How to Get a Gun Owner's License

Some states in the United States require that the owner of any firearm first obtain a license, while others require that owners of handguns be licensed. Each state has its own requirements regarding licensing gun owners, and some localities impose additional restrictions or requirements.

Check the laws in your state. In Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey, you must have a license to own any kind of firearm. In California, Connecticut, Iowa, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island, you must have a license to own a handgun.

Visit the website of your state police. There you'll find links to information detailing how to apply for a license. You may be able to download the application form directly from the website.

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Submit to a background check, which is designed to discover if you're a person who's prohibited from owning firearms by federal law. Some prohibited persons include those that have been convicted of a serious crime, drug users, the mentally ill, fugitives from justice, illegal aliens, those who have renounced their citizenship, those discharged dishonorably from the armed services, those who have restraining orders against them and those who have been convicted of domestic violence.

Complete a firearms safety course. Some states require this before you can have a license issued to you, but even if it's not required, it's a good idea if you're buying your first firearm. Most safety courses require that you prove some proficiency in using your firearm.

Report to your local law enforcement agency to get your fingerprints taken, if required. Usually the sheriff's office handles this task.

Submit your application, evidence of your completion of a firearms safety course, fingerprints and any other information required by your state. You also need to include payment.

Wait until your license arrives in the mail before you attempt to buy a firearm.


  • Your gun license will be revoked if you do anything that would make you a prohibited person, such as committing a serious crime.


  • Your local gun shop will know the requirements for obtaining a license in your area and can help you with safety courses, paperwork and other details.
  • It's a good idea to practice shooting firearms before taking the safety course. Shooting ranges can lend or rent guns for practice. You can try different kinds to see which you prefer.
  • Gun licenses must be renewed periodically. While some states only require a renewal fee, others require that you retake a firearms safety course. There may be other requirements for renewal as well.

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