A World Without Private Transfers

From a Californian in the comments:

So in California all transfers (except for C&R long guns) have to go through and FFL, and CA FFLs are required to do them for a nominal fee set by the CA DOJ (correct me if I’m wrong but I think it’s $35). It sucks, and it’s occasionally bizarre, sometimes it’s cool – I’ve met one of my best friends and shooting buddies via a PPT (private party transfer). Here are some of the byproducts of this system: some FFLs will “run out” of Handgun Safety Cards (required for transfers) if you go to do a transfer and don’t have one (to avoid doing it). Some stores will flat out refuse if they are busy or make you wait so long you leave.

Sometimes it takes hours. You need 2 proofs of ID and if the store does not like your proofs, go home and get something else (I have waited a couple times for someone to go get a utility bill). Unless you are a veteran of PPTs, you are pretty much guaranteed to fail on your first attempt. Some stores will give you a gun lock, free, most stores make you buy one, and once the store only stocked locks that sold for $30. Then you get dealers that only do internet sales and PPTs, who are awesome, but… it’s crazy, it’s bizarre, and tons of people do illegal FTF transactions all the time – not because they are trying to break the law, but because the law is so complex as to be difficult to follow. This is what you can look forward to!

The ban on private transfers of handguns here in Pennsylvania is probably the most oft broken law by people who ordinarily aren’t lawbreakers, most of the time out of sheer ignorance of the law. Generally speaking, you can get a transfer done, but the price isn’t set by the state, and around here, about $35 bucks is about the floor. Some dealers charge as much as $50 to do a transfer between two parties, and many won’t do them at all. There’s also a problem in lending a handgun to someone, which is generally prohibited. The law makes an exception if the person is licensed to carry handguns.

For people cohabiting, but not married, this can be a problem if the two aren’t licensed. For instance, the law allows handguns to be given as gifts, but only between spouses, parents and children, and grandparents and grandchildren. For those who want to say you can duplicate the benefits of marriage with contracts, well, here’s a benefit you can’t duplicate with a contract. If you’re married, you can let your wife take your gun to the range, and he or she is legally entitled to receive your guns either temporarily or permanently. If you’re not married, you can’t let your significant other do the same, unless they have a license to carry, in which case you can temporarily lend your significant other a gun. It’s even questionable whether they could use your firearm in a self-defense situation.

This isn’t a place we want to go federally, and if I could, I would undo here in Pennsylvania too.

14 thoughts on “A World Without Private Transfers”

  1. I live in California and I will endorse the notion that FFL private transfers are so irritating for some people that they just do FTF transfers. These are people who are otherwise law abiding, but they just disagree with the this law, and they want to have at least one gun “off paper”.

    As the nation learned during Prohibition, unpopular laws are simply ignored by many citizens. TOugh gun laws truly only impact the law abiding. East San Jose, East Palo Alto, Oakland, and Richmond are full of prohibited people with guns.

  2. How narrowly does PA define “lending” when it comes to handguns? If I’m at the range and the guy next to me says he’s been thinking about buying what I’m shooting, is it illegal for me to hand it to him and let him put a few rounds through it?

    1. Well, nobody really knows the extent of the law, and even whether its constitutional. I don’t know if there are any court cases deciding this fact.

  3. Mass can be almost as crazy sometimes.

    Here’s a good story. When I bought my Beretta 21A I looked at it, passed, and later thought the better of it and called the store to hold it for me.

    Filled out the paperwork, showed them my LTC, then the owner told me to go pick out a lock to buy. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a trigger lock I had bought from the store years ago. He mentioned that the law requires I buy a new one for each gun (not sure if its true or not), but he didn’t make me buy a new one.

    In then end I also bought a holster, and ended up carrying the gun out of the shop in my pocket.

    Dumb laws made by dumb people.

  4. While most of the ‘universal background check’ proposals carve out spousal transfers, I’m not so sure it’s a long step to requiring background checks for those too. A new background check and tax stamp is already required for transfers of Class III items, which can’t be shared between individuals even if they are married unless they hold their Class III gear through a properly constructed trust or other entity.

  5. “…here’s a benefit you can’t duplicate with a contract.” That is absolutely not a “benefit” of marriage. That is an unconstitutionally bestowed burden on the exercise of a natural right, lightened by marriage.

    I honestly can’t think of a legal “benefit” of marriage that would exist if the state wasn’t all the time illegitimately getting into your business.

    1. Bingo- government shouldn’t even be involved in marriage. Its a private contract thing.

      In this case, lending should be allow for all parties, whether together or not.

  6. California transfers are much more difficult than your previous commenter suggests.

    Both parties must appear in person before the FFL. This effectively prohibits transfers between people who do not live near each other.

    California also imposes a 10 day waiting period, so the buyer has to return to the FFL for a second visit to pickup his or her gun.

    FFLs have been “run out of town” in many coastal areas of California. Finding any FFL – much less one willing to do personal transfers – can be nearly impossible in Los Angleles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

  7. I work for a CA based FFL and I would like to clarify a few points with regards to Private Party Transfers (PPTs) from an FFLs perspective:

    1) We don’t “run out” of Handgun Safety Certificates because we don’t like doing PPTs. We actually do just run out. The certificates cost us $15 and are sold at a mandated cost $25 to cover the cost of administering the test and keeping the tests organized and on file. Additionally certificates must be ordered from CA DOJ. A CA FFL has to make an educated guess at how many HSC cards they will need; and sometimes they guess wrong. This can lead to lack of stock and long waits for more certificates. We all know that when dealing with bloated bureaucracies, long lead times for services are the norm and CA DOJ is no different… especially when demand spikes for certificates during a surge in PPTs as a result of the panic buying going on.

    2) PPTs are bad for business. The cost of a PPT is set at $35 by the State of CA. However, $25 of that goes directly into State coffers. The other $10 is to cover the cost of handling the transfer.

    Keep in mind, a transfer involves: An employee to facilitate paperwork at the time of the transfer, the gun being entered into our “bound book”, the gun being stored for 10-30 days, the 4473 being finished at delivery, the administration of a “Safe Handling Demonstration” for handgun transfer, 4473s and Dealer Record of Sale (DROS) forms audited internally and confirmation that the firearm(s) have been removed from the bound book.

    An average transfer costs the dealer between $40-50. We lose money every time folks ask us to handle a PPT because we are not allowed to charge a fair market price for the service.

    I make every effort to treat a customer coming in for a Private Party Transfer as I would any other customer. However, I can understand how a CA FFL may make you wait behind folks actually buying products from them so that they can provide you a service that will actually COST them money. Please keep these facts in mind before complaining about your LGS and PPTs.

  8. I’m the original comment poster and flattered that my comment got syndicated. I’ll admit I glossed over some details but I didn’t want to get too deep – I just wanted to highlight the difficulty of a legal PPT in CA. Yes, you have to leave your gun at the store and come back after 10 days. I know it’s a terrible burden on the FFLs, and I know that the CA DOJ does not give them enough HSC cards (talk about another flawed system – my first card was supposed to be good for life, until they changed the rules, and why are cops, effectively the only people in our state allowed to carry guns, exempt from the “safe gun” rules that apply to civilians, most of whom will only fire their gun under the constraints of an indoor range?) To the FFLs that treat PPTers like good customers – respect. We will remember and we will send friends to your stores and we will spend money in them. To the stores that treat PPTers poorly – we remember that too. I’ve been to every gun store in the Los Angeles area. There are a few I’ve dropped thousands of dollars in, and there are others I’ll never return to. The bottom line – it’s a messed up system that accomplishes nothing other than to overly burden those who try to follow the law, both the PPTers and the FFL – I cannot imagine how difficult it is to be an FFL, especially in this state of ridiculous laws. Move? Yeah, not gonna happen, all my family is here, all my wife’s family is here, and we have really good jobs making lots of money in industries that don’t exist elsewhere. If I have to decide to live life as a minor outlaw, fine, believing the gov’t will treat you fairly because you do your best to comply with the law is a mistake. CA gov’t has broken its social contract with the gun owners of this state – on the other hand they have decided to leave dope smokers and illegal aliens alone. Crazy isn’t it?

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