With only a few shopping days remaining before Christmas day, you may be thinking about purchasing a firearm as a gift for a friend or relative. Or, you may be considering gifting one of Grandpa’s old side by side shotguns or cherished lever action rifles to a member of the family. Either way, there are a number of things to understand before you make such a gift.
You must first make sure that the intended recipient can legally own a firearm wherever it is that they live. Some states, such as California, New York, and Illinois have very restrictive gun laws, and what you understand regarding the laws in Pennsylvania simply may not apply. While many states may not require registration, licensing or carry permits, many states do. And, generally speaking, juveniles (under age 18) are precluded by law from possessing a handgun. If a person has been convicted of a felony, is a known drug user or has been dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces, they cannot possess a firearm. Further, if you transfer a firearm to someone you know, or have reasonable cause to believe, cannot legally own one, you have just committed a felony, so be careful!
If you are purchasing a gun as a gift, you must do so completely with your own money. If you purchase a firearm for someone else and use any portion of their money, that is referred to as a “straw purchase” and is NOT legal. In fact, it is a felony on your part. Again, if you are using only your money to purchase the gift, it is legal, as long as you are certain that the recipient of the gift can legally own the firearm.
If gifting a new firearm is your intention, you might consider that it may be much easier to obtain a gift card instead. Merely go to your local sporting goods store or firearms retailer and purchase a gift card for the amount of the firearm you have in mind, and then include the gift card with a photo of said firearm in an envelope with a note. The gift card recipient then goes to the store, selects that firearm or one that they prefer and completes the applicable paperwork and background check.
Gifting a firearm that you already own, either by having purchased it yourself or it was handed down through the family is another matter. Again, the laws vary under these conditions. No federal law prohibits a gift of a firearm to a relative or friend that lives in your state. As examples, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and the District of Columbia all require you to transfer a firearm through a local firearms retailer so that an instant background check may be accomplished to make sure the recipient is not legally prohibited from owning the firearm. Maryland and Pennsylvania require a background check for private party transfers of a handgun. There are definitely exceptions to these laws, so make sure that you know the laws of your state or ask your local firearms retailer.
A firearm as a gift is a very serious consideration and should be done responsibly and only gifted to someone who will treat it with respect. Such a gift is a very special thing to the recipient, particularly when it might be a firearm that belonged to a parent, grandparent or even great-grandparent.
ABOVE ALL, USE THE INFORMATION PRESENTED AS A GUIDELINE ONLY! Visit your local sporting goods store or firearms retailer to gain a clear and concise understanding of the laws before you proceed!