Four Things You Need To Know Before You Go To A Gun Show

Four Things You Need To Know Before You Go To A Gun Show

At Gun Shows Today (GST), we know the 2nd Amendment Rights to keep and bear arms is a substantial right, but also a big responsibility attached with the purchase or possession of a firearm. In this blog post, GST provides you with (4) things you need to know about gun shows before you go. This is to make attendance a pleasurable event without any legal complications.

Non-Dealer Transfers and Sales

In some states, there is no requirement that personal sales or sales from private collections be effectuated buy the completion of an ATF 4473 Form and NCIS check. Law Enforcement generally takes a dim view on this. And buyers and sellers generally have no way to know if the firearm is lawfully owned and possessed by the seller.

Caveat Emptor. Ask yourself what you know about this person?

In any event, know the laws of your state and locale. Under the Gun Control Act, a repeat seller may be a “dealer(1)” and need a FFL. A dealer is a person who is engaged in the business by devoting time and energy to the sale of firearms to make money(2). If you are a seller, even in a one-time transaction, ask yourself what you know about this buyer?

In most cases, a private party transfer may be done through a dealer for a nominal transfer fee.

Non-Resident Purchase

Under law, these is some provision for non-residents to purchase long guns from dealers at an out-of-state gun show he or she may attend if the paperwork (4473 Form and NCIS check) is done. However, with other long guns and handguns, a non-resident may not be able to take delivery in another state(3).

This is not a bar to purchase. Purchase is not ownership that triggers penal law, but instead it is possession. To make a fairly lengthy concept simple, if the out-of-state gun show guest is not prohibited from possession of a firearm in his or her home state, and is a lawful possessor (i.e., does not have a felony or other disqualifier), the firearm may be paid for and shipped to an FFL in the guest’s home state.

At this point (i.e., in your state of residence) the ATFE 4473 from and NCIS check would be conducted. The dealer can transfer between FFLs by ledger entry in the Acquisition and Disposition log. Obviously, and again, the transaction would have to be lawful in your state of residence.

Firearms, Ammunition and Children

In states where there is a lot of hunting or in more rural areas, it may not seem logical that a juvenile cannot purchase a firearm or ammunition at the age he or she begins hunting. This is somewhat more confusing and there are distinctions between handguns and long guns.

Ballistically speaking, a rifle round has far more lethal potential than a handgun cartridge. In addition, at close range, the shotgun is probably the most deadly.

However, federal law prohibits a FFL holder from selling or delivering a long gun or ammunition to a person the license knows or reasonably should know is less than eighteen (18) years of age. With handguns, the juvenile must be at least twenty-one (21) years of age for the licensee to sell or deliver a handgun or handgun ammunition(4).

The dealer is not trying to hassle anyone. The show promoter wants dealers to sell and everyone have a good time. This is federal law with severe consequences for intentional violation.

Straw Purchases

An area of ever-increasing focus by state and federal law enforcement officers is with straw buyers and their purchase of firearms for unlawful possessors. This may seem innocent enough – buy a gun for a person with a decades-old felony who is squared away now – and make a few bucks to boot.

Make no mistake, it is unlawful for a purchaser to misrepresent he/or she is the buyer and possessor when, in fact, it is for an unlawful possessor(5). Consequences for breaking this law may range from seizure of your firearm to a lengthy prison sentence or both for straw buyer and actual possessor.

The ATFE has an extensive marketing program aimed at mitigating this temptation to do something seemingly innocuous. It is called the “Don’t Lye for the Other Guy.” Specifically, a person violating this provision of the federal gun law may be fined or imprisoned for up to five (5) years or both(6).

Dealers want to operate in a lawful way because they already have tremendous regulatory requirements. Show promoters do not want the blight of their show being showcased on the news for an illegal act. Be informed and avoid this and what may be a misguided attempt to do a “favor” for someone.

At Gun Shows Today, we hope you find this blog post helpful and you enjoy your time at the gun show. These events offer everything from the chance to get the buy of a lifetime to a good time. Understanding some of the law will hopefully make it that much better.

This blog post is written by Bryan L. Ciyou, attorney at law, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., Indianapolis, Indiana. It is not a solicitation for legal representation or legal advice. Please educate yourself and discuss any specific matter with an attorney in your locale.


1. 18 U.S.C. § 921 (a)(11).
2. 18 U.S.C. § 921 (a)(22).
3. 18 U.S.C. § 922 (b)(3).
4. 18 U.S.C. § 922 (b)(1).
5. 18 U.S.C. § 922 (a)(6).
6. 18 U.S.C. § 924 (a)(1).

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