Guns have become big business in the U.S., as manufacturers pumped out more than 70 million units over the last decade. In addition to the gun makers, dealers in firearms and their associated parts also stand to benefit financially from that stream of production. Before you dive into the world of selling and buying gun parts, make sure you fully understand federal and state laws that regulate this type of activity.
The buying and selling of gun parts is generally not regulated by the federal government. But there are notable exceptions, such as the dealing of receivers or frames and silencers, which are considered firearms.
If you buy and sell whole firearms on a regular basis with the aim of making a profit, you'll need to get a federal license through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF. We can trace this regulation back to the Gun Control Act of 1968, which regulated interstate and foreign commerce in firearms. Occasional buyers and sellers are not required to obtain federal firearm licensing.
Dealing in Gun Parts
The ATF has made it clear that it does not have the authority to regulate firearm parts and accessories, which cover a wide variety of items. But there are notable exceptions. Frames or receivers – essentially housing for the internal parts of a gun – are considered by the ATF to be firearms, so sales of these types of items are federally regulated. What's more, certain parts of silencers and machine guns are also regulated as firearms under the Gun Control Act and National Firearms Act. If you're caught dealing these parts without a federal license, you can face up to five years in prison, a maximum $250,000 fine or both.
States' Regulation of Ammunition
Some would consider ammunition to be an essential gun part. Selling, buying or having ammunition does not require a license from the ATF. But if you're making or importing ammunition, you'll need one. Some states have passed laws requiring consumers to pass background checks before buying ammunition. For example, California and New York passed legislation that require ammunition buyers to undergo point-of-sale background checks, similar to checks that firearms buyers must pass. Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey have made it mandatory for buyers of ammunition to obtain licenses or permits after passing background checks. In general, gun laws vary from state to state. Be sure to check the specific regulations in your area.