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Problems with Interstate Firearms Transfers

July 20, 2010 Federal Firearms Laws, Firearms Transfers No Comments

Question:  I have bought a gun from an individual through Gunsamerica.( Gunsamerica is the broker).  I, the buyer live in Tennessee. The seller lives in Ohio.  I sent him a copy of the a local dealer’s FLL and a check for the gun. The local dealer requested a copy of the seller’s drivers license.   The seller shipped the gun to the dealer.  The dealer opened the package and found no drivers license.  The dealer called me and told me he is refusing to release the gun without the sellers drivers license.  I called the the seller and he said the dealer had no right to open the package without me being present and he does not have to give his DL information to the dealer.   Who is right?  What do I do?

Answer: Let me quickly outline to you the normal process by which a firearm is transferred from a resident of one state to a resident of another state using a federally licensed firearms dealer.

Basically, a non-federally licensed individual can ship a firearm via a common carrier (UPS or FedEx) to a federally licensed firearms dealer for transfer to a resident of the state where the dealer is located.  The dealer is required to insure that the transferred firearm is delivered to the purchaser in compliance with the laws of the state while the purchaser is located.  This includes the purchaser completing a BATF Form 4437 and undergoing an instant background check through the NICS system.  As a purchaser, you are required to show positive identification of your identity, generally a driver’s license.

There is NO legal requirement that the entity managing the transfer (your dealer) be in possession of a copy of the driver’s license of the person that sent you the gun.  This is clearly a company policy that your dealer has.  It is NOT required by federal law. However, since your dealer is also not required to do these kinds of transfers, most people try and keep the dealer’s happy by doing what they ask.

In this case, your seller does not want to release a copy of his drivers license.  In this age of identity theft, I can’t exactly blame him.

As far as the dealer opening the package without you being present, if it was mailed to the dealer and the dealer was the primary addressee, it would be considered their mail and they can open it.  If it was sent to you, care of the dealer, then the dealer should have waited and allowed you to open it at their shop.  All this is kind of beside the point though as none of this is really relevant to the discussion at hand.

Your choices are basically these:

1.  You can try and talk the seller into providing a copy of his license so that the dealer can feel like his backside is covered in case the source of the firearm is ever questioned.

2.  You can try to help the dealer understand the seller’s point about not wanting to provide his license.  Remind the dealer (nicely) that the law does NOT require them to have a copy of the seller’s id and they are only acting as a middleman in the transfer.  They are not taking possession of the gun but rather simply making a transfer to you.

3.  If neither #1 or #2 work, you can simply direct the dealer to return the firearm to the seller.  They will most likely make you pay the shipping.  Then I would tell the seller that you are returning the gun and want your money back, plus the additional shipping that you had to pay to return the gun.  If you sent a personal check, you can stop payment if you think he won’t return your money.

Right now, you are in the middle of a dispute between the seller and the dealer. They dealer is asking for something they are not legally required to have.  The seller could easily provide a copy of his driver’s license but won’t.  I would talk to the dealer first.  Be sure to talk to the owner or manager, not an employee.  They should try and work with you to keep you as a customer.  If that doesn’t work, try to persuade the seller to help you out.  Use the prospect of returning the gun as leverage.  Guns America should have a place for you to leave feedback about your experience with the seller.  You can always hold the prospect of negative feedback over them as well.

My suggestion during these discussion is to remember my Grandma’s old saying:  “You attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”.  If you are nice and appeal to their sense of trying to help you out, you might be more successful.

Good luck to you and consider buying locally in the future.  It is a lot less hassle.

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