What Do You Need To Buy A Gun?

buying a gun rules

You’ve seen some guns that you’d love to purchase, but before you can go ahead you’ll have to ensure that you follow the legal gun-purchase rules and be responsible!

Buying a gun requires various documentation and the following of regulations, which sometimes vary from one state to the next.

Do you need a gun license?

Most states in the U.S. don’t require you to have a license to own a gun, but you will need a license in order to carry a weapon.

That’s just one thing to consider. So, let’s explore how to go about purchasing a gun and what you should know. 

What Are The Gun Rules?

In the U.S., anyone can buy a shotgun or rifle provided that they are older than 18.

As for handguns, you have to be older than 21. There are other federal regulations you should know about, however. These include:

  • You have to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in the country, meaning that you need to own a valid green card.
  • You must not be under indictment for a crime that’s punishable by a year in prison, or have a criminal record of having committed a crime with a similar punishment. You also can’t have been convicted in a court for a misdemeanor that’s punishable by more than two years.
  • You must not have a restraining order filed against you by an intimate partner or a child.
  • You must not have a record of domestic violence against you.
  • You won’t be able to buy a gun if you’ve been guilty of unlawfully having possessed or used a controlled substance within the past year.
  • You must not be a fugitive.
  • You must not be committed to a mental institution.
  • You can’t be a user of illegal drugs or be an addict.
  • You can’t buy a gun if you’ve been dishonourably discharged from the armed forces.
  • You can’t have renounced your U.S. citizenship.
  • You can’t purchase a specific type of gun if your state bans it. 

If any of these refer to you, then your gun purchase will be denied. 

What Documents Do You Need To Purchase A Gun?

what documents do you need

When purchasing your gun from a licensed firearm seller, you will need to ensure you have the correct documentation to allow you to purchase the firearm.

This includes a photo ID and the filling out of a form known as Form 4473. This basically confirms that you’re a U.S. citizen who’s allowed to own a gun. You can see an example of this form here.

The information you provide in this form will be used so that retailers can do a background check on you to ensure that you don’t have a criminal record. Sometimes you’ll receive information pertaining to the background check that was conducted on you immediately, but other times you might have to wait a few days before receiving the information and proceeding with the gun purchase.

Important note about the background check: You must have a new background check with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NCIS) every time you complete a firearm sale. That being said, you could purchase more than one firearm in one transaction, and these would be covered by the same background check. 

What Are The Gun-Friendliest States? 

federal regulations

If you live in one of these U.S. states, you will have much friendlier gun laws than if you live in others. These states include the following:


Here, you don’t need a permit for a handgun or long gun. There are no background checks, you don’t need a permit for open carry of your gun, you don’t need a purchase permit, and you don’t need to register your firearm.


In Arizona, the same rules apply as what you’ll find in Alaska. In addition, you don’t have a restriction when it comes to the gun’s magazine size.


Florida is also quite friendly towards gun owners. While you do need to ensure you get a permit for handguns, this isn’t required for a long gun. In addition, the law states that you’re not allowed to open carry your guns. However, you don’t have to worry about background checks, magazine size restrictions, a purchase permit, or firearm registration.  


Idaho has some of the most relaxed gun rules in the country. Here you don’t have to worry about permits for your gun, such as purchase permits, registering your firearm, magazine size restrictions, or background checks. You can open carry your guns. If you’re not a resident, you will need a permit so that you can carry concealed guns within cities.


In Kansas, the rules state that open carry of your guns is allowed. You don’t need to have a carry or purchase permit, you don’t have to register your firearm, and you don’t have to worry about magazine size restriction or background checks. 

What Are Some Of The Strictest States When It Comes To Gun Laws?

Strictest Rules States

While the previous states we mentioned are pretty relaxed when it comes to gun purchases and permits, there are other states in which it can be difficult to buy a gun.

Some states with the toughest regulations include:


If you’re buying a gun in California, you’ll need a permit, a purchase permit, and you’ll have to register your gun. Your gun sale needs to be done via a licensed dealer and background checks will be done on all private gun sales.

The magazine you can buy is limited to 10 rounds. While this ban was blocked back in 2017, it’s still unresolved. While open carry is allowed in California, this is limited to some rural counties.  


In Hawaii, you need a purchase permit for handguns and long guns, but only a permit to use a handgun. You have to register your guns, background checks will be done when you buy a gun, and long guns have a magazine restriction – you can only have magazines that hold less than 10 rounds. However, open carry for both types of guns is allowed.


Maryland is a state that has specific regulations, and these include how you’re not allowed to own certain firearms, such as assault weapons. Magazine capacity for your gun needs to be limited to 10 rounds, and you will have to undergo background checks for handguns.

The laws are a bit tougher on handguns, as you’ll have to have a concealed carry permit, purchase permit, and open carry permit. You also have to register your firearm, which you don’t have to do for long guns.

New York

In New York you need to ensure you have a carry permit and purchase permit for handguns. It’s tougher to get a permit if you live close to cities. It’s the law to register your handgun and it’s against the law to carry your handgun without concealing it.

For both handguns and long guns, you’ll have to undergo background checks and you’ll have to ensure you limit your magazine size to 10 rounds.

New Jersey

In this state, you need a carry permit and purchase permit for handguns and long guns. You also need to be prepared to undergo a background check for the purchase of a handgun. This is not required for a long gun, but you will need to have a firearm purchaser ID card.

Both types of guns will have to follow magazine capacity restrictions: 10 rounds or less for handguns and semi-automatic rifles, and 6 rounds or less for a semi-automatic shotgun. If you own a handgun, you’ll also have to register it. This is voluntary for long guns. Open carry is not allowed for handguns, but it is allowed for long guns.

Another rule you’ll need to follow is to get a purchaser ID card for rifles, shotguns, and handgun ammunition.

Related Questions

Can you buy a firearm from someone privately?

man sells guns

You should consult with local laws in your state to be sure that this is legal. If you’re buying the gun online, you might need an FFL (Federal Firearms License) dealer involved so that the purchase and sale are legal.

How long does it take to buy a gun in America?

You can buy a gun within an hour, provided that the background check is fast. This is amazing if you consider that in some countries the process can take months and require more documentation, such as in Canada where you must provide references and do a safety course.


If you want to buy a gun, you might wonder how you should go about it and what documentation you’ll need.

In this article, we’ve outlined the gun-buying process in greater detail so it can be a smoother process and you can ensure you stay on the right side of the law.