In every state, there are restrictions on transactions involving firearms. Some states have stricter laws than others regarding the buying and selling of guns and gun accessories, but there is no state that has no restrictions in any form.
The same is true for transactions involving gun parts, like magazines and recoil pads, so you'll want to educate yourself about the laws in your state before buying or listing a gun part for sale. The answers to questions like “where to sell gun parts” and “is it legal to buy gun parts online” are highly dependent on where you live and which parts you're planning to buy or sell.
Legality of Selling Gun Parts
You'll find many people asking “can you buy gun parts without a license?” if you do an online search. For certain parts, the answer is “yes.” For others, like the lower receiver, the answer is “no.” This is because a firearm’s lower receiver is the part that is actually considered a gun. Because of this, a buyer must have a Federal Firearms License (FFL), and it can only be purchased from a licensed FFL dealer.
Nearly all prospective gun purchasers in the United States must have an FFL to make this purchase. This requirement was put into place by the Gun Control Act of 1968.
Many states, and many municipalities, apply additional restrictions on the sales of guns and gun parts. One example of this is Chicago, where assault weapons and their components are completely banned. In contrast, the state of Illinois requires background checks on all prospective gun purchases, including purchases of lower receivers, and waiting periods for all gun sales. If you want to purchase gun parts in Chicago, you would be subject to federal, state and local laws.
FFLs are issued by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Retail gun parts dealers are required to have FFLs and to verify those of their buyers. There are 11 different types of FFLs, each applicable to a specific type of firearms dealer, manufacturer or assembler.
Where to Sell Gun Parts?
Where you want to sell gun parts determines which laws apply to your situation. Retail gun parts sellers must have FFLs of their own to sell certain parts to buyers, and buyers must have FFLs to purchase these restricted parts.
In states that permit private gun and gun part sales, sellers are not always required to have FFLs or verify that their buyers are licensed. For example, the only restriction on gun sellers in Georgia – including parties selling receivers, the part that makes a collection of assembled gun parts into a legitimate firearm – is that they not sell firearms to sellers who are prohibited from purchasing them by federal law. So in this state, you would be subject only to federal law.
Private sales can take place at gun shows, online and face-to-face. Because the laws governing the private sale of gun parts vary from state to state, always stay updated on which laws apply to any prospective sale you make based on your location, your intended buyer and the specific part or parts you are selling.
Selling Gun Parts Online
Is it legal to buy gun parts online? The answer to this question is “that depends.”
In most cases, online retailers set their own restrictions to avoid violating state and federal laws, as well as laws in countries other than the United States. Check the platform’s gun parts policy before attempting to buy or sell gun parts through an online platform like eBay, .
Selling gun parts in violation of an online platform’s policy can get your account revoked. When a gun part sale violates state and/or federal law as well, a violator can face criminal charges. If found guilty, he can face penalties such as:
- Revocation of his FFL
- Jail time
Is it legal to buy gun parts online to build your own firearm? Most of them, but not all. A buyer cannot buy an operable firearm online and have it shipped to his home.
Under federal law, a private buyer can purchase every part of a firearm online and have most of the parts shipped to her home. The only part that cannot be shipped to her home is the receiver. The receiver must be shipped to her local FFL dealer.
Buying Gun Parts Without a License
Can you buy gun parts without a license? The answer to this question becomes even more complicated when you consider the many different types of firearms and the parts that comprise them. Black powder guns are not federally regulated, and their parts can be purchased and sold freely because of this. However, many states impose restrictions on the sale and purchase of black powder firearms and other guns that are not regulated federally, like many antique guns.
Some buyers opt to “get around” federal and state firearm regulations by purchasing parts that require no licensing and using them to build or modify guns. Two examples of this are 80-percent receivers, metal pieces that can easily be made into functioning receivers at home, and black powder conversion cylinders. Prospective buyers who are interested in buying gun parts without a license are often directed to these solutions, which have been subject to restrictive legislation and may be seen as unethical – but they are not federally illegal.
However, homemade guns like those assembled from the gun kits discussed above are illegal in some states. Notably, California passed a law in 2016 requiring owners of homemade firearms to apply for state-issuesd serial numbers for their weapons, rendering them subject to regulation by the ATF. A purchaser can buy the parts to construct a gun in states with this type of requirement, but he must then register it as an operable firearm when it is complete.
- ATF Online: FFL EZCheck
- NRABlog: Buying and Selling a Firearm: Private Sales Explained
- FFL123.com: FFL License Types
- Atf.gov: Gun Control Act
- The Guardian: Gun Laws in the U.S., State by State
- California Legislative Information: Assembly Bill No. 857, Chapter 60
- Washington Post: Does a City with the Toughest Gun Laws End Up with the Worst Gun Violence?
- Findlaw: Private Gun Sale Laws by State