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Q&A

What is the responsible way to sell a firearm?

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I am moving to a different state soon. In order to make the move easier I have decided to sell some of my firearms. I live in a state that doesn't have universal background checks, unfortunately.

What is the most responsible way to sell my firearms? From other listings I have seen, most people just take an approach of only selling to CCW holders. That's not a bad idea - are there other good ways? I'm making the assumption that selling to a pawn shop will give me nowhere near good value for my collection. But they would conduct background checks on the future buyer right?

What type of receipt should I be issuing with the firearm?

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6 answers

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You can require the purchaser to fill out a Form 4473 that the BATFE requires FFL holders to file. Make sure the purchaser fills out the form and signs it. Even though you're not an FFL holder, the form holds it's own weight. It states on the form

18.c. I also understand that making any false oral or written statement, or exhibiting any false or misrepresented identification with respect to this transaction, is a crime punishable as a felony under Federal law, and may also violate State and/or local law

Also, make sure the purchaser answered the questions correctly. Do NOT sell the firearm if the answers aren't correct.

The purchaser should not object too strongly with this method. Because you're keeping the form for your records and not sending it to the BATFE. If (s)he does, then don't sell the firearm.

Keep the form forever so you have a record of the sale.

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There are three ways that I am aware of, as a private seller to sell your guns to someone else correctly. Keep in mind that correctly is very jurisdiction-driven, and in some ways dependent on opinion.

But First

Make sure you can sell your gun at all. Many collectible guns fall under certain rules where you are allowed to own them if you did before such and such a date, but your no longer allowed to sell them. Also be aware that there may be county and other requirements. For example, in Florida you can sell your gun with no background check, but if the buyer doesn't have a CCL then there is still a wait period. Some counties do require background checks even if the state does not.

"Good" ways to sell

While there are exceptions these ways are so easy and accessible that most people just go one of these ways.

  1. Gun show. There are many gun shows. If you wish to sell at a gun show there are sections set up to let you do just that. You pay a small fee, and a FFL will handle the transaction for you, like a broker.

  2. Gun shop/clubs. Most gun shops and clubs offer a "transfer" or "broker" service. Like the gun show, a FFL brokers the deal for you for a small fee. In both cases they make sure all laws are followed and that all the paperwork is in order. They will also have rules on who the buyer can be so you can feel safe that your gun isn't going to someone unsafe.

  3. County Sheriff's office will usually help you transact a sale if you call ahead and ask them to. They may not want to help you sell 200 guns, but they are usually more then willing to help with a few. They can do background checks, witness the sale, and make sure the paper work recommended is filled out correctly. Make sure you call to arrange this first. Showing up at the sheriffs office with a gun in your hand will make for a very bad day.

FL specific things

There is no registration in FL. In theory you could sell your gun to anyone, so long as:

  • You traded something of equal value
  • The buyer is a FL resident
  • You know the buyer is over 18
  • You know the buyer is not a convicted felon

But keeping a good record is recommended.

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I live in a state that doesn't have universal background checks, unfortunately.

Universal background checks are simply an elimination of private sale, so the lack of such a policy simply means you have another option. Here are all your options:

  1. Sell to any store which handles firearms. Any gun store, pawn shop, or other business which regularly sells firearms is legally required to hold a Federal Firearms License (FFL), and any FFL holder is legally required to conduct background checks (NICS check through a form 4473) on any buyer. If you sell to a store, you will likely get much less than the firearms are worth, but they will be out of your concern immediately and you will have peace of mind that they are going to a responsible owner.
  2. Sell them online, through a site like Gunbroker or Armslist, and transfer through a gun store. Virtually all gun stores offer firearm transfers as a service, with typical prices ranging from $10-50. The way this works is once you receive payment for the firearms, you ship them to a gun store chosen by the buyer (not the buyer themselves). The gun store logs the transfer, conducts the background check (again, they are legally required to do this), and then if the buyer passes they take possession of the firearm. Normally the buyer chooses the FFL and pays the FFL transfer fee.
  3. Sell them locally, but process the transaction through a local gun store. This is exactly as the above, except instead of shipping to an FFL, you and the buyer meet at a local gun store to handle the background check.
  4. Sell them through private sale. This is simply a face-to-face transaction. Legally, you can not sell them to someone you know to be a prohibited person (someone who is not legally allowed to own a gun), and the buyer must be a resident of the same state as you. Banning this is all that 'universal background checks' are, but you're free to ignore this option if you don't feel comfortable with it. Because ordinary citizens are not allowed to access the NICS, some opt to use concealed carry permits as an indirect confirmation that someone has passed a background check in the past.

It sounds like #1 will be the easiest option for you, but #2 doesn't entail any additional legal responsibility and will get you a better price if you're willing to do the work of advertising and shipping, and #3 is easier still if you can find a local buyer. Any of the first three options ensures that a background check is being conducted.

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I think it partly depends on what guns you're selling, how many you're selling, and also what your time is worth. If you're selling a commodity gun like a Marlin 60 or Ruger 10/22, probably sell them to a gun shop. They'll give you a decent price and your time is probably worth more than what it would take to go through the extra trouble of meeting a private buyer at a police station or gun shop.

If you have something interesting like a pre-`64 Winchester 70, that might be worth taking to an auction house.

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One possible solution, if you find a buyer that is willing to wait for it, i have heard of people taking a copy of the buyer's drivers license to the police station and asking them to run it to check for any red flags, or past offenses that prevent them from owning guns such as domestic abuse, or being a felon. I'm not sure if all police departments would do this or if they would charge to do it, but it does help keep them out of the wrong hands.

Also I would write your own bill of sale with both parties signing it basically just saying "I ______ sold this model of gun, for this amount, to ______ on this date. Serial number __________" then both parties sign the bottom of the page. This simply removes as much liability as possible.

Or as Charlie suggested you may be able to find a FFL dealer that will run the same paperwork as if they were buying it from them for a small nominal fee and act as a broker of sorts. The most money will be made selling it to a private individual but i understand your caution. I have had FFL transfers done for as little as 10$.

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There is nothing that says that you can't require a background check. Most firearms stores would do a background check and transfer the firearm for a small fee. Its the same process if you buy a gun online and have it shipped to a licensed FFLdealer to have it transferred to you.

You would have to find a local FFL dealer to settle all of the details.

Beyond that, selling to any FFLdealer would mean that they would take care of the background checks in the future.

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