you do not need to be licensed. [...] Determining whether you are "engaged in the business" of dealing in firearms requires looking at the specific facts and circumstances of your activities.

See the handbook [PDF] for more detailed information about when you need a Federal Firearms License (FFL) to conduct firearm sales.

Our librarians are not able to give advice on any particular sale, so if you are not sure whether it would be legal sell your gun to a certain person it is best to ask an attorney. Or, you could conduct the sale with the help of an FFL dealer who would run a background check on the buyer. Below we've listed some general legal requirements for private sales, but this page should not be considered a complete list of requirements.

Private sellers may not sell their firearm if:

Private sellers are not required by federal law or Texas law to do a background check before selling a firearm. If you are selling your gun to another person and you would like to run a NICS background check before the sale, you could arrange to do the sale through an FFL dealer. The FBI does not offer NICS background check services to the general public.

Neither federal law nor Texas law requires private sellers to keep a record when they sell a firearm. FFL dealers are required to keep records of their sales, but these requirements do not apply to private sellers. Even though it is not required by law, you may want to keep a record of the sale for your own purposes. See this ATF brochure [PDF] for best practices to follow when selling a firearm.

Many people who have contacted the library believe that the guns they purchased in Texas are "registered" to their name. However, neither the federal government nor the Texas government keeps a general registry of firearm ownership, except for certain specific types of firearms covered by the National Firearms Act (such as short-barreled shot guns or machine guns). We discuss this topic in greater detail in another FAQ.

Yes. As this handbook [PDF] published by the ATF explains, FFL dealers can help you by handling a gun sale between you and the person you want to sell to. However, FLL dealers are not required by law to help with private sales, so you might need to call around to find someone who is willing to help you. FFL dealers will need to follow all the laws they normally follow when selling firearms, like running a background check and keeping records of the sale. Dealers can also charge a fee for their services. See the ATF handbook [PDF] for more detailed information.

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