Legal Brief: Buying a Gun Online
Legal Brief is a series where the ins and outs, the dos and don’ts of the firearms world are covered. From popular topics to more niche subject matters, the Legal Brief tries to help our reader be the best gun owner out there. Venture Out is an Ohio based outdoor social channel, so therefore most of our articles, videos, and posts, lean towards that fact. Legal Brief is no exception. The things discussed here are geared towards Ohioans. Please, if residing in a different state, follow all the laws and regulations regarding that state. Furthermore, Venture Out is not legal counsel. So please, if you have further questions, seek the appropriate legal authorities on the subject.
Can You Buy a Gun Online?
This is a frequent question that I and many others that work the sales floor of firearms retailers receive. The simple answer is—surprising to many—yes, but… Firearms can be purchased online, in fact the website that hosts Venture Out sells firearms and ammunition. The difference being is where the firearm is shipped to. This isn’t Amazon Prime shipping, where a firearm shows up on your doorstep in two days (though there was a day when a firearm could be ordered via catalog—Sears & Roebuck for instance—and showed up through the mail. Ask someone that grew up in the 1940s). Firearms purchased online must be sent to a licensed FFL dealer that is local to you to complete the transfer. Most times, the online retailer requires the FFL information, or at least the name and contact information of the shop, at the time of purchase.
Once a firearm is purchased it is a nice courtesy to notify the dealer you have selected to send the firearm to of the incoming transfer. At this time the seller and transferer (the two licensed dealers) need to exchange FFL licenses in order to maintain proper ATF compliancy. Many of the big online dealers, such as Palmetto State Armory, Guns.com, and others, have the Fin listed as an approved transfer destination. Making the process simpler for the buyer.
This next part is dependent on the individual firearms retailer and is wholly contingent on their systems in place. Once a firearm arrives at your local FFL, the dealer will update that firearms information in their “books.” For the Fin specifically, a firearm is entered and updated into our inventory management system that is compliant to ATF standards. From there, the dealer will notify the transferee (the buyer) on the appropriate time for pickup. At the Fin, it is the next day, as our system takes time to update.
After all these steps have taken place, the transferee can come in and complete a NICS background check in order to take possession of the firearm. But this is not the final step. Dealers that offer the ability to accept FFL transfers do so as a courtesy, but it isn’t free. A transfer fee is usually charged to cover the costs and time it takes to process incoming firearms. At the Fin, the fee is $50.
What if I am NOT Buying from a Dealer?
It is important to note, that a lot of guns bought online are not through licensed dealers. Things such as GunBroker, Utah Gun Exchange, and ArmsList exist to offer a place for private citizens to sell their personal firearms. This is where things get a little grey and the lines start to blur. On these sites, the seller could require the firearm be transferred to an FFL dealer, which legally has to happen if the buyer is out of state. However, the state you reside in may have particular laws or ordinances in place covering private party transfers. In Ohio for example, people are permitted to sell firearms privately to other legal gun owning residents of the state, which is where websites like ArmsList come into play. However I cannot stress enough caution when pursuing this route. As a seller, require that the buyer has a valid CCW license, that way you know a background check has been passed (though this isn’t fool proof). From there, try to get as much information down on a bill of sale as possible. This is all to protect yourself. For more context, here is an excerpt from the Ohio Revised Code, Section 2923.20 Unlawful transaction in weapons:
Recklessly sell, lend, give, or furnish any firearm to any person prohibited by section 2923.13 or 2923.15 of the Revised Code from acquiring or using any firearm, or recklessly sell, lend, give, or furnish any dangerous ordnance to any person prohibited by section 2923.13, 2923.15, or 2923.17 of the Revised Code from acquiring or using any dangerous ordnance;
Buying firearms online is a relatively easy process. Simply order the item, then follow the host site’s steps in choosing a proper FFL dealer local to you. With the ongoing pandemic of 2020 and 2021, coupled with other events of the world, more and more people are buying guns. With that, increasingly more people are starting the ownership process by going online. It is an easy way, especially if it is harder to make it out to a FFL dealer, or if their inventory is sparse. At Venture Out we hope this has answered some questions involving the process, but just remember your individual state might have further restrictions and compliances when buying firearms online.