Monday, April 14, 2014

Selling Used Firearms (in Alaska)

Recently I purchased a shotgun from a local guy who had never before sold a gun to another person. He was a little scattered in his process, and clearly concerned about doing everything correctly.

It made me think it would be useful to memorialize some ideas for an owner who's selling a used firearm. I'm going to attempt this, but please recognize this is advice for an incidental private seller.

Obligatory Disclaimer: I'm no lawyer, no expert on regs, and am only speaking to local transactions in my state, which is pretty progressive (yes, I'm taking that word) on gun rights. Your mileage may vary and you're absolutely encouraged to consult with a more experienced gun buddy or your local gun shop to make sure you're staying on the right side of the law and protecting yourself appropriately according to your risk tolerance.

Generally speaking there are a limited number of risks that you as a private seller need to mitigate. These concerns are as follows:

  • Physical safety of yourself and family
  • Protection of your personal property
  • Legal liability for the sale

Only the latter may be specific to gun sales in particular. The following recommendations correspond to these concerns, and get increasingly anal. I'm not necessarily saying you need to adopt all of these practices. The more you adopt, the lower your personal risk. The higher your tolerance for risk, the less you need to adopt.
  1. Sell As Locally As Possible: I think as a general rule, try to sell to someone you know, a friend of a friend, or someone in your associations, in that order of preference. If you're selling out-of-state you'll need to transfer through an FFL, and that's a whole different ball of wax. However, within the state, you can sell directly to another private citizen and it's up to you to verify that they're a) a resident, and b) not a felon or otherwise prohibited from firearm ownership. This job is made easier if you're selling to someone you know, or someone that a friend can vouch for. Selling to a fellow member of your shooting club, church, collector's organization, forum or fraternity/sorority, should make you more comfortable.
  2. Consider An Alternate Location to Make the Sale: Selling from your home is great if you know and are comfortable with the character of your customer. But realize that if you're selling to someone you don't know, you also don't know who you're about to open your door to. Consider finding a neutral location that might be safer and more populated, and that doesn't reveal the inner details of your 'castle'. Examples might include your local shooting range clubhouse, or even a populated parking lot in the daytime. The point is, if you were to end up meeting the wrong character, minimize your loss, exposure and personal risk. This is generally true for selling anything online, not just guns.
  3. Require Identity: Remember, buyer needs to be a resident of your state and legally allowed to possess the firearm you're selling. For simplicity, I'm not talking about NFA-regulated items (full autos, suppressors). I generally think a good level of due diligence is to require that the buyer be able to present a valid Alaska driver's license and a voter registration card. That latter piece may seem strange to many, but it's your sale, and your liability you need to think about. Why a voter registration card? Well, it provides some evidence that the person your selling to isn't a felon. You cannot register to vote if you are a convicted felon, unless those rights have been restored somehow (which can happen). This isn't foolproof - voting rights can be restored, cards presumably can be forged, like anything, and they don't have expiration dates - but again, it's a diligent step on your part to avoid risk.
  4. Keep Records: This is a touchy subject with us, but if you already keep an inventory of guns you own, it makes sense to at least notate the disposition of the firearm when you sell it. In other words, update your inventory to clearly indicate that the gun was sold, and on what date. Now, do you want to record information about who you sold it to? I've been in sales where the seller asked to not only see my driver's license, but also asked if he could write down my ADL #, and sign a receipt stating that I purchased the firearm on such-and-such date. Does this make sense for you, as a seller? If it makes you more comfortable, consider logging the ADL #, voter registration number, serial number, make and model of firearm, date and ask the buyer to sign a brief statement acknowledging the sale. Again, we gun owners are culturally a little touchy to the idea of record-keeping, so this may frustrate some buyers and they're also taking on personal risk of their own providing you with this kind of information. But what it does for you is demonstrate that you took steps to validate their residency, validate that they weren't a felon, and can provide evidence that they took possession of the firearm on a given date.
Most of these recommendations come back to the same idea: know who you're selling to. 

There are plenty of softer steps you can take to help your comfort level - at initial contact, most likely over the phone, engage in some personal conversation - explain what you used the gun for, why you're selling it, but also ask the buyer what they intend to use it for and what they do for a living. You can be artful in getting this information if you have a gift for gab. The point of this is to help you get a feel for who you're selling to. To use an extreme example to demonstrate the idea, you may not be comfortable selling your cheap Hi-Point .45 to a young guy who tells you he's unemployed, sounds high and intends to use the gun for duck hunting. It's a silly example, but you get the idea. The level of comfort you obtain from this conversation may help you determine which of the above recommendations you want to engage. Be creative - tell the person you'll give them $50 off if they demonstrate life membership in the NRA. Generally speaking, a person willing to throw down hundreds or thousands on his NRA membership is a reliably law-abiding gun owner - it may sound judgmental, but that's life. 

There are also extra precautions you can take if you're concerned for your physical safety. For instance, if you do elect to invite an unknown person into your house, maybe it makes sense to ask a friend to remain out of sight in an adjacent room until the transaction is complete, just to have some assurance that you have some help if you need it. Again, this is equally as valid when selling a cell phone on craigslist as it is for selling a gun.

One final note - if you're going to require things like proof of identity, etc, make sure your advertisement specifies such requirements, or at the very least tell the person before they show up to buy the gun. And don't be surprised if the buyer wants to see your credentials as well. Be prepared to make the buyer comfortable that he's buying from a reputable person.

Good luck!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please be courteous and of good spirit.