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Ask the Attorney: What's Up With Transferring Firearms?

Q: I have a used gun that I would like to sell. How do I go about selling it legally?

Pennsylvania closely regulates the sale and possession of firearms under the Uniform Firearms Act

This statute forces licensed retail sellers of firearms to follow a number of steps to ensure that specific buyers are legally permitted to possess a firearm and to keep adequate records of gun transactions. 

In most cases, individuals who want to sell used firearms to buyers who are not licensed firearms dealers must do so on the premises of a licensed firearm dealer, who then performs the same steps to transfer title to the gun as if it were the seller. 

Sales conducted through a licensed firearm dealer take longer and involve more bureaucracy. The proposed buyer must provide photo identification and fill out an application that the dealer files with the Pennsylvania State Police. 

The dealer must also call the state police and request that they conduct a criminal background check on the proposed buyer. Firearms dealers cannot deliver a firearm to a hopeful buyer before 48 hours have passed from the time the buyer applied to purchase the gun.

The requirement that private buyers and sellers of firearms conduct their transactions on the premises of a licensed firearm dealer has exceptions. 

It only applies to pistols or revolvers with barrel lengths of less than 15 inches, shotguns with barrel lengths of less than 18 inches, rifles with barrel lengths of less than 16 inches, or any firearm with an overall length of less than 26 inches. 

Thus, private buyers and sellers of long guns do not need to conduct their sales on the premises of a licensed firearm dealer, and they do not need to submit to the extra steps imposed on firearm retailers.

Moreover, if the gun transaction is between spouses, parent and child, or grandparent and grandchild, the obligation to conduct the sale through a licensed firearms dealer does not apply, regardless of the length of the gun.  These specific family relations can legally transfer otherwise legal firearms to one another without worrying about gun applications, background checks and waiting periods.

Antique guns are similarly excluded from the normal gun transfer process—this includes any gun manufactured on or before 1898, any gun that uses a matchlock, flintlock or percussion cap ignition system, or any replica of a gun that would have been manufactured on or before 1898. 

Such replicas must not be designed to shoot rimfire or conventional center fire ammunition, or if they are, such ammunition must be generally unavailable in the United States.

(This article is intended as a discussion of legal topics that are often confusing to many lay people; it is not, and should not be relied on as legal advice. Attorney Jesse White is licensed to practice solely in Pennsylvania and any information discussed relates solely to Pennsylvania law. For more information contact The Law Office of Jesse White in Cecil Township at 724-743-4444 or visit www.jessewhitelaw.com.)

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