Mailing firearms in United States
There is much confusion about mailing firearms. So after doing it many times both as a sender as well as a receiver, I decided to put together a short guide.
It is important to note that there are many local laws that restrict firearms transfers, especially in sensitive areas such as CA, IL, NY, and MA. Know the local
laws of both the source and the destination!
Most importantly: I am not a lawyer. Please do not consider this legal advice!
What is a firearm?
Who can mail firearms?
Anyone can mail firearms! The restriction is not so much on who can mail it but rather than who can accept the mailing, and also which carrier can be legally used,
although of course if you mail a gun to someone who can not accept it or use improper channels you may be in trouble as much or even more than the receiver.
Some FFLs only accept firearms sent from other FFLs. There is no federal requirement for that, and so it is a matter of their own policy (which is often
dictated by their insurance company) or local laws (although I am unaware of such localities that would restrict it). Precise Shooter accepts firearms from other FFLs
as well as non-licensees.
Who can accept firearms?
Antique guns can be transferred without a license, as long as the receiving party can own them. See here for
the definition of an antique firearm.
One can always ship a firearm to him or herself. This comes in handy when you take a firearm to Alaska and would rather mail it home than carry it on the plane.
Interstate shipment of firearms is regulated by federal government, and so in interstate transfers the firearms can only be accepted by federal licensees.
There are two types of federal firearms licenses that are germaine to this discussion: Type 1 issued to firearms dealers and Type 3 Curios and Relics license,
or C&R, issued to collectors, although if you are shipping a firearm to a manufacturer (e.g. Remington) for warranty service, the universe widens
Full details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Firearms_License
Type 3 (C&R) FFL licensee can receive older and collectible firearms. Strict definition is here:
http://www.atf.gov/publications/firearms/curios-relics/ and it always pays to
go to the source to check, because there are interesting edge cases. For instance, a Yugo SKS rifles made 1988 are C&R weapons (on the list, even though
they are not 50 years old), as are CZ-82 pistols made in 1988, but Mosin Nagant receivers made in 1903 are not (historical value is gone with the barrel).
Type 1 (dealer) can accept anything that is legal for ownership by a private citizen in WA.
You can mail a firearm to a resident of your own state.
How to mail a firearm?
Handguns can not be mailed via USPS by individuals, only by Type 01 FFL dealers (not C&R licensees). This unfortunately makes the cheapest
way to ship them - Priority Mail Flat Rate Box - unavailable to anyone other than the firearms dealers.
Both UPS and Fedex accept handguns from individuals, but according to their policies they must be shipped 2nd day delivery or faster. It is
illegal to ship a handgun and ammunition in the same package.
Because of the express mail requirement, it might be sometimes cheaper to use a dealer to mail the gun for you.
Rifles can be mailed via USPS or shipped UPS. You do not have to declare the contents of the box to the postal office worker, and it is
sometimes wise not to, as many are not aware of their own regulations. I have once had a post office worker not accept a rifle from me because
she claimed that postal service does not ship weapons. This, of course, is not true at all:
On all carriers firearms must be shipped in plain, unmarked boxes.