my account

Frequently Asked Legal Questions

Find answers to common questions in our searchable FAQ.

236724 views   |   706   |   Last updated on Sep 28, 2023    Guns

Read on to learn about Texas and federal laws that regulate the sale of firearms.

Do I Need a License?

You likely do not need a license if you make only occasional sales of different second-hand firearms for your personal collection. Generally, a license is only required if you repetitively buy and sell firearms to predominantly earn a profit. 

18 U.S. Code 923(a) requires a license if you are engaged in the business of dealing firearms. Whether you are "engaged in the business" of dealing firearms depends on multiple factors. 

To learn more, see the Do I Need a License to Buy and Sell Firearms? handbook from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). 

Who Can I Sell To?

The list of general requirements for private sales below is not a complete listing. Many factors can come into play when determining if a particular sale is legal.  

Private sellers may not sell their firearm if: 

The law can be complex, and if you are unsure if it would be legal to sell your gun to a certain person, it is best to ask an attorney. For information on finding an attorney, please see the library's Legal Help page. 

You can also conduct a sale with the help of a licensed dealer who could run a background check on the buyer.  

Assistance From a Licensed Dealer

Licensed dealers can facilitate a private gun sale. However, licensed dealers are not required by law to help with private sales. You may need to call around to find someone who is willing to help you. 

Licensed dealers must follow all the laws they normally follow when selling firearms. This includes running a background check and keeping records of the sale. Dealers can also charge a fee for their services. 

The ATF has more details in the handbook Facilitating Private Sales: A Federal Firearms Licensee Guide

Background Checks

Licensed dealers are required by law to conduct a NICS background check. Private sellers are not required by federal law or Texas law to do a background check before selling a firearm. 

If you would like to run a NICS background check before a firearm sale, a licensed dealer can help you conduct the sale. The FBI does not offer NICS background check services to the public. 

Keeping Records

Neither federal law nor Texas law requires private sellers to keep a record when they sell a firearm. Licensed 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 for best practices to follow when selling a firearm.

Gun Registration

There is usually no registration to transfer on a gun. Texas does not maintain a firearm registry. 

With some exceptions, the federal government doesn't either. The National Firearms Act requires registration for specific firearms such as short-barreled rifles and machine guns. This law is in 26 U.S. Code 5861. The ATF's National Firearms Handbook has details about these kinds of firearms. 

See our Legal FAQ: Do I need to transfer the registration of a firearm from one person to another? 

Second Amendment Lawsuits 

In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a court decision about gun rights in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, 142 S.Ct. 2111. The case is commonly known as Bruen or the Bruen decision

In a 6 to 3 ruling, the Supreme Court said that people have a constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense. The court also offered a new way of interpreting the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

Since the Bruen decision, people have filed lawsuits against state and federal gun laws that may place restrictions on firearms. The courts are in the process of making decisions that reflect the Bruen decision. Some laws may be found to be unconstitutional. 

An attorney can help you determine what recent court decisions might mean for your legal rights. For information on finding an attorney, please see the library's Legal Help page. 

Related FAQs & Guides 



browse by topic