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Which States Require a Background Check for Handgun Purchases?


Are you thinking about purchasing a handgun? Do you know about all the hoops you may need to jump through in your state? Maybe you’re wondering under what circumstances you will need to submit to a background check. We’ve gathered that information for you. Below you can learn about how the laws in your state may impact a firearms purchase.

What Do the Feds Say?

Although there are federal laws that are consistent across the country, state laws vary in requirements for the purchase of handguns from private parties. There are also exemptions for concealed carry permit holders in some states.

Since the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act became effective in 1994, federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) have been required to conduct background checks on potential firearms purchasers. The FBI created the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which maintains records of criminal, mental health and civil orders as a result of the Brady Act. Based on the results of an NICS check, an individual may find that he or she is prohibited from purchasing a firearm. In addition, the Brady Act has a provision that specifies that concealed carry permit holders may bypass the federally required background check in some states. In these 25 states, the permit must be valid, have been issued within the last five years and have included an NICS background check. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) maintains a list of the state permits which qualify.

States With Permits Which Qualify as Alternatives to Background Checks

Permit must be valid and have been issued within the last five years.

  • Alaska: Concealed weapons permits marked NICS-Exempt
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California: Entertainment Firearms Permit only
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii: Permits to acquire and licenses to carry
  • Idaho
  • Iowa: Permits to acquire and permits to carry concealed weapons
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky: Concealed Deadly Weapons License (CDW) and Judicial Special Status CDW issued on or after July 12, 2006
  • Louisiana: Concealed handgun permits issued on or after March 9, 2015
  • Michigan: Concealed Pistol Licenses and licenses to purchase a pistol
  • Mississippi: License to carry concealed pistol or revolver issued to individuals under Miss. Stat. Ann. § 45—9—101, not security guard permits issued under Miss. Stat. Ann. §97—37—7
  • Montana
  • Nebraska: Concealed handgun permits and handgun purchase certificates
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina: Concealed handgun permits and permits to purchase a handgun
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio: Concealed weapons permits issued on or after March 23, 2015
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota: Gold Card Concealed Pistol Permits and Enhanced Permits to Carry a Concealed Pistol issued on or after January 1, 2017
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

While a number of states have developed state laws requiring all handgun purchases be processed through an FFL, resulting in background checks being performed on buyers, some states have no such requirement. In those states, unlicensed, private sellers can complete a sale with no background check on the purchaser. A number of states require buyers to obtain some type of permit or certificate in order to purchase handguns.

States With Purchase Permits Required

  • California: All purchases must be made through an FFL, although holders of a California entertainment firearms permit are exempt from the requirement of a background check
  • Connecticut: Whether through an FFL or private party, either a Connecticut Pistol Permit (CTPP) or a Certificate of Eligibility for Pistol and Revolvers is required
  • District of Columbia: All purchases must be made through an FFL
  • Hawaii: Whether through an FFL dealer or a private transaction
  • Illinois: Whether through an FFL dealer or a private transaction
  • Iowa: Whether through an FFL dealer or a private transaction, either a Permit to Acquire a pistol or revolver or a Permit to Carry Weapons is required
  • Maryland: Whether through an FFL dealer or a private transaction
  • Massachusetts: Whether through an FFL dealer or a private transaction
  • Michigan: Although Concealed Pistol License (CPL) holders and those purchasing a pistol from an FFL dealer do not need a Purchase Permit to purchase a pistol
  • Minnesota: Whether through an FFL dealer or a private transaction, a Minnesota Permit to Carry a Pistol or a Permit to Purchase/Transfer a Firearm is required
  • Nebraska: Whether through an FFL or a private transaction
  • New Jersey: Whether through an FFL or a private transaction
  • New York/NYC: Whether through an FFL or a private transaction
  • North Carolina: Whether through an FFL dealer or a private transaction, either a North Carolina Concealed Carry Handgun permit or a handgun purchase permit is required
  • Rhode Island: Whether through an FFL dealer or a private transaction, a Purchase of a Pistol or Revolver Application is required

Extended Waiting Periods

Federal law limits background check processing to three business days. If an FFL is not notified that the sale is prohibited to an individual, the sale can be completed. There are a number of states that extend the time allowed for completion of a background check, some through the use of mandatory waiting periods. These states are:

  • California: 30 days
  • Colorado: 30 days under some circumstances
  • Florida: Indefinitely until the background check is complete
  • Pennsylvania: Indefinitely
  • Tennessee: Up to 15 days in some cases
  • Utah: Indefinitely until the background check is complete
  • Washington: 10, 30 or 60 days in some cases

Want to know about purchasing a firearm in your state? Check the USCCA Reciprocity and Concealed Carry Gun Laws Map to learn more about gun laws in specific states. Learn more about purchasing a firearm through these related blog posts:

Buying Your First Gun
Buying a Gun Online?
What Is the Process to Obtain a Firearm?

The information contained on this website is provided as a service to USCCA, Inc. members and the concealed carry community and does not constitute legal advice. Although we attempt to address all areas of concealed carry laws in all states, we make no claims, representations, warranties, promises or guarantees as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information disclosed. Legal advice must always be tailored to the individual facts and circumstances of each individual case. Laws are constantly changing, and, as such, nothing contained on this website should be used as a substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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