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How Do I Purchase A Firearm?

First-time buyers of any important purchase – whether a car, a trip to Europe, or a firearm –  all face the same initial questions and anxieties. The buying process itself can be intimidating, and in most cases, we simply don’t know what the first steps are and what to do once we have begun. Too often we allow our anxiety over the process to get in the way of making the purchase. When it comes to questions about buying your first firearm, I consulted with one of my favorite Firearms Experts, who you met in the recent Series “Girls Who Sell Guns”, Tiffany Villalvazo

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Cheryl: Tiffany, please walk us through the steps involved when a person comes into a gun store, like AZFirearms, which is a Federally Licensed Firearms Dealership (FFL), to purchase a firearm. If I am a new buyer, what do I need to bring with me?

Tiffany: Since I live and work in the State of Arizona, I will speak to the laws and process we use in Arizona.

  • Bring your valid State ID/Driver License with your current physical address. This step is to establish where you live, so if you have a P.O. box listed on your ID, the store will not be able to transfer the firearms to you.
  • If you have one, bring your valid Arizona Concealed Weapons Permit. You will still fill out the Federal Form 4473 for your background check, but the process is faster since the store staff will not need to call in the information. This is similar to having a pre-check status when you fly; it just speeds up the entire process. 
  • If you’re new to guns, bring some confidence! There’s no need to be nervous; those of us who sell guns are here to listen to you and answer any questions you have.
  • Whether you’re new to guns or not, a positive attitude and an open mind always helps. What could be more exciting that exercising your Second Amendment Rights? 
  • Money. If you are like most people, you will fall in love with more than one firearm while you are shopping.
Tiffany Villalvaso AZfirearms counter purchase a firearm
(LaShawn Robinson photo)

Cheryl: What checks are done before you can purchase a firearm?

Tiffany: An FBI background check is submitted after you fill out a Firearms Transaction Record Form, known as the Federal Form 4473. This check will search your personal history for any felonies, dishonorable discharges from military service, and whether you have any derogatory information on your legal record regarding domestic violence. 

how to purchase a firearm Federal Form 4473

Cheryl: Is it different for long guns, such as rifles and shotguns, than it is for handguns?  

Tiffany: When it comes to the background check, the paperwork and requirements are the same for handguns and long guns. However, you must be at least 18 years old to purchase a long gun, while the minimum age is 21 to purchase a handgun.

firearms transfer paperwork Federal Form 4473
Federal Form 4473

Cheryl: What can you tell someone who is brand new and possibly nervous about being a novice?

Tiffany: We all were first-timers at some point, so you are in great company. I’ve been that nervous new person before, and what helped me was being open-minded and embracing the idea that I was new at this and that the learning would be fun.

  • Embrace that you are a novice and let your curiosity guide you. Soak in as much information as you can.
  • Be bold about what you want and need. Have a clear idea in your mind of what you want to do with the gun – where you will carry it, where you will store it, and how often you will be able to practice with it at the shooting range. 
  • Don’t let an unskilled salesperson or your “helpful” (read: know-it-all) neighbor intimidate you. Find people who understand that their roles are simply to support YOU in making a wise decision, rather than someone who wants to make the decision FOR you.
  • Have fun! You have a world of guns to choose from, and a near endless amount of knowledge you can gain when shopping for a gun. You might not ever know everything, but have fun with what you want to achieve with your firearms journey. 
purchase a firearm Tiffany Villalvazo Federal Form 4473
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Cheryl: Are there some expert tips you can offer to aid people in making a wise purchase?

Tiffany: 

  • Always feel 100% comfortable with everything about the gun you are preparing to buy. You shouldn’t feel nervous or uncertain about any feature about it. 
  • If your salesperson uses a term or a phrase that you are unfamiliar with, simply ask the salesperson to clarify. ASK, ASK, ASK!
  • Always hold the gun appropriately, pointed in a safe direction. Your fellow shoppers and the sales staff will greatly appreciate this. And, simply doing this will make you look like a pro, right from the start.
  • Spend some time online researching some important features to look for on your new gun to be sure that you’ll love your purchase: sights, grip size, thumb safety (or no thumb safety), the tension on the slide on a semi-automatic handgun (check to make certain that can you efficiently and comfortably rack the slide), and the cost of ammunition for your gun, because you will want to practice a lot for proficiency and for fun! 
  • If you live near a shooting range that allows you to rent guns, spend the time trying them all before you buy your first gun, so you can determine what you like and don’t like about different makers, different models and different calibers. Guns are like shoes, not only will you want many different ones, in different styles and colors, but you will also need them to fit you and your lifestyle.
  • About Cheryl Todd

    Cheryl Todd, owner of AZFirearms.com and cohost of Gun Freedom Radio, has more than 30 years of experience in the firearms industry. She holds undergraduate degrees in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership, which allows her to bring a unique voice to the gun world.