Gifting Guns & Buying One with Someone Else’s Credit Card

Can you buy a gun for someone else

This seemed like a very straight-forward question but it quickly became quite convoluted with all kinds of caveats. We will dive into all of those provisions later.  But to simply answer this question; can you buy a gun with someone else’s credit card?

One can obtain a gun legally with someone else’s credit card.  With the following provisions, which is not a complete list.

  • All parties must be legally able to participate.
  • All Federal, State and local laws must be adhered to.
  • The person using the credit card has permission from the owner.

Even if all of these provisions are met, an FFL can refuse transfer.  So, at the very least, it’s confusing.

This seems like a short list, but let’s dive in a little more and find some of the nuances that are involved.

Let’s start with using someone else’s credit card.  Then we’ll move on to how that affects guns.  Most credit cards only allow the person who they approved on the application and, other authorized users to use the card.  But, if you have permission from the owner of the card, you could technically use that card just by entering the numbers on the computer to buy a gun online and have it shipped to an FFL.

The question then arises will the FFL transfer the gun to you if your name does not match the credit card that paid for the gun.  I have talked to several Licensed firearms sellers and, to my surprise, I have heard several answers to this question.  Some say yes and some say no.  So here is where it gets murky.

What is an FFL?

Unlike buying groceries or socks from the strip mall, buying a gun comes with a lot of responsibility.  There is federal paperwork that must be filed, background checks on the buyer or transferee, if different from the buyer, and a waiting period for the buyer.  This is where an FFL comes in.

An FFL or Federal Firearms License allows a person or company to deal in the trade and sale of firearms and ammunition.  FFL’s also help the legal interstate transfer of guns.

It is also required to use an FFL when shipping firearms between states.  A person or store with an FFL will hold the gun for the owner and approve or decline the transfer of ownership.  They are required to make sure all forms are filed, that the mandatory waiting period passes and that the background check is complete.

Who can Legally Buy Guns?

For a gun sale, no matter how it’s performed, to be legal the buyer and seller, and eventual owner must be legally eligible to possess a firearm.  Here is an abbreviated list of INELIGIBLE people from this update to  The Gun Control Act of 1968

A person who…

  • Has been convicted felon or under indictment with a penalty over 1 year
  • Is a fugitive from justice
  • Is an unlawful user of a controlled substance
  • Is Mentally defective or committed to a mental institution
  • Is an illegal alien
  • Has been dishonorable discharge from the Armed Forces
  • Has renounced U.S. citizenship.
  • Has been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence
  • Has a court-ordered restraining order for harassing, stalking or threatening 

The legality of owning a gun differs by state, but the federal government requires you to be 21 to own a handgun and 18 for a long gun.  Each state, and county for that matter, can make their own laws and ordinances concerning guns and gun sales.  It is best to check the laws in your state, county, and city before trying to buy or transfer ownership of a firearm.

Can You Buy a Gun for Someone Else as a Gift?

Yes! You can buy a gun to wrap up for a birthday present if they live in the same state.  (in most states), especially if it is intrafamily.

If you are buying a gun for someone who lives in another state, you have two options.  

You can speak with the company selling the gun and explain the situation that you are paying for the gun, but the person receiving it will be the owner and is responsible for his background check and filling out the transfer form.  You will also want to check with the receiving FFL to explain that the gun is a gift and someone else will be taking possession. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT STEP.  I spoke with several FFL’s today who will not transfer ownership if the credit card does not match the person picking up the firearm.

Second, you go to the store and buy the Gun you will have to fill out a Firearms Transaction Record.  On this form, you are asked if you are the actual transferee/buyer.  And you would answer yes, even if it’s a gift.  You are the transferee.  You are buying the gun for yourself to give as a gift to someone who you know not to be on the list above.  You CANNOT give a person a gift of a firearm if that person is on the excluded list.  

If you buy the gun online for yourself, with the intention of giving it as a gift, you can have it shipped to you and then you could send it via FFL to an FFL.  This process would cost more, but would avoid the possibility of transfer being denied at the destination.

A store owner also offered a story about a mother bringing her 30-year-old son in to buy a gun for him.  He picked out a gun that wanted and she whipped out a credit card and paid for the gun while her son filled out the federal transfer forms.  So, technically he used someone else’s card to buy his gun.

A straw purchase is a whole other story. 

What is a Straw Purchase?

A straw purchase is when you are buying a gun “on behalf” of another person.  A typical straw purchase would be a person from the excluded list (say a convict) asks another person to buy a firearm for them, since they can’t get past the background check.

Think of it as a 15-year-old boy asking an older brother to buy some beer for him.  The 15-year-old can’t do it legally, but his brother can, and they would both get in trouble if caught, just like in a straw purchase.

Can Someone Other than the Owner Pick up Your Gun at the FFL?

According to a local gun store owner, who of course has his FFL, says that NO no one other than the owner can pick up the firearm.  That would constitute a transfer.  So, I’m sorry.  You can’t send your son to pick up your new gun.

Summary of a Gun Buying and Transfer (in Bullet Form)

  • You must not be on the excluded list.
  • There are different age limits on buying guns.  Check with your local regulations.
  • When taking possession of a firearm from an FFL dealer, you must complete the transfer form, background check, and complete the waiting period.
  • Only the owner of the firearm may pick it up from an FFL
  • You may buy a gun as a gift for another person and…

-Give it to them in person if they are in the same state, and if your state allows it.

-Mail it to them in another state, if you send it from an FFL to an FFL

  • If you give a gun as a gift, the recipient must not be on the excluded list.
  • An FFL can refuse transfer for any reason


After doing extensive research, I have found this system quite confusing, but it can be traversed with solid information.  I would do what many others have done if I want to give a gun for a gift.  I would buy a gift card to a gun shop or just give a cash present. (Be sure to check the fine print on those gift cards.  Some don’t allow them to be used to purchase firearms!)

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