Buying Guns as Gifts – Legal Concerns and Best Practices

Are you considering the purchase of a firearm as a gift to someone you care for? If so, there are some legal considerations and best practices to understand.

buying a gun as a gift

This post and the included infographic are here as a guide to help you navigate this decision and give you some other things to consider when purchasing a gun as a gift.

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Firearm Gifts Legal Considerations —

First, contrary to what most people think, no Federal Law prohibits you from buying a gun as a gift for someone else.

However, you should beware of what is known as a straw purchase, which is illegal.

Someone makes a straw purchase when they purchase a gun on behalf of someone else who may not be available, able, or qualified to make the purchase themselves.

So, the federal law prohibits you from making a straw purchase for someone you know won't pass a background check. However, buying a gun to gift someone else is not the same as a straw purchase. Watch your language in the store to ensure that you don't say anything that might give the impression you are making a straw purchase.

For example, let's say you want to buy a gun for your spouse. Neither one of you is prohibited legally from purchasing or possessing a gun and can pass a background check. So, with nothing to hide, you tell the sales rep at the gun store that you are buying the gun for your spouse; they may refuse to sell you the gun.

The refusal isn't because you're doing something illegal, but because some federal firearms licensees (FFL's) are either unaware of what a straw purchase is and what it isn't or overly concerned about being the person who sells a gun to someone making a straw purchase.

Sometimes the ATF investigates straw purchases, and sometimes they don't. Typically investigations are retroactive, investigating how someone who committed a crime got a firearm rather than based on a clerk's gut feeling. But his isn't to say you couldn't get wrapped up in some investigation based on some clerk who thinks you're trying to make a straw purchase.

pistol-505268_1280Laws regarding private transfers (gifts/sales).

There is a movement across the USA from various gun control groups to pass new laws that require that background checks be obtained not just for retail firearm purchases but for ALL transfers of ownership within the state. This requirement would include sales between two private parties.

What I've just described is what lawmakers call Universal Background Checks.

One (of many problems) with universal background checks is that the recipient of the firearm (even if it's a gift) must pass a background check before taking possession of the firearm.

Most states, however, still have no regulation around the transfer of a firearm between two private parties, or they may have exceptions for family members or antique guns.

If you've made the purchase and want to give the gun to someone, and the state you live in doesn't have this requirement, you can, without any paperwork or additional effort.

Contact your local attorney familiar with gun law or state Attorney General to get a clear understanding of the laws in your area related to purchases, private transfers, and licensing.

If you are gifting a firearm to someone outside the household (a friend, for example), it won't hurt to record the transfer. It doesn't have to be a complicated form. Just a document that includes the make, model, serial number of the firearm, along with details about the person to whom you gave the firearm, is sufficient.

While private party sales aren't the scope of this post, I'll mention that, at a minimum, for any gun you sell privately, you should keep similar documentation and have the buyer sign it.

When Shopping For Another Person's Gun —

buying guns as gifts

Buying a gun for another person is a considerable challenge. Any given individual has unique needs and preferences such as the size of the gun, appropriate caliber, method of carrying, etc.

The most straightforward practice when getting someone a gift is to get them involved in the selection as much as possible.

One method is to invite some friends to shoot with you and the intended recipient. Have them bring all their guns and cycle your intended recipient through them all to get feedback about what they like and don't like.

Take note of the size and caliber of the guns they seem to prefer. Consider the type of action (single SA, double DA, or DA/SA).

Ask the intended recipient questions that might give you insight into how they will use the gun. Different questions would be appropriate depending on how novice or experienced that shooter may be and how many firearms they may already own. Here are some examples.

  • Of the firearms you own today, what do you feel you are missing and why?
  • When would you see yourself using a firearm?
  • If you carried a weapon on your person for self-defense, what method of concealed carry do you see as being most comfortable or workable for you?
  • Out of all (insert name of friend's) guns, which do you like the best and why?

Just like any gift shopping, it's always a good idea to call up two or more friends of your intended recipient and ask for their feedback as well. They may have some anecdotal insights that you can't get directly from the person.

gun safety course

Gifting the person a free gun safety course like this one is a fantastic idea, even if they “have been around guns their whole life.”

It's never a good idea to assume that a specific gun is always a good fit for a particular demographic. For example, all women should use a DAO (double action only) revolver. Or that all women like small pink guns (these things may or may not always be the case, check out those posts for more info).

And make sure you research the firearm you're about to purchase. If it's going to be a gun for self-defense, it absolutely has to be reliable. Don't just take anecdotal stories from guys at the range or gun store counter. Here is a guide to choosing a reliable handgun.

Gifting a Firearm to a Minor —

Some states have strict rules concerning minors and gun ownership, while others are more lenient on minors owning firearms. The most important thing here is to research the state's laws in question before you gift a gun to a minor to make sure you have the most up-to-date legal advice.

We are not attorneys and can't take the place of a local attorney who can advise you of your state's laws. However, the map below links to all of our independent state websites. Each state website talks a great deal about concealed carry gun law, but not all of them will discuss minors and firearm ownership since our website is about concealed carry, and minors generally cannot do that.

Gift Card —

You'll have to weigh your options, but it may be better for you to buy a gift card for the recipient because there are so many variables, such as what the person likes, where you live, and if they can even own a firearm.

Sometimes instead of going through the headache of figuring all of that out, a gift card makes sense. Giving it to the person in a fun way can work out better than buying a gun that they won't like for one reason or another.

Bigger box stores and many local gun shops will have a way to buy a gift card. If you know, they are into guns and gear; this could be a good option.

Best Add-Ons —

Now, if you will get a gun for someone this season and want to go the extra mile, make sure that you understand that buying a firearm for someone is just the beginning.

Very thoughtful, but it's going to need accessories. Some additional items to consider are:

These are just some items that go hand-in-hand with gun ownership. These purchases will be much easier, as you can do it online without worrying about state laws (unless you live in one of the limited states that regulate online ammo sales).

So if you are looking to buy a firearm or accessories for a loved one, know what to look for and how to do it the right way. As you see, it's not:

easier for a teenager to buy a Glock, than get their hands on a computer or even a book


There are neighborhoods where it’s easier for you to buy a handgun and clips than it is for you to buy a fresh vegetable.”

Pres. Obama.

Infographic About Buying Guns as Gifts —

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About Jacob Paulsen

Jacob S. Paulsen is the President of provides in-person and online firearm training for American gun owners. The Company is currently teaching in-person classes in 25+ states with a team of more than 55 instructors. Jacob is a NRA certified instructor & Range Safety Officer, USCCA certified instructor and training counselor, Utah BCI instructor, Affiliate instructor for Next Level Training, Graduate and certified instructor for The Law of Self Defense, and a Glock and Sig Sauer Certified Armorer. He resides in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with his wife and children.


  1. Jay G on January 13, 2022 at 7:25 am

    If I was gifting a gun to my girlfriend wouldn’t it be best to take her with me and have her do the background check so the gun would be in her name from the start??
    I would simply be paying for it.
    I am not a felon and I can legally own and purchase firearms and she has no criminal record.

  2. Jay G on January 13, 2022 at 8:53 am

    If I was gifting a gun to my girlfriend wouldn’t it be best to take her with me and have her do the background check so the gun would be in her name from the start??
    I would simply be paying for it.
    I am not a felon and I can legally own and purchase firearms and she has no criminal record.
    And I live in Missouri.

  3. spencerlyle on December 1, 2022 at 9:34 am

    JAY G, that might work if both can legally purchase the firearms. However, this “gifting” law is also used by individuals age 18-20 who cannot purchase a handgun from an FFL so that someone over 21 could purchase it as a “gift” for them. Not to be confused with a straw purchase where someone over 21 purchases the handgun with the other person’s money. If you pay for it, you have to do the background check.

  4. Alan on December 4, 2022 at 6:16 pm

    It might be best to determine how much you the gift giver wants to spend and write a check in that amount or pass cash. Otherwise speak with the proprietor of a gun shop about what is involved in legally gifting a firearm.

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