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Is It Legal to Sell Guns Privately?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Until recently, the private sale of guns was largely unregulated. If you had a rifle and a friend who wanted to buy it, that was OK. And if you had multiple firearms for sale, you could simply take them to a gun show and sell them there, without the hassling of registering as a firearms dealer and performing background checks.

But selling guns privately isn't as easy, or legal, as it once was.

Presidential Restrictions

In January, President Barack Obama issued an executive order on gun control that requires every firearms dealer to be licensed and perform background checks. As the White House Fact Sheet said: "If you're in the business of selling firearms, you must get a license and conduct background checks."

The sheet goes on to describe how law enforcement will determine if someone is "in the business of selling fire arms:

"Quantity and frequency of sales are relevant indicators. There is no specific threshold number of firearms purchased or sold that triggers the licensure requirement. But it is important to note that even a few transactions, when combined with other evidence, can be sufficient to establish that a person is "engaged in the business." For example, courts have upheld convictions for dealing without a license when as few as two firearms were sold or when only one or two transactions took place, when other factors also were present."

So private gun sales can be legal, if the seller is licensed or it is a one-time, one-gun sale. Otherwise you run the risk of prosecution.

Marketplace Restrictions

On top of federal and state laws restricting private gun sales, many online marketplaces have either banned or heavily regulated the private sale of firearms. Most recently, Facebook banned private gun sales on the social media platform. And Craigslist and eBay prohibit gun sales on their websites.

The private sale of firearms is becoming more heavily regulated. If you want to ensure you're complying with all state and federal gun control laws, you may want to consult with an experienced attorney near you.

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