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Machinegun Laws
Purchase and Sale



Federal Statutes and Regulations.

The law concerning who may and may not purchase a firearm in Tennessee is a controlled primarily by federal law through its extensive definitions of the characteristics of a "prohibited person" and its prohibition on "straw-man" purchases. If a person qualifies to purchase and possess a firearm under federal law, they can, as a general rule, purchase a firearm under Tennessee law.

Under federal law, an individual must be 21 to purchase a handgun and at least 18 to purchase a longarm, they must not have a disqualifying felony conviction or, under certain circumstances, a conviction for misdemeanor domestic violence, and they must not fall into other categories defined under federal law. See, 18 U.S.C § 922.

There are many federal statutes, regulations and ATF rulings on the issue of who may and who may not purchase firearms and the types of firearms which are subject to civilian purchase. These federal statutes include the National Firearms Act, the Gun Control Act, the Firearms Owners Protection Act, the Brady law and the questionable Lautenburg amendment.

A handy reference tool on this topic is the ATF’s publication entitled Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide 2000 (ATF P 5300.4), which can be obtained from the ATF or downloaded in PDF format from the ATF’s website at www.atf.gov. The ATF Reference Guide includes most federal statutes, many of the applicable provisions from the Code of Federal Regulations, as well as numerous interpretations by ATF of the operative statutes and regulations.

Here are some of the ATF’s responses from the ATF Reference Guide to common questions under the Federal statutes relative to the retail purchase and sale of firearms involving individuals who are not licensed as gun dealers (i.e., a "nonlicensee").

Are there certain persons who cannot legally receive or possess firearms?
Yes, a person who –

(1) Has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year;

(2) Is a fugitive from justice;

(3) Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;

(4) Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution;

(5) Is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States or an alien admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa;

(6) Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;

(7) Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced his or her citizenship;

(8) Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner; or

(9) Has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence cannot lawfully receive, possess, ship, or transport a firearm.

A person who is under indictment or information for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year cannot lawfully receive a firearm. Such person may continue to lawfully possess firearms obtained prior to the indictment or information.
[18 U.S.C. 922(g) and (n), 27 CFR 178.32(a) and (b)]


Does a customer have to be a certain age to buy firearms or ammunition from a licensee?
Yes. Longguns and longgun ammunition may be sold only to persons 18 years of age or older. Sales of handguns and ammunition for handguns are limited to persons 21 years of age and older. Although some State and local ordinances have lower age requirements, dealers are bound by the minimum age requirements established by the GCA. If State law or local ordinances establish a higher minimum age, the dealer must observe the higher age requirement.
[18 U.S.C. 922(b)(1), 27 CFR 178.99(b)]


What is a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence"?
A "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" means an offense that:

(1) is a misdemeanor under Federal or State law;

(2) has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened us of a deadly weapon; and

(3) was committed by a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabiting with or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, parent, or guardian, or by a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim.

However, a person is not considered to have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence unless:

(1) the person was represented by counsel in the case, or knowingly and intelligently waived the right of counsel in the case; and

(2) in the case of a prosecution for which a person was entitled to a jury trial in the jurisdiction in which the case was tried, either -

(a) the case was tried by a jury, or

(b) the person knowingly and intelligently waived the right to have the case tried by a jury, by guilty plea or otherwise.

In addition, a conviction would not be disabling if it has been expunged or set aside, or is an offense for which the person has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored (if the law of the jurisdiction in which the proceedings were held provides for the loss of civil rights upon conviction for such an offense) unless the pardon, expunction, or restoration of civil rights expressly provides that the person may not ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms, and the person is not otherwise prohibited by the law of the jurisdiction in which the proceedings were held from receiving or possessing firearms.
[18 U.S.C. 921(a)(33), 27 CFR 178.11]


Does the Brady law apply to the transfer of long guns as well as handguns?


Does the Brady law apply to the transfer of antique firearms?
No. Licensees need not comply with the Brady law when transferring a weapon that meets the Gun Control Act's definition of an "antique firearm."


Does the Brady law apply to the transfer of firearms between two licensees?
No. The Brady law only applies when a licensed importer, manufacturer, or dealer is transferring a firearm to a nonlicensee.


What steps must be followed by an FFL prior to transferring a firearm subject to the requirements of the Brady law?
The following steps must be followed prior to transferring a firearm:

1. The licensee must have the transferee complete and sign ATF Form 4473, Firearms Transaction Record.

2. The licensee must verify the identity of the transferee through a government-issued photo identification.

3. The licensee must contact NICS (through either the FBI or a State point of contact). The licensee will get either a "proceed", "denied" or "delayed" response from the system. If the licensee gets a "delayed" response and there is no additional response from the system, the licensee may transfer the firearm after 3 business days have elapsed. Of course, the licensee must still comply with any waiting period requirements under State law.


What form of identification must a dealer obtain from a purchaser under the Brady law?
The identification document presented by the purchaser must have a photograph of the purchaser, as well as the purchaser's name, address, and date of birth. The identification document must also have been issued by a governmental entity for the purpose of identification of individuals. An example of an acceptable identification document is a driver's license.

To whom may an unlicensed person transfer firearms under the GCA?
A person may sell a firearm to an unlicensed resident of his or her State, if the buyer is not prohibited by law from receiving or possessing a firearm, or to a licensee in any State. A firearm other than a curio or relic may not be transferred interstate to a licensed collector.
[18 U.S.C 922(a)(3) and (5), 922(b)(3), 27 CFR 178.29]

From whom may an unlicensed person acquire a firearm under the GCA?
A person may only buy a firearm within the person's own State, except that he or she may buy a rifle or shotgun, in person, at a licensee's premises in any State, provided the sale complies with State laws applicable in the State of sale and the State where the purchaser resides.
[18 U.S.C 922(a)(3) and (5), 922(b)(3), 27 CFR 178.29]

May an unlicensed person obtain a firearm from an out-of-State source if the person arranges to obtain the firearm through a licensed dealer in the purchaser's own State?
A person not licensed under the GCA and not prohibited from acquiring firearms may purchase a firearm from an out-of-State source and obtain the firearm if an arrangement is made with a licensed dealer in the purchaser's State of residence for the purchaser to obtain the firearm from the dealer.
[18 U.S.C 922(a)(3) and (5), 922(b)(3), 27 CFR 178.29]

May an unlicensed person obtain ammunition from an out-of-State source?
Yes, provided he or she is not a person prohibited from receiving firearms and ammunition.
[18 U.S.C. 922(g) and (n)]

May a parent or guardian purchase firearms or ammunition as a gift for a juvenile (less than 18 years of age)?
Yes. However, possession of handguns by juveniles (less than 18 years of age) is generally unlawful. Juveniles 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.
[18 U.S.C. 922(x)]

May a licensed dealer sell a firearm to a nonlicensee who is a resident of another State?
Generally, a firearm may not be lawfully sold by a licensed dealer to a nonlicensee who resides in a State other than the State in which the seller's licensed premises is located. However, the sale may be made if the firearm is shipped to a licensed dealer whose business is in the purchaser's State of residence and the purchaser takes delivery of the firearm from the dealer in his or her State of residence. In addition, a licensee may sell a rifle or shotgun to a person who is not a resident of the State where the licensee's business premises is located in an over-the-counter transaction, provided the transaction complies with State law in the State where the licensee is located and in the State where the purchaser resides and provided the sale complies with all applicable Federal laws.
[18 U.S.C. 922(b)(3)]

As a licensed dealer, must I advise ATF if I sell more than one handgun to an individual?
If you sell more than one handgun to any nonlicensee during a period of 5 consecutive business days, the sale must be reported on ATF Form 3310.4, Report of Multiple Sale or Other Disposition of Pistols and Revolvers, and forwarded to the ATF office specified on the form no later than the close of business on the day the second handgun was sold. A copy of the form must also be sent to the State police or the local law enforcement agency where the sale occurred. A copy must also be kept in the records of the dealer.
[18 U.S.C. 923(g)(3), 27 CFR 178.126a]

May a licensee sell interchangeable ammunition such as .22 cal. rimfire to a person less than 21 years old?
Yes, provided the buyer is 18 years of age or older, and the dealer is satisfied that it is for use in a rifle. If the ammunition is intended for use in a handgun, the 21 year old minimum age requirement is applicable.
[18 U.S.C. 922(b)(1), 27 CFR 178.99(b)]

May machineguns be transferred from one registered owner to another?
Yes. If the machinegun was lawfully registered and possessed before May 19, 1986, it may be transferred pursuant to an approved ATF Form 4.
[18 U.S.C. 922(o)(2)]

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Last Update: 07/13/2010