Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. If you question any answer, please consult an attorney.

Q. When is a background check required?

Q. My gun’s manufacturer issued a safety recall. If I send my gun back to them for repair, is a background check needed?

A. No, because legal ownership is not changing hands. You just follow the instructions by the manufacturer for returning the gun for repair.

Q. For my son’s 25th birthday, I want to transfer a gun to him. Does he need to have a background check done?

A. No. Gun transfers to direct family members does not require a background check.  This allows guns to be bequeathed or gifted to family members.  However, you should be aware of your son’s ability to legally own a gun in the first place.  If your son is a convicted felon out on parole, do NOT gift him a gun.  If a crime is committed involving that gun, there is a high probability you will be a person of interest by law enforcement by giving a gun to a person who legally cannot own one. In Pennsylvania, background checks are not required from grandparent to parent to grandchild and spouse.

Q. If I gift a gun to my son, and the gun is used in a crime, am I legally responsible?

A. If you do not include a receipt or a piece of paper showing the transfer from you to him, signed by both parties, yes, you will be legally responsible, because the last known form 4473 for that gun contains your name and signature.

Q. I want to buy a gun for my wife for Christmas. Can I do that? 

A. It depends on who the legal owner will be.  If you will be the legal owner, then yes.  You will own the gun, but she can use it.  If she will be the legal owner, then no, as this is considered a “straw purchase”, and the retailer will not even process the transaction.  In this case, the best approach then is to give her a gift certificate for the retailer for the approximate price of the gun.  When she uses the gift certificate, she will be attesting that she is the legal owner.

Q. A long time ago my cousin was convicted of domestic abuse. Can he own a gun?

A. Absolutely not! Convicted felons are prohibited from owning guns.

Q. My veteran son now suffers from PTSD from his tour in Afghanistan and is under psychiatric care. Can he own a gun?

A. If he voluntarily sought out counseling, then yes, he can own a gun. On the other hand, if the court had to intervene and mandated psychiatric counseling for him, then no, he cannot own a gun.

Q. My state legalized recreational marijuana. Can I purchase a gun? 

A. If you are a regular user then no, because marijuana use is prohibited at the federal level and form 4473 is a federal form, regardless of your state’s legality on marijuana usage. If this bothers you, contact your U.S. Representative or Senator to have federal law changed.

Q. My background check came back with a response of “delayed”. What does that mean and what can I do about it? 

A. It means the agency conducting the check requires more information.  Perhaps you have an identical or similar name to a convicted felon, and the agency needs time to distinguish the two of you.  Usually, the delay lasts no more than 24 hours.  Most gun buyers use their driver’s license as the primary form of ID on form 4473.  The form also has an optional box for the buyer to include their Social Security Number.  If you have a common name, suggest you enter your SSN, as this will help the agency distinguish you from someone prohibited.

Q. I was convicted of a felony a long time ago when I was a minor. The court has since expunged my record.  Can I own a gun?

A. If the court expunged your record, then yes, you can own a gun, otherwise, no, you cannot own a gun.

Q. How long does a background check take?

A. Usually only a few minutes. Here in Pennsylvania, by law, law enforcement agencies have up to, but not more than, 45 days to conduct a check.  The issue then is whether or not that translates to “business days” or “calendar days”.  Most PA counties use calendar days, but the city of Philadelphia plays hardball, and uses business days.  More recently, Gun Owners of America sued the city of Philadelphia for the city’s violation of state law during COVID for exceeding the 45-day limit on the issuance of carry permits.  As of 12/12/21, the GOA has withdrawn their lawsuit in exchange for an agreement with Philadelphia that the city will comply with the limit.

Q. If the background check comes back with “approved”, does the FFL have to proceed with the transaction?

A. No, the FFL does not have to proceed with the transaction. Most FFLs conduct background checks first, so upon receiving the result, knows whether or not to have the purchaser complete form 4473.  But let’s assume the background check comes back “approved”.  When subsequently completing Form 4473, the buyer must be completely truthful in their answers, and if they answer a question which throws up a red flag, the FFL can stop the transaction.  A status of “approved” is not a rubber stamp to a buyer walking away with a gun.

Q. I am the legal owner of a gun which was just stolen. What should I do?

A. Upon first noticing the gun was stolen, immediately call the police, so the gun’s serial number is flagged as stolen, and to absolve you of any wrongdoing if the gun is subsequently used in the commission of a crime. As a helpful tip, for every gun you own, you should write down the serial number and store that serial number somewhere safe, in the event the gun is stolen and you need to provide that serial number to the police. To help, there is a really good ATF form related to Firearms Records on our Download page. You can access the downloadable form from this link: ATF Firearms Record.

Q. Upon successful completion of Form 4473 for my new gun, does this transaction go into a national database of gun owners and their guns?

A. NO! There is no national database of guns and their owners, and 2nd Amendment proponents want to keep it that way.  Do NOT vote for any gun-grabbing politician who wants to create a national gun registry.  The processing FFL however, will be required to keep a copy of Form 4473 for 20 years.

Q. My son has a Protection From Abuse order against him. Can he own a gun?

A. Absolutely Not! In most of these instances, the person against whom the order was filed, generally has only 24 hours to relinquish any guns in their possession to law enforcement.

Q. I am in the U.S. on a green card. Can I purchase a gun?

A. Yes. Resident aliens are permitted to own guns.  Should you decide to return to your home country, the purchased gun must be disposed.

Q. Can I buy a gun at a gun show without a background check?

A. No. Gun vendors are vetted by the promoter to ensure every gun vendor is an FFL.

Q. I want to buy a silencer for my gun. Can I buy one?

A. First off, there is no such thing as silencers. They are “suppressors” because they never completely silence the noise of the expanding muzzle gasses.  Rather, they suppress, or reduce, the noise, and yes, you may buy one.  And you need to use an FFL with a special classification, known as a “Type 2 SOT”, which stands for Special Occupational Taxpayer.  This type of FFL is licensed to deal, manufacture, or import a certain category of firearms called NFA Firearms/Title II firearms. This special category of firearms includes Suppressors, Short Barreled Rifles (SBRs), Short Barreled Shotguns (SBS), Full-Auto Machine Guns, and “Any Other Weapons” (AOWs). You will be required to pay $200 for a special tax stamp and wait a loooooong time to receive your suppressor.

Q. I have the opportunity to purchase an original 1923 “Tommy Gun”. Can I buy it?

A. Yes, but which type of FFL to use depends on whether or not the gun has been modified, or if it still in its original design. Besides their exorbitant price, original 1923 Thompson Sub-machine Guns, aka “Tommy Guns” are fully automatic.  If the gun has been modified to eliminate the ability of the gun to fire in “full auto” mode, then a regular FFL can handle the transaction.  If, on the other hand, the gun is still in its original condition and can still shoot in full-auto mode, then you need the aforementioned Type 2 SOT FFL to do the transaction for you, while you decide if you want to remortgage the house to purchase it.

Q. My husband is a convicted felon. We both live in the same house.  Can I purchase and own a gun?

A. Yes, background checks are for you and you alone, not a husband and wife together. His criminal record has no bearing on your criminal record, or lack of one.  But, as a practical matter, depending on what your husband was convicted for, it would be prudent to always have the gun locked until you use it.