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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

FFL Tip of the Month — 2010


  • The Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) prohibits licensed importers, manufacturers, dealers or collectors from selling or delivering any firearm or ammunition to any person less than 18 years of age. If the firearm is other than a shotgun or rifle or ammunition that is suitable for use only in a handgun, licensees are prohibited from transferring it to any person less than 21 years of age.

    A parent or guardian may purchase firearms or ammunition as a gift for a juvenile (less than 18 years of age). However, the Youth Handgun Safety Act of 1996 (YHSA) made it unlawful for any person to provide a handgun to a juvenile (under 18 years of age). Juveniles generally may only receive and possess handguns with the written permission of a parent or guardian for limited purposes, e.g., employment, ranching, farming, target practice or hunting.

    Additionally, states may have laws that affect the transfer of firearms to juveniles. You may find State Laws and Published Ordinances at:


  • Contiguous States. The “contiguous state” provisions of the Gun Control Act (GCA), as enacted in 1968, allowed nonlicensed purchasers to acquire long guns from Federal firearms licensees (FFLs) located in a State contiguous to the State in which the purchaser resided if (1) the purchaser’s State of residence permitted such sale and (2) the sale fully complied with the legal conditions of sale in both such contiguous states.

    This provision of the GCA was amended in 1986 to allow FFLs to sell or dispose of long guns to residents of any other state (not just contiguous states) provided — (1) the transferee meets in person with the FFL to accomplish the transfer; and (2) the sale, delivery and receipt fully comply with the legal conditions of sale in the buyer’s and seller’s States.

    A number of States patterned their laws after the original provision of the GCA that allows nonresidents to purchase long guns from FFLs only in contiguous states. Many of those States have not revised their laws to reflect the 1986 amendments to the GCA that allow over-the-counter sales of long guns to residents of any State, as outlined above. This has caused confusion among FFLs, who often read such “contiguous state” State laws as prohibiting sales to residents of noncontiguous states.

    ATF does not read State laws that refer to “contiguous states” as prohibiting sales of long guns to residents of noncontiguous states unless the language contained in that State’s law expressly prohibits residents from acquiring firearms outside that State. Thus, if the language in the State laws authorizes sales of long guns to residents of contiguous states, that State law also authorizes the sale of long guns to residents of all other states.

    FFLs who have questions about particular State laws should contact their nearest ATF office.


  • Familiarize yourself with state and local ordinances. Many jurisdictions have established security or zoning requirements for businesses, some specifically for businesses that sell firearms. Many jurisdictions require by law that a working alarm system be installed in your business. If you have questions about the state and local ordinances, please call the law enforcement agency of the jurisdiction. This may be the local police, local zoning officer, Sherriff’s Office or State’s Attorney Office.