Americans are proud gun owners. Our right to bear arms is a freedom guaranteed by the U.S. constitution, and is not only historically meaningful but personally significant.
While rates of gun ownership fluctuate through the years, data collected by Gallup shows that:
- 44% of Americans live in a household with firearms
- 32% of individuals across the country personally own a gun
And these numbers include people of all affiliations, ages, and interests.
Firearms are usually associated with self-defense, law enforcement, or military personnel. Indeed, these are all true. But we often forget that owning and operating a gun is a rewarding skill to master as well as an enjoyable activity. Additionally, knowing how to work with guns can also help us even in outdoor survival situations or hunting, which is still a popular tradition for many American families.
So, how can someone obtain a gun legally? More specifically, with digital shopping on the rise, how do you buy guns online? That's what this article will answer.
Why Should You Buy a Gun Online?
There is no current way to know how many Americans buy guns online versus those who purchase in-store.
However, the rise of the online arms marketplace has made it easier and more convenient than ever before to research, compare, and buy the right type of gun.
The springtime of 2020 saw a record-breaking number of first-time gun buyers turn to online solutions. They wanted to learn more before buying or while maintaining social distancing or shelter-in-place orders.
Research on gun-buyers collected by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) found that:
- Firearm retailers experienced year-over-year increases in gun sales of 80% in March and 69% in April.
- 6.5 million background checks went through in the first four months of 2020.
- Nearly half of gun buyers, 40.1% were female, and over half of all first-time gun buyers (62.9%) were looking to practice their skills with a firearm training course.
No matter what you’re buying, convenience ranks high on the shopper's list of priorities now more than ever.
Online retailers like Green Top are still committed to “old-school” customer service, doing away with high-pressure sales tactics and opting to educate customers, using a simple and easy-to-use website.
Consider the obvious benefits to buying guns online:
- Popping open a browser and visiting a retailer like Green Top is far more accessible than hopping in your car and driving across town. You can browse from the comfort of your couch.
- You have more time to instantly view the retailer’s entire inventory selection when shopping online.
- Without the overhead of a physical shop, you can count on savings passed on to you through more affordable pricing.
- Chat bots, reviews for products, and contact forms also allow you to access prime customer service when you're looking for answers to anything firearm-related.
Despite the convenient aspects, you may be wondering if the sale of firearms online is legal. The answer is that it absolutely is! Many of the 6.5 million Americans who were first-time gun buyers in 2020 can attest to that fact.
However, you do need to know how to buy guns online and follow the procedure. It may be a little time-consuming, but it assures your safety and enjoyment, as well as that of your fellow citizens.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Gun Online
Before buying a gun online, or even in-store, you should consider why you’re making the purchase. There are various reasons why now might be the right time for you to purchase a gun.
First-time gun owners usually opt to buy a gun for concealed carry or self-defense purposes. Gun owners may also feel safer knowing they have a firearm in their home, as is their right to hold, to deter intruders who mean to harm them.
Once they learn how to operate a firearm safely, it becomes very easy to transition and expand a gun’s use to other purposes. Gun owners find joy in improving their aim, on recreational shooting on ranges. They can even take part in hunting expeditions with family and friends.
According to data collected by the NRA, 87.3% of first-time gun buyers begin their ownership journey with a little well-advised target shooting. This is not just a wise way to learn how to safely operate a gun, but it can help new gun buyers feel more comfortable taking aim and firing.
In contrast, only 17.3% of first-time buyers participate in competitive shooting or clay target shooting. That’s because these activities take more practice and familiarity with the operation of guns. Once they have gotten used to operating a gun, they’re more comfortable diving into activities like competitive shooting.
So before you buy a gun online, you might consider the following aspects:
- Do you have any experience with firearms?
- How much time will you be able to spend learning how your firearm works?
- How much time will you spend practicing with your firearm each month?
- What's your price range?
These questions can also help you decide what kind of gun you’d like to buy.
For example, a beginner who wants a pistol for home and personal defense but has a more flexible budget could opt for the Daniel Defense DDM4 PDW Pistol 300 Blackout. The expertly-designed pistol is compact, easy to carry. It includes a brace that gives beginners the adjustments they need to make their shot comfortably.
On the other hand, you may already have experience operating and handling a gun. You intend to use the firearm for hunting purposes primarily. In this case, you can't go wrong with the sleek and powerful Ruger American Rifle 6.5 Creedmore 22-inch.
If you’re not sure what exactly you’re looking for, be sure to reach out to the Green Top Sporting Good’s knowledgeable team. Since first opening in 1947, we’ve helped thousands of Americans find the firearm that suits their needs, budget, and experience level.
Common Myths About Buying a Gun Online
In some ways, buying a gun in a shop might seem more “accessible” than buying online, even if it’s not as convenient.
That’s because the online process is rife with myths that warrant debunking. Even if you grew up around early morning hunts or spent sunny afternoons at the skeet range, responsible gun purchase online can seem a bit confusing at first.
Here are a few common misconceptions about buying a gun online.
Myth #1: Background checks are just for people with a criminal past
Buying guns online gets a bad rap because there are essentially two routes that you can take. One is legal and regulated, while the other is anonymous and illicit. The fact is that retailers and sellers need to make sure you have the proper paperwork before selling you a gun.
And for the sale of firearms in the United States, that means a thorough background check.
Yes, background checks are for anyone and everyone who plans to purchase a gun legally. Failing to submit to a background check before buying a gun, or using a loophole like getting someone else to buy it for you, is illegal. It can land you in a lot of hot water -- specifically through fines and even imprisonment.
To expedite the process of background checks, consider these tips:
- Contact state police in advance and let them know you’re interested in purchasing a firearm. They can help you with a background check once you inform them what type of gun you’re looking to get.
- Background checks are thorough and when you sign off on one, you’re giving consent to public authorities to look into the details of your past. If there are issues in your past, you may not want to take this chance.
- If you would like to purchase a gun, but you’re a fugitive from justice, you have a history of domestic violence, an unlawful user of controlled substances, or have a restraining order out against you, the chances of denial are high.
State laws differ when it comes to gun ownership. You’ll need to do a bit of research to figure out the local laws and specific regulations for firearms in your zip code.
For example, Arizona allows open carry without a permit and doesn’t require private sales background checks. You can be 18 or older to purchase and possess a firearm, but you’ll need to be 21 or older if you plan to carry a concealed weapon.
In contrast, New York state does require background checks for private sales, and it prohibits the open carry of handguns.
Myth #2: Retailers can ship guns to my front door
Across the U.S., only retailers with a valid Federal Firearms License (FFL) are allowed to receive guns. That means your firearm must be shipped to an authorized FFL dealer so you can pick up your firearm.
An order from any online gun store means you’re buying a gun that isn’t yet yours to own. Licensed gun stores will perform a firearm transfer after you have your firearm license and pay any transfer fees.
No online retailer can offer you anything different and they’re not legally allowed to ship a handgun to your door.
It’s only when a person passes the required background checks can an FFL retailer legally release the purchased gun to the individual. We're the holding bay that keeps possession of the item until you’re ready (and able) to take it home.
This also means that if you’re buying a gun from a retailer out-of-state, you’ll need to contact your local FFL dealer first. Make sure to ask about shipping your purchased firearm to their store for pickup.
While you’re waiting for background checks to return, a smart thing to do is invest in safety training so that you’re prepared to operate your gun when you receive it. Green Top’s in-house, NRA-certified instructor-led classes are just one example of comprehensive gun training you can undertake.
Myth #3: It’s easy to bring forms pre-filled to the store or FFL
As easy as it would be to download or bring pre-filled forms to a store, the sale of guns is entirely different. And so are the mandates around the process for qualifying for one.
Background check forms:
- Are pre-numbered and issued one at a time
- Must occur in-person to obtain specific firearms
- The firearm buyer (you) can’t receive any “assistance” from someone else when answering the questions they have to be filled out by hand
- You can only fill out a form for yourself, for a gun you plan to purchase for your personal use
Myth #4: I can buy a gun on behalf of someone else
All states agree that you cannot buy a gun on behalf of someone else. This is called a “straw purchase,” and it’s a criminal act.
While minors (14-17) in some states need their parents’ consent for exceptions like hunting, they’re still the ones who need to be present, with a parent, to fill out forms.
Debunking these myths should also give you better insight into how to buy guns online. The process requires you to do more than your average purchase, but it’s worth looking at your effort as an investment.
A Guide on How to Buy Guns Online
Buying guns online is really no different than buying guns in a store. The steps for firearm purchase still require you to go through a background check and fill out all necessary forms. You’ll still receive customer service and expert guidance on your purchase. You can still ask questions about firearms that are right for your intended use.
However, buying guns online calls for extra steps because you have to coordinate the purchase with the pickup. Let’s take a look at how the FFL transfer works.
Step #1: Contact Your Local Federal Firearm Dealer
Local dealers who are licensed to handle and sell firearms hold an FFL or Federal Firearm License. They’re simply local businesses with a physical shop and can accept your shipment of a purchased gun from an online retailer.
Contact your chosen local FFL dealer and let them know that you’re planning to purchase a firearm. They’ll need to agree to have it shipped to their location for pickup. They'll also tell you what you need to do about getting your background check completed.
Some FFL dealers may charge you a pickup service fee (or transfer fees) so make sure to inquire about this. Some states, like California, require you to pay a tax on a pickup.
Step #2: Purchase Your Firearm Online
When buying guns online from Green Top, you can search through our gun collection at your own pace. Once you add your gun or rifle to your shopping cart, the checkout process will allow you to put in the pickup location. This is the local FFL dealer where we'll be shipping your firearm.
Step #3: Pickup Your Firearm at Your Local FFL Dealer
After you have passed the required background check at your FFL dealer, you will be allowed to take possession of the firearm that you purchased. But before taking possession of it, please inspect the firearm to ensure that everything is acceptable. All gun sales are final.
Once everything checks out, you’ll be able to walk out with your brand new firearm.
At Green Top Sporting Goods, we’re known for providing over 70 years of impeccable, expert, and knowledgeable customer service for gun enthusiasts across the United States.
Whether you decide to visit us in-store at our Ashland, Virginia location or you decide to have us ship your firearm to a local FFL dealer, we can help you choose the right type of gun for your intended use. Browse our new and pre-owned gun collections stocked with popular brands like Ruger, Winchester, and Smith & Wesson, today.