You Can’t

The Knox Report

From the Firearms Coalition


You Can’t Do That


By Jeff Knox

            (May 13, 2008) Everyone knows that you can’t legally purchase a handgun from a dealer in another state, and most folks know that it is a crime to purchase a gun on behalf of someone else or to sell a gun to someone knowing that it is intended for someone else, but there are other deals that many people seem to be confused about.

Ask ten gunowners what the rules are regarding sales by private individuals to other private individuals and you are likely to get at least 12 different answers.  There are also questions about transporting weapons, and of course about carrying concealed or open, carrying in cars, and carrying guns in the woods.

Some of the questions can be easily answered while others can get complicated.  Here are a few items I have run across recently that are in need of illumination.  In all of these cases I am talking about regular folks and regular guns, not FFL holders or C&R items:


1.                          It is illegal for any person to purchase any handgun from any source in any state in which he does not reside.  This is true at gun shows, through newspaper ads, at shooting events, or making a deal with your brother-in-law in the next state over.  If you want a handgun that you find outside of your home state, it must go through a dealer in your home state.  It is legal to purchase a long gun from a licensed dealer in another state in a face-to-face transaction as long as that sale is legal in both states. 


2.                          It is illegal for any person to sell any handgun to any person who is not a resident of the seller’s state.  If you sell a gun to someone and you do not check their drivers license or in some other way verify that they are a resident of your state, you could face a felony prosecution and possibly lose your gun rights forever!  If they are a resident of another state, you can take the money and ship it to a dealer in their state – who will require a commission and will have to run the transaction through his books and NICS before releasing the firearm.

3.                          While it is legal to ship a handgun to yourself care of a contact in another state in advance of a trip to that state, it appears that actually doing so legally is not possible.  The US Postal Service and every common carrier I can find – UPS, FedEx, and DHL – refuses to transport handguns for non-FFL holders.  Simply not telling the carrier that there is a handgun in the box would solve that problem except that it is illegal.  Federal law requires that you notify the carrier any time you ship a firearm.


I have heard it suggested that it is better to ship guns via UPS or FedEx when traveling rather than go through the hassles of checking them through the airport.  This might be true of long guns, especially multiple long guns and cases that are going to incur excess baggage charges and would be a pain to haul around, but not handguns.  As noted above, it is virtually impossible to ship handguns without going through an FFL – and processing the gun(s) through their books and NICS every time. 

Being educated about TSA policies and practices and making some simple preparations before going to the airport can make traveling with firearms pleasantly uneventful.  We have an article addressing that subject in detail posted in the Knox Report section of our web site, 

The bottom line on this issue is that there are many things – and these were just a few examples – that people think they know are safe and legal, but which in reality can result in criminal prosecution.  Just because people have done something in a certain way for a long time does not mean that it is a safe and legal practice, and your excuse of simply following tradition over law is not likely to hold sway with any judge or jury. 

The problems I have highlighted here are particularly prevalent at gun shows which are held near state lines.  The National Association of Arms Shows is actively working to educate their exhibitors and patrons to the reality of these and other mistaken notions while at the same time working for legislation that would alleviate some of the problems and make it easier execute transactions without breaking any laws.

Ask your favorite gun show promoter if they are members of NAAS and if they’re not, challenge them to get involved.  If the gun show industry doesn’t work harder to protect itself, it is not going to survive, especially not if Democrats take over the helm in Washington, DC. 

Ignorance of firearms laws (until we can get them changed) puts all gunowners at risk.


Permission to reprint or post this article in its entirety is hereby granted provided this credit is included.  Text is available at  To receive The Firearms Coalition’s bi-monthly newsletter, The Hard Corps Report, write to PO Box 3313, Manassas, VA  20108. 

©Copyright 2008 Neal Knox Associates