Can I Purchase a Firearm for Someone Else?

By David S. Katz

Can I buy a firearm for another person?

No.  This would be a “straw man” purchase.  In order to legally purchase a firearm from a dealer, you must be the “actual purchaser or transferee.”  If you are not the actual purchaser or transferee, it is illegal for you to complete the transfer or sale under federal law.  Purchases for third persons are often called “straw man” purchases and are illegal.  If you are not the actual purchaser, beware!  In fact, the ATF has a campaign called “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” that is targeted at (as they term it on their website) detection and deterrence of “straw man” purchases.  The ATF website lists numerous examples of prosecutions for “straw man” purchases and a United States Supreme Court case examined and upheld federal law on this matter.  Abramski v. United States, 134 S.Ct. 2259 (2014).

You must be the “actual” buyer or transferee so as not to be a “straw man?”  The ATF states that you are the actual “transferee/buyer if you are purchasing the firearm for yourself or otherwise acquiring the firearm for yourself (e.g., redeeming the firearm from pawn/retrieving it from consignment, firearm raffle winner).”  The ATF goes on to state “you are also the actual transferee/buyer if you are legitimately purchasing the firearm as a gift for a third party.”

When completing ATF Form 4473: if a person checks “yes” to the box asking if the person is the “actual purchaser,” then that person cannot have engaged in a separate transaction to sell or transfer the firearm privately.  Please note: the Supreme Court’s ruling held that a person cannot legally purchase a firearm on behalf of another even if the person receiving the firearm would not otherwise be prohibited from making the purchase themselves.  So don’t buy a firearm for another person no matter how good a friend, relative, or person they are—it is a crime!


Q: May I buy a firearm from an FFL as a “gift” for another person?

A:  Yes.

Q: May a parent or guardian purchase a firearm as a gift for a juvenile?

A:  Yes, however, possession of handguns by juveniles is generally unlawful under federal law.  Juveniles may only receive and possess handguns with the written permission of a parent or guardian for limited purposes, e.g., employment, ranching, farming, target practice, or hunting.


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