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A private firearm sale doesn’t leave a paper trail. That can be a real problem.

Welcome to the Gunshine State! I love to refer to Florida this way, especially during the summer when sunshine is secondary to torrential rain showers. To me, it fits because of Florida’s very traditional laws about guns and gun ownership in general.

We are one of the most pro-Second Amendment states in the union. It says so right in our state constitution — Art. VIII, § 8(a): “The right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and of the lawful authority of the state shall not be infringed.”

The right to bear arms means there is no registration required and no permit is needed to purchase or possess firearms in this subtropical paradise. There is no list of people who own guns, nor a database of what they own. Your guns are considered your private matter.

Florida has the highest number of concealed carry permits in the nation. Nearly one out of every 10 people have concealed carry permits, and even more than that are gun owners. Think about that the next time your standing in the checkout line at the grocery store and take a look around you. One out of 10. Can you guess who is carrying and who is not?

Another gun-friendly aspect of Florida is that you may transfer ownership of a gun between two private parties without a background check. Fla. Const. Art. VIII, § 5(b): “Background checks are not required by the state. However, county governments have the authority to require background checks and a 3- to 5-day waiting period for private firearms transfers (holders of concealed carry permits are exempt from any such county requirements).” This type of transaction is called a private sale.

Why a private sale? Anybody who has had to sell a gun for whatever reason knows that gun stores and pawn shops will not pay a retail price for your pre-owned guns. It’s just like trading in a car. They have to turn around and resell it. Therefore, you will get a wholesale price for your gun and not fair retail value. It doesn’t matter how much you paid for the gun, how old the gun is or how many times it’s been shot. Also, accessories and enhancements will not help towards the perceived value of a gun.

That is where a private seller comes in handy. A private seller is a person who does not possess a federal firearms license, also called an FFL. A neighbor, a long-time friend, a brother or any other family member could be considered a private seller. The person doesn’t even have to be of a personal acquaintance. You can buy, sell, or trade guns with a perfect stranger. There is no limit to the number of transactions that can be made by a private seller, just an assumption of what is considered reasonable.

There are two rules to this stipulation. First, the purchaser of the firearm must be at least 18 years of age or older (21 years or older in a licensed retail shop). Second, one may not “knowingly transfer a firearm to anyone who is prohibited by federal law.” (Fla. Statutes § 790.065). This would include, but is not limited to, anyone who is a felon, ever had a conviction of domestic violence, or anyone who is mentally unstable.

If you wish to sell a firearm to someone you do not personally know, then it is advisable to protect yourself by making and keeping a record of the transaction. This isn’t required by law, but it is highly recommended. The record should contain the full name of both the buyer and the seller; the make, model and serial number of the gun; and the date of the transaction. Both parties should sign it, and each should take a copy.

A handwritten record is acceptable, but a bill of sale is little more formal and rather simple to do. You can easily Google “firearm bill of sale” and print one off on your home computer. It’s not a bad idea to print two so both parties have copies. Don’t forget to sign it.

Whenever I sell a firearm privately to somebody I do not personally know, I insist that they have a valid concealed carry permit. This is a reassurance to me that they have at least passed a federal background check since the issuance of the permit. If they do not have a concealed carry permit, then it’s up to you to use your best judgment. If you knowingly sell a gun to someone who is prohibited by law from possessing one, you can be held legally liable.

I would also recommend taking a photocopy of the driver’s licenses and concealed carry permits of each party involved in the transaction, if possible. Attach this to each copy of the bill of sale. Boom! Whether you are the seller or the buyer, you are legally protected in the state of Florida.

If you are the buyer and are worried about a gun being stolen, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has a website that can be used to verify that a gun is clean. You can go to, or simply type “FDLE stolen gun” into your browser search box. Once on this website, you can type in the serial number of a gun. If it’s a serial number associated with a stolen gun, the website will give you a description of the gun and the date it was reported stolen.

Just an FYI, you can test this by typing in the serial number 12345. It is the actual serial number of a stolen gun that I accidentally discovered while showing someone how to use the website. It’s a very easy site to use and I would recommend using this tool for all private firearm transactions.

Due to a loophole in the law, private sellers are allowed to rent booths at gun shows. Most sellers at gun shows are licensed dealers who perform the required background checks, but there will always be a handful of private sellers there who will rent a table or two and sell their “collection.” Background checks are not required at these tables.

I must admit that I am not a fan of private sellers at gun shows for several reasons. First off, legitimate private sellers usually sell one or two guns at a time. They are usually thinning out their collection, not selling the whole lot. I can guarantee that most private sellers at gun shows have at 20 or more guns for sale.

Second, they will travel throughout the gun show market, from city to city. They will show up a different gun shows every weekend, buying, selling and trading. They are crossing the line of private sales into for-profit business sales. Pretty much, they are giving us good guys a bad name. Most responsible gun owners follow the law, rather than bend it.

If you really wanted to perform a firearm transaction on the up and up, you can always pay a local gun shop to perform a transfer for you. There is a transfer fee involved, but the gun shop will take possession of the gun from the seller, perform the background check on the buyer, then transfer ownership to them. This transaction is not reported to any agency, but the record will be kept on file for 20 years.

So, buy, sell and trade away — but keep records, because the one time you don’t will be the one time that burn you. Be careful who you sell to and run serial numbers when you buy. And please, don’t be that guy who rents a table at the gun show.

Jenny Malone grew up in the Charlotte County area and is an NRA-certified pistol instructor and range safety officer. You can talk guns with her at J&J One Stop Gun Shop at 2324 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte.

Jenny Malone grew up in the Charlotte County area and is an NRA-certified pistol instructor and range safety officer. You can talk guns with her at J&J One Stop Gun Shop at 2324 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte.


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