Rob Pincus

Questions About Private Gun Sales

Rob Pincus
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Duration:   5  mins

Private gun sales: good or bad? Should you be worried about buying a gun privately from someone you don’t know, or selling a gun privately to someone you don’t know? These are reasonable questions for a responsible gun owner.

Anti-Gun Propaganda

The idea that private gun sales are somehow automatically bad has been perpetuated by those with an anti-gun agenda. Many people who don’t understand how firearms ownership works may think you’re doing something wrong if you buy or sell a firearm without going through a licensed dealer.

Legal Private Gun Sales

In some areas there are laws against private gun sales, but in the majority of the United States, there are circumstances under which it is legal for you to transfer a firearm to someone else, either as a gift or a sale. They don’t have to do a background check or be registered with a dealer. You don’t have to let anyone know except that person. It’s like buying any other personally owned property, whether it’s defensive gear or not.

You do have a moral and ethical obligation to know where that firearm ends up or where it came from. This is not always a legal issue. (And if it is illegal where you live to do private gun sales, don’t do it.)


What if you are considering legally selling a firearm to — or buying one from — someone you don’t know? What reasonable precautions should you take?

  • Get some idea who the person is. Get a copy of their driver’s license, perhaps by taking a picture of it with your smartphone. If the person refuses, this is a red flag.
  • Ask to see the seller’s concealed carry permit.
  • Get a bill of sale signed by both parties, including the price.
  • Back out of the sale if the other party says anything like, “Let’s not let anyone know about this sale.”
  • Share tips, start a discussion or ask one of our experts or other students a question.

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