Can a tourist buy a gun in the USA?

  • This came up as a discussion. With recent incidents in the news, it's often argued by some members of the public in the US that guns are a requirement for safety, and that everyone should have the right to own a gun.

    Obviously, they're talking about citizens. However, if a tourist visits, surely they should have the same concerns (arguably more, since you don't know as much as locals).

    Anyway, the question that is being asked here (and I'm trying to avoid politics as best as possible) - can a non-resident tourist buy a gun for their travels around the United States?

    if you do manage, good luck getting it out of the US and into your own country though

    It is most often not the actual possession of the gun that protects you it is the possibility that you may have one that acts as a deterrent.

    One more point to add: While you might be able to buy a gun from a private party (Erik's answer) to actually carry it around has it's own licensing requirements separate from purchasing it.

  • Doc

    Doc Correct answer

    8 years ago

    Very simply, no, they can not.

    In order to purchase a firearm in the US you must be a resident of the state in which you are buying it, and able to prove that residency. As a tourist is not a resident of the state, they are unable to purchase firearms.

    There was previously an additional requirement that non-citizens had to have been a resident of a state for 90 days before they could purchase a firearm in that state, but that additional condition was removed earlier this year.

    Even if you could purchase a firearm, doing so for "travels around the United States" would be troublesome as gun laws vary from state to state, so what is legal in one state could be illegal in another.

    Update: Further information can be found in this Q&A document from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) website.

    Q5 of that Q&A doc seems to indicate that if you're in the US on a visa-waiver program, you can buy firearms if you can meet the residency requirements of the state you're in. Not sure if a tourist would be able to, but possibly in one of the 50-odd states you might find it possible!

    Arizona used to only have a requirement that you be able to show a AZ drivers licence... I think it may be a little harder since columbine but not much.

    As an aside, how does one prove residency in a state in the US? In many European countries there is a mandatory registration, in France you would typically show some utility bill (as a French citizen, if not, you also have your visa/residence permit), etc. What about the US?

    @Relaxed In the US, an _unexpired_ state ID or driver license is accepted as proof of residence for buying a firearm. But that's not the only check; noncitizen permanent residents do have to supply their alien registration number (from their green card) as well, and this is checked on the background check.

    Your Q&A link is now dead, and I'm not sure what it linked to to update it myself.

    This is interesting. How does this interact with the famous "gun show loophole"?

    Excuse me if this is inappropriate but let's say I would like to buy a firm arm in a less restrictive state, can I buy an apartment for a month to essentially become a resident of such state to buy a fire arm there? Should this be a separate question? Thanks

    +1 for mentioning that laws vary by state. Not to mention if the questioner believes that owning a gun allows them to keep it with them, they may end up in serious trouble. You need special permissions to "concealed carry", and these permissions are not necessarily valid outside the state in which you obtain it -- and are also subject to restrictions (no guns in churches, for example). Even having a gun within your reach in a car can get you into serious trouble.

License under CC-BY-SA with attribution


Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM