Who Can Own a Gun?

Can you buy a gun even if you have a criminal record?

Adam Freedman
January 13, 2013

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Can I Seek an Exception to Federal Law?

If you want a gun but you fall into one of the prohibited categories under federal law, do not attempt to purchase a firearm illegally.  If you really want a gun, it appears that your only legal recourse is to apply to the Attorney General of the United States for an exception to the Gun Control Act. You’ll probably want an attorney to assist you with that.

Antique Collectors are Generally Excluded from Gun Control Laws

The other option might be to purchase an antique firearm. Many federal and state prohibitions have exemptions for collectors of antiques, which generally includes guns manufactured before 1898.  But those exemptions vary considerably from state to state, so you should familiarize yourself with state and local laws.

Who Can Buy a Gun Legally?

If you’re not otherwise prohibited by federal, state, or local laws, then the basic rules for buying a gun include the following:

  • You have to be 18 or older to purchase a rifle or shotgun;

  • You have to be 21 or older to purchase a handgun;

  • You must buy your gun from a federally-licensed dealer in your state;

  • You must submit to a background check that the dealer will arrange, using an FBI database

Summary of Gun Laws

To sum up, federal law does not outlaw guns; nor does it allow outlaws to own guns. People with criminal records often cannot buy guns, except possibly antiques. Be sure to follow all applicable laws when trying to purchase a firearm.  When in doubt, that 18th Century musket might be your best bet.

Thank you for reading Legal Lad’s Quick and Dirty Tips for a More Lawful Life. One more thing: we’re welcoming a new show to the Quick and Dirty Tips network this week. Jason Marshall is the Math Dude! Although Jason is smart—he’s literally a rocket scientist!—his show is all about making math understandable and even fun for the rest of us. You’ll find the Math Dude on iTunes and at QuickandDirtyTips.com. Welcome Jason!

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Background Check image from Shutterstock


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