The Safety in Private Gun Sales

20131202-104106.jpgA few weeks ago, I heard an instructor advise a begining shooting class that if they wished to conduct a private sale with a person they didn’t know, they should meet that person at an FFL holding facility and have the gun transferred to that person by use of a 4473.

This surprised me, because as a Georgia resident such measures are not required when conducting a private sale. Going a little further back I recollect a conversation with a girl friend, about the two private sales I have previously conducted. She asked if I had been nervous that I might be buying a gun that had been used in a crime or was selling my gun to a criminal. For both instances I replied, no. However, thinking about her questions and the instructor’s advice made me wonder, are private sales really safe? And could we make them safer?

The best thing to have when packing heat, is the element of surprise. However, if everyone is aware that one is strapped, they can take equivalent precautions. Sure, carrying a wad of cash to meet a stranger about a gun, even if you’re prepared, carries some risk, but that’s why the whole interaction is planned smartly. Regardless of planning, meeting to conduct the sale at a gun store is probably still the safest option because a criminal isn’t likely to show up to undergo a check. And yet, so far, I haven’t opted for this method. Have you?

To her other point, my friend’s questions carried the concern of not knowing into whose hands I was selling my gun. Yes, this person could have criminal intentions, but according to Georgia law, I am not required to make this assessment. I can ask to see their carry permit if I want, but gun owners are not required to have one in this state. Further, until a year ago, our pictures were not on these permits, so who is to say that the person standing in front of me is the one named on the permit? All these concerns could be avoided by heading the advice of the instructor, but would you ask for a 4473 for a private sale of a gun?


  1. Can’t think of any other form of personal/private property that requires a government license to trade. Obviously some common sense has to be applied when dealing with another individual, but the item being exchanged shouldn’t require additional oversight. As I recall, most criminals secure their firearms through theft, or via family members who know their status.

      1. Yes, it is. And, keeping and bearing it (and selling it and buying it) is protected constitutionally.

        You know, like, a RIGHT?

        OTOH, is your vehicle protected by its own Constitutional amendment…..?

    1. “Canโ€™t think of any other form of personal/private property that requires a government license to trade. ”

      Real estate and cars are pretty good examples.

      You can sell both without a license, but if you do it in enough volume to make a business out of it you need to be licensed.

      Not saying it’s right or wrong, just that your analogy is bad.

  2. No, I would not use an FFL for a private sale where I wa the seller or buyer. Since I live in a state that does not require background checks for private sales, I only require ID to prove residence, and will ask if the person is under disability to own firearms, and that’s it.

  3. Some suggestions. I have friends who conduct their private sales in the parking lot of their local police station. Proximity to the law should discourage bad guys from wanting to get involved with you. You might want to limit your transactions to people who are members of your local gun club, depending on how you feel about the membership of your club. If meeting at the local police station parking lot doesn’t work for you, you may want to meet for the transaction at some weekly or monthly gun club event where you will have lots of armed friends to help ensure that nothing bad happens to you.

  4. I think it depends on who you are selling to, how they behave, and how they look. I think asking them if they have a CCW, or if not, if they are prohibited- and maybe getting that on a recorder- is good. I think if we ever get into a situation where universal background checks seem likely to pass, we try the Grassley style system- where YOU run a background check on yourself, and then show that to the seller.

  5. I have never made a private sale to someone not known to me personally. That’s my policy on these (infrequent) occasions. Given the option, I’d use the NICS, but it’s not available to me since I’m not an FFL.

  6. A gun is like any other piece of private property. Make a bill of sale, check ID for state of residence or don’t make a sale if something doesn’t feel right.

      1. Functionally, it is. It just happens to be a lot more heavily regulated than a blender or a recliner. In most of America, selling a gun to a buddy is about as casual an act as selling an old pickup truck, which it should be. “Hey, can I buy your old thutty-thutty?”

        1. What he said.

          A gun is a tool; it’s not our jobs to make sure the purchaser knows how to legally use a nail gun.

          1. I think you mistook my point.

            You could actually kill somebody just as quickly and more quietly with a blender than you could with a .30-30. Just don’t plug the blender in. (This is, of course, assuming your blender is a good one with a brushed stainless motor housing and not some flimsy plastic piece of junk.)

            You want to know the main way a blender is different from a gun? The Constitution doesn’t explicitly protect your right to own a blender.

          2. How do you feel about knives, lead pipes, strong men against weaker women,cars . Texting while driving? There are many things out there that are harming our society. Guns are protected by our Constitution.Like the president says often.(period)

        1. That’s only because you’re not using one of them-thar Rondo Industrial Blenders with the blades forged from meteorite iron by a demon.

      2. A car can be far more destructive and I have bought and sold many of them over the years.

  7. Why do you not see a firearm to be like any other commodity? In my youth they were, you could purchase a 1911 off the back of Field & Stream for about $30, Sears would deliver a Marlin 336 to your door out of the big catalog; you could even take your shotgun to school so you could go hunting after school; only the gubmint makes it a special purchase.

    I should be able to conduct transactions on a firearms just like I do any other commodity.

    1. Sadly Ms Gabby you are of the twenty something generation and while you like firearms, you have swallowed the line of gumbint about the need for more regulations…regulations closed steel mills, coal mines, lead smelting plants, require stupid tags on bags not to put over your head, put more safety gizmos on automobiles than one can count–all to save just one passenger.

      Back in my youth we had far fewer murders and cases of domestic/child abuse than we do today; mainly because people were humane and were real neighbors. IF we knew the guy up the street was beating not giving the kid a swat on the ass; he/she was introduced to the same treatment–they quit beating the kid/wife. Kids didn’t run to CYS because mommy yelled at them and CYS didn’t come take a kid because it was yelled at.



          GET OFF MY LAWN

          1. I find this to be the most offensive comment yet. “I almost joined…so you would have the right….the thought that counts.” The thought that counts!? This isn’t a f$&@i Christmas card! You didn’t serve so please don’t act like anybody owes you anything. Good men and women did Serve and die so that you could be ignorant. Thought that counts……for nothing.

      1. I hate to interrupt your GIT OFF MAH DURN LAWN but violent crime rates are the lowest they’ve been in decades.

  8. Freedom is a scary idea that many people have a hard time dealing with. I don’t have the ability or desire to predict the future or control the actions of others. I grew up in Georgia, from my perspective a gun is no different than any other personal property.

  9. When I have sold guns on Gunbroker, I have included the line “Available for local pickup with Georgia carry permit.” That generally solves it for me.

    You could also meet at a gun show, that is a pretty secure environment and I have done a few private (unplanned) transactions there

  10. Doing a transfer through an FFL/dealer isn’t about gun registration or who is and isn’t allowed to own a firearm. It’s about personal liability!

    The bottom line is if ANYTHING goes wrong, I may be held responsible unless I can PROVE I am not liable, which may come down to the ability of my lawyer. ONE bad incident and my firearm rights are gone.

    And it doesn’t have to be direct! What if my purchased firearm was stolen or used in a crime 3 buyers ago? Or perhaps my buyer gave it to a “bad” person (straw purchase) or it was stolen from him/her and used in a crime? (I hope the owner reported it stolen!)

    “But I have a Bill of Sale! That absolves me of all liability.”
    Are you sure? There is a reason that pawn shops are required to verify all valuables (jewelry, firearms, etc.) are not stolen. It’s called “theft by possession”. It is MY RESPONSIBILITY to check regardless of the previous owner(s). And how good is your Bill of Sale to the new owner? Does it have id pictures? Signatures? Firearm serial numbers? “Cannot be held responsible” clause? Ask any property/liability lawyer about the details.

    I have been told that when a firearm is used in a crime, investigators trace the ownership as standard procedure. (Per a couple articles I read, this rarely leads to the criminal as they don’t use legal means of acquiring guns.) First, investigators go to the NICS database (Form 4473) and review the paperwork of the most recent dealer where it was processed. From there, investigators start interviewing buyers by following the Bill of Sale paper trail.

    Doing an official transfer (Form 4473) can avoid all the negatives (legal issues), including the need to maintain the Bill of Sale for AS LONG AS I LIVE. (I think some states have a limitation.) FFL dealers are required and are equipped to maintain the paperwork or they lose their license.

    To me, a little precaution and a transfer fee is worth avoiding possible legal issues and keeping my firearm rights. Anyone not willing will do a transfer isn’t worth buying from/selling to. Not to mention the safety of a public place with law abiding citizens that I know are “packing”.

    1. Here’s what happens in reality: A gun is found at a crime scene. 2 years of tracing records later finally lands the cops at your doorstep. You answer the door, the cops ask about the gun. Your response is: “I sold it a few years ago in a private sale. No bill of sale, I simply verified that he had an in state ID with his picture on it. He said he wasn’t a prohibited person. I took the cash, handed over the item.” The police respond with “Oh, ok, thank you for your time.”

      1. Ok, so I wouldn’t be liable for the crime under the law… But I would feel some guilt and sadness

        Further, what if the crime victimized someone I cared about? Doesn’t anyone feel any responsibility for their fellow man anymore?

        I may not be able to stop most/any crimes, but I’m sure I would feel remorse if I had a hand, no matter how distantly connected, in a crime.

        1. I hate to be rude, but please. It’s illogical feel guilt about the actions of others. Have you ever worked in fast-food? Do you feel guilty that you may have fed someone who went on to do bad things? If you sell a car to someone and they get all DUI’d up and run over school kids, do you feel responsible?

          No, you don’t. And a gun is no different. It is a physical item, no more capable of having agency than a rock, stick, or bone. This entire conversation is exactly what has been hammered into people’s brains over the years – that somehow, a gun has ‘different properties’. Solids, liquids, gasses, plasmas, and the one state of matter that’s unique to guns – evilarium!

          And this is wrong. It removes responsibility from where it lies. Worse, attitudes like this cause other people to believe that *I* should feel shame for something I didn’t do and then they go and make laws on it.

          There is *nothing* different about selling a gun than selling a set of antique knitting needles. Nothing. No logical reasoning can be applied that somehow you are responsible for what happens when the person takes those needles and ends up jabbing orphans in the jugular with them unless you have a clear signal that said person purchasing your wares is intent on doing harm with them.

          Saying there is is exactly why we have the labyrinthine patchwork of laws that make exercising our rights so dangerous. Someone *might* do something that I cannot possibly know and therefor *I* should be held responsible for this action.


        2. Manifesting guilt over something that you are not responsible for is up to you. Making us all perform transactions, through an intermediary, by federal law, which is supposed to only make interstate commerce regular, not regulate every aspect of our lives, is not the same thing as voluntary personal guilt over something.

          If you worry about private sales, (i would) then handle the transaction through an FFL. Making everyone do so will not remotely stop the black market in illegal transfers at all. Has New York’s rules stopped their black market? Has DC’s?

        3. You sell your lime green AMC Gremlin to a nice looking kid. 2 months later the police show up at your door bearing a picture of the same kid asking why a drunk driver who killed 3 people in an accident was driving your car. You tell them that you sold it to him in a private sale, he showed you a valid driver’s license so he was legal to drive it away. Additionally, you filled out all the forms necessary for him to register the car in his name.

          Do you now feel guilty or sad that you sold your car to a drunk?

        4. Plenty of other valid points have been made. Here’s another: Go look up (or work out) what percentage of guns are used in crimes. Look up how those guns are obtained.

          Hint: the first number is vanishingly small. And most of ’em are stolen or “obtained from a family member,” i.e., stolen, loaned or straw-bought.

          Of course, I hardly ever sell guns. Almost never. Y’know, I might *want* an extra gun some day.

  11. I will only make a private sale to an unknown individual if he has a valid concealed carry permit. I they are a CCW permit holder I know they are not a convicted felon or barred from owning a firearm. All other sales to unknown folks are do e thru a FFL dealer.

  12. Going to a dealer and filling out a 4473 is expensive and inconvenient. It also destroys one huge advantage of private sales. Privacy. A great many people do not want a tracebly record of who they got the gun from or who it was sold to. It improves the safety of the system, in which private sales prevent a gun registry from being created. I have bought far more guns privately than I ever sold, but when I felt the need to verify state residency to insure legality, I just asked for a state drivers license and told the individual that they could cover their name it they wished.

    The right to buy weapons is the right to be free.

    1. but when I felt the need to verify state residency to insure legality, I just asked for a state drivers license and told the individual that they could cover their name it they wished.

      Exactly my method on the couple times I’ve sold a gun to someone who was not personally known to me. Andbody to squirrelly to at least flash me some ID is probably too squirrelly to buy my gun anyway. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. An ounce of provention beats a poud of cure. If you are the buyer it helps protect you futher down the road if “done dirty” was assoc w/ your new firearm.
    If you are the buyer, same goes.
    Do it once, do it right.
    Go to a nice little friedly shop, clean, comfy, safe & home-like. paperwork will be done by your 1st cup of tea or coffee.
    Yes, 4473.

  14. Not sure how many states have this, but WA has a form you can fill out that costs nothing, it’s a Firearm Transfer Form you file with the state if you sell a firearm; it releases you as the owner.
    There are also some non-state specific forms out there in the internet for firearms tranfers; one I found was at:

  15. The only way to be sure your gun does not eventually fall into bad hands is to never get rid of it. I transferred a Marlin camp .45 to my son in another state, went the FFL route because he was living two states away. A year later, he sold it to a pawn shop. Fast forward three years, and I get a letter from the DEA about property of mine being held pursuant to a drug bust – the Camp .45. I was notified because I was the first owner, Serial number tracked it from Marlin to the distributor to the gunshop to me. Since it was not used in the commission of a crime, just collateral confiscated property, the DEA just wanted to know if I wanted to claim it. I decided to pass.

  16. Or maybe this is what happens in reality. A gun is found at a crime scene in another state at which a movie star/senator/pretty white girl is murdered. 2 days of tracing records later finally lands the FBI and ATFE at your doorstep. You answer the door, the FBI asks about the gun. Your response is: โ€œI sold it a few years ago in a private sale. No bill of sale, I simply verified that he had an in state ID with his picture on it. He said he wasnโ€™t a prohibited person. I took the cash, handed over the item.โ€ The FBI says “Right”, and you get a free ride to a government building, where your inability to provide an alibi for the time of the killing means that you get the Zimmerman treatment.

    If the person isn’t known to me, an FFL will do the transfer.

    No gun, and no payment for a gun, is worth going to prison for.

    1. your inability to provide an alibi for the time of the killing

      Fortunately, my whereabouts tend to be relatively well documented. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      In general, I too prefer to do business with people I know. (Of course, that does not necessarily protect me, since I have no control over how they dispose of them…)

    2. If the FBI comes to your door asking about a gun and your response isn’t “I’d like to answer these questions with a lawyer present” then you’re an idiot anyway.

      1. I think it is safe to say that staghounds is far more clueful on legal topics than you or I, Caleb. Trust me on that. ๐Ÿ™‚

        I would not discount his points lightly.

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