Spring Cleaning: Private Firearm Sales in Georgia

Spring is here and gun owners, like everyone else, may find themselves cleaning out the safe and looking for something new. What about selling a firearm? Can you lawfully sell a firearm privately in Georgia, and if so, how do you stay on the right side of the law, making sure your firearm doesn’t end up in the wrong hands?


A private sale is just what it sounds like: a sale, purchase, or transfer of a firearm by parties that are not licensed dealers. A private sale, gift, or transfer of a firearm to another individual is perfectly legal for both handguns and long guns in Georgia as long as all other legal requirements are met.


Georgia law allows residents of Georgia to purchase rifles and shotguns from a Federal Firearms Licensee (“FFL”) in “any state of the United States,” so long as the sale complies with all federal laws, the laws of Georgia, and the purchaser’s state. Non-residents may purchase rifles and shotguns in Georgia from an FFL; however, in order for the private sale of a handgun to be legal in Georgia, both parties must reside in this state. Similarly, under federal law, an unlicensed (non-dealer) may only “transfer” a firearm to another unlicensed person in the same state. This means that if a person is a resident of Georgia, federal law prohibits the person from directly (not through a dealer) selling or transferring the firearm to a resident of another state.

Federal law makes these transactions illegal from both the buyer/transferee and seller/transferor perspective. It is illegal for a private individual to transport into or receive within his own state a firearm which was purchased in another state from a private seller. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(3). Likewise, it is illegal for a private seller to sell or deliver a firearm to an individual whom the private seller knows, or has reason to believe, is not a resident of the seller’s state. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(5).


The key in private sales, obviously, is that you cannot knowingly sell to the “wrong” person. A private individual may sell a firearm to a private buyer in the same state, so long as the seller does not know or have reasonable cause to believe that the person purchasing the firearm is prohibited from possessing or receiving a firearm under federal or state law.

Here are some steps to take in private sales to keep you on the right side of the law. This is practical advice that should not be ignored. If you engage in the private sale of a firearm, make sure you:

  • Ask for identification to establish Georgia residency, whether you are the buyer/transferee or seller/transferor. Ideally, this will be a valid Georgia Weapons Carry License. If the buyer has a valid Georgia Weapons Carry License, you will know that the buyer is both a Georgia resident AND is eligible to possess a firearm.
  • Insist upon a “bill of sale” for the transfer and keep a copy—identify the firearm including the make, model, and serial number, as well as the date and place of transfer.
  • Put the residency information on the “bill of sale,” including names, addresses, and phone numbers of the buyer and you.
  • Do not sell or transfer a firearm or ammunition if you think the person may not be permitted or is prohibited from receiving the firearm.

Why do this? Not only will it help establish residency, but if you unfortunately happen to buy or sell a firearm that was previously used in a crime, or if you sell or transfer a gun that is later used in a crime, you want to be able to establish when you did and did not own or possess the firearm.


During a private sale, you might ask the buyer whether there is any reason that he or she cannot own a firearm. Why? If there is an issue later, you can at a minimum say that you had no reason to know the buyer could not legally possess firearms. Pay attention, and do not overlook behavior that may indicate the buyer is not telling you the truth, because law enforcement will not overlook facts that show you did know, or should have had reasonable cause to believe that the buyer/transferee could not own a firearm at the time of the transfer, if a legal issue arises later. Something as simple as making a mental note of the state license plate on the car your buyer drives could help you stay on the right side of the law: if that buyer shows up in a car with a South Carolina tag to buy a Georgia gun, this should cause concern.

These simple tips should help your spring cleaning become profitable and keep you on the correct side of the law! For questions about legally conducting the private sale of a firearm, please contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to an Independent Program Attorney.


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