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Spring Cleaning: Private Firearm Sales in South Carolina

It’s spring and it’s time to clean—including your gun safe! Say you’re in the middle of negotiating a private sale, but you don’t know the other party’s history, or if they are a prohibited person. So, how do you protect yourself when you sell a gun?


Although the law does not require you to document the private sale of a firearm between two residents of South Carolina who are not otherwise prohibited persons, to best protect yourself, ideally you would want to have a Federal Firearms Licensee (“FFL”) handle the transaction. Typically, the FFL will charge a nominal fee to do the federal background check on the weapon and handle all paperwork associated with the transaction, including the background check and bill of sale.

This offers a private citizen the greatest protection from a criminal investigation if the weapon is used in a crime, or civil liability if someone misuses the weapon. This creates a clear paper trail that should cut off any criminal or civil link between the seller and the ultimate user of the weapon. Using an FFL to complete a private sale is not required under South Carolina law, but is the single best way to protect the seller in a private sale.


At the very least, if selling the weapon to someone you know has a legal right to own the firearm, the seller should create a bill of sale, noting the make, model, and serial number of the firearm being sold. Additionally, the purchase price, name, and address of the buyer should also be on the bill of sale. Finally, make sure that you have a duplicate copy of the bill of sale and keep it in a safe place, so that if the firearm is ever used in a criminal or negligent manner, you have a paper trail to end your association with that firearm.


Despite popular belief, there is no gun registry in the State of South Carolina. Whether you buy or sell a gun in the State of South Carolina, there will only be a record created if you do so through an FFL.

Neither the State of South Carolina nor the federal government maintain records of the serial numbers of guns and their owners. Anyone can sell a gun privately and there are no requirements under the law to report the sale to any governmental agency, as long as the gun is legal to own, and the buyer can legally own the weapon.


However, remember that under federal law, one cannot sell or gift a weapon directly to a resident of another state. This can only be done through a licensed FFL.

Private sales between law-abiding individuals of the same state, each of whom may legally own a firearm, require none of the above formalities. It is simply the smart thing to do.

If you have any further questions regarding private sales of firearms, please feel free to call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.


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