You are looking for just the right firearm for your everyday carry, or perhaps you're looking for a nice used gun to add to your collection. You also want to find a really good deal. A private sale might be the way to go.
Federal law does not prohibit private sales between individuals who reside in the same state, and the vast majority of states do not require that a private sale be facilitated by a federally licensed gun dealer (“FFL”). However, the more you think about it, what would happen to you if you bought a gun that turned out to be lost or stolen? Even worse, what would happen if you purchased a firearm that had been used in a crime?
Unfortunately, these things can happen. Further, there is no practical way for you to ensure a gun you purchase from a stranger is not lost or stolen.
Further reading: What is CCW Insurance, And Why Do I Need Coverage?
How Can You find Out if a Gun is Stolen?
Search the FBI Lost and Stolen Gun Serial Number Database
Unfortunately for purchasers in private sales, only law enforcement agencies are allowed to request a gun serial number check or search of the lost and stolen gun database.
Guns Serial Number Check
While there have been attempts at creating private searchable internet databases where individuals self-report their lost or stolen guns, these usually contain only a fraction of the number of actual stolen guns, and the information is not verifiable.
Some states are exploring or attempting to build a state database of lost or stolen firearms that is searchable by the public, online. For example, the Florida Crime Information Center maintains a website where an individual can search by serial number for many stolen or lost items, including cars, boats, personal property, and of course, firearms.
However, even this website warns:
“FDLE cannot represent that this information is current, active, or complete. You should verify that a stolen property report is active with your local law enforcement agency or with the reporting agency.”
Police Checks of Firearms (Stolen Gun Database)
Having the local police check the federal database continues to be the most accurate way to look up gun history by serial number to ascertain whether or not a used firearm is lost or stolen. However, many police departments do not offer this service. And be forewarned: if the gun does come back as lost or stolen, the person who brought it to the police will not be getting it back. The true owner always has the right to have his or her stolen gun returned.
If you choose to purchase a firearm in a private sale, you should protect yourself. A bill of sale is the best way to accomplish this. If it turns out the firearm was stolen or previously used in a crime, you will need to demonstrate to the police when you came into possession of the firearm, and from whom you made the purchase. You do not want to be answering uncomfortable police questions without the documentation to back you up.
On the flip side, if you are the one who happens to be the victim of gun theft, be sure to report it after speaking with an attorney. Because while it may take several years, you never know when a police department may be calling you to return your gun.
See also: Do You Need Self-Defense Insurance?
Your Protection Starts Here!BECOME A MEMBER
The information provided in this publication is intended to provide general information to individuals and is not legal advice. The information included in this publication may not be quoted or referred to in any other publication without the prior written consent of U.S. LawShield, to be given or withheld at our discretion. The information is not a substitute for, and does not replace the advice or representation of a licensed attorney. We strive to ensure the information included in this publication is accurate and current, however, no claim is made to the accuracy of the information and we are not responsible for any consequences that may result from the use of information in this publication. The use of this publication does not create an attorney-client relationship between U.S. LawShield, any independent program attorney, and any individual.
Know your seller, too. Is this a person of good character? If you don’t know who the seller is, there is no great bargain in it for you.
The article states that a private sale between individuals can occur if they are within the same state. What if you are purchasing one from a family member who resides out if state. They in turn had purchased it off of another family member within their same state.
What’s the firearm in the picture up top? I don’t recognize it.
Kind of looks like a Walther P22. I could be wrong though.
95279 is this gun ok to buy?
I Got A Great Deal On A Gun! How Can You Tell if It’s “Legit” or Stolen?
Good article. But it doesn’t answer the question.
Ask the seller to show you the bill of sale that includes the serial number from when he bought it. If you can’t show it to you, you have to assume that you can never prove that you are the rightful owner.
Great idea. Thanks for posting.
I have over the years bought and sold firearms privately, and every time I have I asked them for a driver’s license and made a copy of both our drivers license. Then on those copies wrote out a bill of sale listing exactly what was being bought and or sold listing all serial numbers and descriptions of the firearms. Then both parties sing and date both copies along with a witness.
I am a convicted felon who has never owned a firearm. My crime was forgery and I received a prison sentence of 12 years. I was totally free from parole on 05/04/2004 and I haven’t been in any trouble since. I live in Houston,Tx. and I’ve read where if anyone with a felony conviction who has been off parole or probation for 5 years can legally own a firearm for home protection as long as you don’t leave your home with it. Does anyone know how true this is. Thanks in advance.
Contact an attorney or the prosecutors office in the area where you reside. Have your case file and release info available and they can give you specific info concerning this. Many states are offering to remove convictions if they are non-violent to assist individuals with getting jobs, etc.
How could I get my serial number from my gun if it was stolen
U should’ve known your guns SN before it was stolen. Im no lawyer but i think the law would want to go over some basics of owning a firearm. Highfive!
How can I see if a gun is stolen
And dont remember what day I bought it and they the gun dealer wont help me unless I can remember the days I bought it?
All I need is to get the serial number to give to the police ?
I’m trying to check my gun to see if or how I can put it in my name that I just bought
Take it to the pawn shop pawn it for cheap and get it back out and you will have to fill out the paperwork again for it to be in your name
that’s not a bad idea. didn’t think of that
Price of my guns