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Private Party Firearm Transfers

Redmond Law Group June 1, 2023

Hand gun and judges gavelWhen it comes to guns, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” That hasn’t kept some states from enacting restrictions not only on how guns can be sold and transferred, but in many instances, also on the guns themselves—what's allowed and what isn’t. Michigan is one state that is among those who “infringe” as little as possible. 

When it comes to the sale or transfer of firearms on a personal basis, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recommends that this be done through a Federal Firearm Licensee (FFL) dealer, so the purchaser or transferee must go through a background check. 

In Michigan, however, rifles and shotguns can change hands by unlicensed individuals with no background check or licensing required. Handguns are different. The purchaser must obtain a handgun purchase license or already possess a concealed carry license (CCL), both of which require background checks. 

If you have questions or concerns about the private sale or transfer of firearms in or around Troy, Michigan, contact me at Redmond Law Group. I have been representing Michigan clients for more than 15 years, and I will zealously protect your rights to own and bear arms or to sell or transfer them. I also proudly serve clients throughout both Macomb and Oakland counties. 

What Is a Private Party Firearm Transfer?

Someone wishing to purchase a firearm often goes to a gun dealer or a gun show. Gun dealers might be Federal Firearm Licensees but don’t necessarily have to be. Gun show dealers also may be licensed or unlicensed. Guns can also be purchased online, where businesses or even individuals might choose to offer their firearms for sale.  

A private firearm transfer takes place between individuals, whether they decide to transact through a dealer, at a gun show, using online interaction, through a classified ad, or simply through a mutual shake of hands. 

The question is whether a private sale or transfer is legal. The answer is yes in Michigan without background check restrictions on rifles and shotguns, but for handguns, “yes if” the buyer or transferee obtains a handgun purchase license or already possesses of a concealed carry license. 

There are two restrictions, however: 

  • Pawnbrokers, second-hand shops, and junk dealers may not accept nor offer handguns for resale. 

  • You may not knowingly sell firearms or ammunition to someone under indictment for a felony or prohibited from possessing or carrying a weapon under Michigan law. 

Federal law additionally precludes the sale or transfer under many other circumstances, including if the person is a fugitive from justice, an unlawful user of illegal substances, an undocumented immigrant in the country, has been discharged dishonorably from the Armed Forces, has been convicted of domestic violence, and more. 

Age Restrictions for Firearm Ownership in Michigan

These private transactions, however, must also observe the age limits for purchasing firearms. To purchase most rifles and shotguns under Michigan law, you need to be at least 18 years of age, unless the firearm is “more than 26 inches in length.”

Gun ownership, however, is also restricted to 21 years of age. Note, however, that a purchase or transfer through an FFL under federal law means the buyer or recipient of any firearm must be 21. 

Pros and Cons of Private Sales or Transfers of Firearms

The positive is that a sale or transfer can be done in an expeditious manner, especially when it comes to rifles and shotguns. Handguns can be a bit more complicated. The cons, according to the ATF, are that there will be no required background check, at least for rifles and shotguns, and that local law enforcement will have no knowledge of who owns the firearm or where he or she lives. 

Thus, with no background check, in the words of the ATF website, “this leaves these private sellers with no way to confirm whether or not the person to whom they are selling the firearm is prohibited from possessing it.” 

Consult a Knowledgeable Attorney Before Proceeding

If you’re considering a private firearm transaction, especially if you’re the seller or transferor, contact me at Richmond Law Group to go over all the legal angles and potential consequences or ramifications. I serve clients in and around Troy and through Macomb and Oakland counties.