Federal Law on Multiple Purchases & Sales of Firearms

Posted on May 21, 2012

Federal law does not limit the number of guns a person can buy in any given time period. Federal law does require federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) to report multiple sales of handguns to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and other specified law enforcement agencies.1 The law enforcement agencies are not charged with any investigative duties regarding those sales, however. State and local law enforcement agencies are prohibited from disclosing reports of multiple sales (other than those involving prohibited purchasers) and must destroy such reports and related records within 20 days of receipt.2

Under a regulation adopted on July 11, 2011, FFLs in the southwest border states Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas are required to inform ATF whenever an individual in a single transaction or over a period of five consecutive business days purchases more than one rifle that: 1) is semi-automatic; 2) uses ammunition greater than .22 caliber; and 3) is capable of accepting a detachable magazine.3 This regulation was justified by the need to help ATF “detect and disrupt the illegal weapons trafficking networks responsible for diverting firearms from lawful commerce to criminals” and to “help confront the problem of illegal gun trafficking into Mexico.”4

Click here to view additional information about restrictions on multiple purchases or sales of firearms, including background information and state and local laws on the topic.

  1. 18 U.S.C. § 923(g)(3)(A). []
  2. 18 U.S.C. § 923(g)(3)(B). []
  3. For more detail, please refer to the U.S. Department of Justice notification published in the Federal Register. []
  4. Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Statement of Deputy Attorney General James Cole Regarding Information Requests for Multiple Sales of Semi-Automatic Rifles with Detachable Magazines, July 11, 2011. []