Buying a Gun: The Process

By Suzanne Wiley published on in How To

On the July 24, 2012 episode of the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News, Bill O’Reilly discusses how anti-gun groups are using the Aurora, Colorado massacre to push for more gun control. O’Reilly argued that Congress should pass a law reporting every sale of a “heavy weaponto the FBI. He said, “You can buy a machine gun and the FBI doesn’t know.” Of course, O’Reilly chose to demonize the AK-47, which is not necessarily a machine gun. In fact, everyone I know that owns an AK-47 owns a semi-automatic model. As we all know, once again the media has it all wrong. To pick on the AK-47 even more, in a speech on July 25, 2012, President Obama said, “But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not on the streets of our cities.” I find it quite funny that our Commander in Chief does not even recognize that our soldiers do not use AK-47s. Not to mention that James Holmes did not have an AK-47 in his possession.

The media guide to firearms.

The media guide to firearms.

In fact, AK-47s, the semi-automatic versions, have unusually strict regulations put on them. BATFE requires AK-47-type rifles to have at least six U.S.-made parts built in. To read more about purchasing an AK-47, read our blog, “So, You’re Thinking of Buying an AK-47? A Buyer’s Guide to the AK Family of Rifles.” Since 1934, the sale and ownership of fully automatic firearms have been rigorously restricted. To own a machine gun, one must submit to an extensive background check, provide pages and pages of legal paperwork, fingerprints, photos, proof of citizenship, and pay a $200 tax stamp to buy and own a fully automatic gun. Either a chief law enforcement officer or a state or federal judge must sign all this paperwork. Both the FBI and the BATFE run the fingerprint and background checks. Therefore, I’m not quite sure exactly how you can purchase a machine gun legally without the FBI knowing.To learn more about how to buy a machine gun, read our article “Own a NFA Weapon.

What O’Reilly fails to recognize is that when you purchase a firearm from a licensed firearms dealer, the FBI DOES in fact know you are purchasing a firearm. This goes for any firearm, not just a “heavy weapon.” To buy a gun from a Federal Firearms License holder (FFL), you are required to pass a National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) from the FBI. Then you must fill out Form 4473, a Firearms Transaction Record, which includes your NICS number from your background check, the make, model, and serial number of the gun you are purchasing, a federal affidavit stating you can legally own a firearm, your name, address, date of birth, and a copy of your photo ID. The dealer then keeps this record in a “bound book.” The dealer must keep their bound books until they are no longer in business, at which point they must give the bound book over to the ATF. Further, if any one person buys two or more handguns in a five-day period, the dealer must report this person to the ATF using Form 3310.4, of which the police receive a copy. If this process isn’t being “reported,” then I would like to know what exactly O’Reilly means when he says “reported?”

Filling out paperwork at Cheaper Than Dirt Outdoor Adventures.

Filling out paperwork at Cheaper Than Dirt Outdoor Adventures.

These states have no further steps other than the NICS and Form 4473:

  • Alabama
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Louisiana
  • West Virginia
  • Vermont
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Maine
  • Wyoming
  • Colorado
  • Georgia
  • Mississippi
  • Virginia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Montana
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah
  • Nevada
  • Kansas


Form 4473 asks for your height, weight, race, and social security number.

Form 4473 asks for your height, weight, race, and social security number.

Passing the NICS and filling out Form 4473 is a nationwide requirement, but there are some states that require more to purchase a firearm. These states have more rules when purchasing a firearm:

  • California:
    All sales of any firearm regardless through a dealer or individual sale must go through a licensed dealer. There is a 10-day waiting period before you taking possession of your firearm. You may only purchase one handgun in a 30-day period. You must fill out an application to purchase and The California Department of Justice gets a report of all firearm sales.
  • Connecticut:
    Connecticut has a 2-week waiting period before you can take possession of the firearm and there is an application to purchase.
  • District of Columbia:
    You must register your firearm and the Metropolitan Police Department must approve the registration certificate.
  • Florida:
    On weekdays, there is a 3-day waiting period for the purchase of a handgun.
  • Hawaii:
    You must obtain a permit to purchase and register all firearms.
  • Illinois:
    To buy a firearm, you must have a Firearms Owner’s Identification Card (FOID). There is a 24-hour waiting period for long guns and a 72-hour waiting period for handguns. Registration of firearms is required within the city of Chicago.
  • Iowa:
    An annual permit is required to purchase a handgun.
  • Maryland:
    You must apply for the purchase of a handgun. There is a 7-day waiting period for handguns and “assault weapons.” Registration of handguns is required. You can only buy one gun a month.
  • Massachusetts:
    To own a firearm, you must be licensed, have a Firearms Identification Card (FID) to buy a long gun, and a permit to purchase a handgun.
  • Michigan:
    You must have a permit to purchase and you must register all handguns.
  • Minnesota:
    There is a 7-day waiting period, and you must have a permit to purchase a handgun or “military-style” rifle.
  • Nebraska:
    You must have a permit to purchase a handgun.
  • New Jersey:
    The police keep records of all firearms transfers. You must have a Firearms Purchasers Identification Card to buy a long gun, a permit to purchase a handgun, and a license to purchase either.
  • New York:
    You must provide a license, a permit, and register to own a handgun. In New York City, you must have a license, permit, and register all guns.
  • North Carolina:
    You must have a permit to purchase a handgun.
  • Oregon:
    Dealers take thumbprints from the purchaser of a handgun, with copies given to the local police.
  • Rhode Island:
    You must fill out an application to purchase and take a safety course before buying a handgun. There is a 7-day waiting period in Rhode Island.
  • South Dakota:
    There is an application to purchase a handgun.
  • Tennessee:
    Dealers take the thumbprints of anyone who purchases a handgun.
  • Washington:
    The local police keeps records from all handgun sales. You must fill out an application to purchase.
  • Wisconsin:
    There is a 48-hour waiting period when you purchase a handgun.

As always, check your local laws before purchasing a firearm.

What state do you live in? Tell us about your gun buying experience in the comment section below.




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Comments (23)

  • Denver


    I recently purchased a handgun online. Of course , I had to pick it up at a FFL dealer. I recieved a delay response from” the phone call”. He then informed me that if he did not hear from them in 5 days I could pick it up unless they returned proceed before that time. I told him that portion of the brady law had expired in 1998 and it was only 3 days. He argued it had always been 5 days. Who is correct here?? Oklahoma has no waiting period state laws.


  • LostSpaniard


    Hey Virgil,

    I ran into a similar “speed bump” here in California. My driver’s license had my old address, so I produced my FFL 03 license which has to be updated within 30 days prior to moving. The cute gal at the counter said no with a squirmish face. The FFL, to be able to use it in accordance with BATFE rules MUST show correct/present address. Well, not enough for the dealer to sell me the gun.

    She quickly accepted my utility bill, which did show my present mailing address. It’s silly because I could have opened thst account for someone else (my name, someone elses property). It’s a standard they have to follow, I guess. We have to roll with it, Virgil.


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