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Step by Step Guide on How to Register a Gun

Step by Step Guide on How to Register a Gun - GunSkins
Step by Step Guide on How to Register a Gun - GunSkins

More and more states are considering the possibility of required gun registration. Even owners within states where registration isn’t required are taking the time to register what they own. 

But why?

Registration creates certain safeties for the owners and safety for the community as a whole. Once you understand why you may want to register your firearms, you can follow this step-by-step guide to registration and tips you may want to know to protect yourself further. 

Current Gun Ownership

While purchasing a gun requires background checks and extensive paperwork, most states do not require you to actually register your gun. Yes, you own the firearm, but there’s no central database stating what you own. 

The federal government places minimum guidelines on firearm sales and ownership based on the 1968 Gun Control Act. Its minimum age restriction restricts ownership of shotguns, rifles, and ammo to individuals over the age of 18. It also restricts individuals with a range of legal issues and those who have been involuntarily placed in a mental institution from gun ownership.

Further restriction was added with the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, which required background checks for gun sales with a focus on keeping guns out of the hands of fugitives. 

From this point, states are open to place further restrictions on purchasing, owning, and carrying firearms. 

State Restrictions 

With each state able to restrict gun regulations, you may find vastly different laws from state to state. Before purchasing a gun or moving to a new state with your existing collection, check with the state and local laws. 

Each state has managed legal ages of shotgun, rifle, and pistol ownership. It’s important to check with your local guidelines

For states such as Hawaii and the District of Columbia, this includes registration of all firearms. California maintains a non-traditional registry by requiring all new gun sales be registered, all used guns must be sold through a licensed dealer, and all new residents must report their firearm ownership. Maryland has also required new residents to report their ownership. 

New York requires residents to register all handguns, based on their view that most crimes are conducted with handguns.  

Many states have increased restrictions on “assault rifles,” large calibers, and large capacity magazines. States such as Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, California, Connecticut, and New York have restrictions on “assault rifles” and “assault pistols.” 

While many states are placing restrictions on gun ownership, some states have placed themselves on the other side of the debate, prohibiting registrations. This is to protect the gun owner’s Constitutional rights for their Right to Bear Arms to present equal force to a potentially corrupt government.

Registering Your Guns 

For states who require registration, contact your local officials to ensure your registration meets all requirements. 

Even if your state doesn’t require a registration, registering your guns comes with benefits, especially in cases where you might have to deal with law enforcement like rangers. 

When in doubt, always ask your local authorities. 

Who To Ask 

Each state will have some form of education and resources in place for firearm legalities and requirements. Owning a firearm is serious business. 

Some states have put Firearms Departments in place, which are specialists on your states’ requirements. Don’t wait for the officials to get back to you. Send an email, leave a message, and if you don’t hear back within a couple days reach out to them again. They are trying to handle a state worth of situations, but you need answers. 

Your local police department remains a great resource for your gun, home defense, carry, and other requirements.. It’s essential that your local officers understand the local laws and restrictions, as they remain not only an enforcement, but a resource. This will also ensure you don’t overlook city specific laws. 

Remember, the state can further restrict decisions from the Federal government, and your town can further restrict decisions from the State Government. 

What You’ll Need 

Before registering your guns, it’s important to get all required and potentially important information together. Depending on your state or registration agency, you may need more or less information. 

Forms of identification are essential with all legal happenings. You will absolutely need your driver's license which is a government issued photo ID, and potentially a second form of identification. In some cases, a utility bill could be required to show proof of residence. 

Personal Information is sometimes needed to confirm your identity. This will include your full legal name, height, weight, eye color. This information needs to match what’s on your government issued ID. (driver’s license)

Gun Specifications will ensure the gun is identified correctly. This should include the manufacturer, model, ammunition size, serial number, and potentially the business you purchased your gun from. 

Proof of Ownership is essential for gun registrations. This could include needing a receipt for your purchase, or even bringing the gun to your local police department so the gun's serial number can be confirmed. Even if you have a license to conceal carry, consider bringing your gun unloaded and in a lock box to avoid confusion. 

Background Checks are required for all firearm purchases, and a check when you’re registering your guns. Be sure to bring available funds for the process, or call ahead to confirm pricing. 

Your Gun’s Background Check will also be conducted if you’re buying a gun. A background check is a look through the legal database to ensure your firearms haven’t been used in previous crimes. 


The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) requires all weapons that fall under the National Firearm Act (NFA) to be registered into the ATF database. This includes machine guns, short-barrelled rifles, short-barrelled shotguns, silencers, destructive devices, and any firearm designed as another device. 

The Wait

Depending on your local police department, your registration could be completed the same day, while other registrations could take up to a month.

If registration is required for situations such as concealed carry, confirm with your local police department if this wait period will affect your ability to carry or own your gun. 


As a gun owner, you take on a high level of responsibility. Not only do you want to protect your firearms from damage, but you’ll want to protect yourself legally in the future. 

Robberies unfortunately happen, and you need to be ready. By registering your firearms, you create a paper trail of ownership, responsibility, and the ability to protect yourself if something happens.

The first thing you should do is check with your state and local government and law enforcement. Being caught illegally owning or carrying a firearm could lead to fines, jail time, or even a felony. That’s a high cost to pay for a mistake that could be avoided by asking questions. 

The most important step to gun ownership remains understanding proper handling, safety, and operation. It’s important to take the time to clean and inspect your guns, while getting out to the range and slinging lead.

That’s right, one of the most important steps to gun safety is to do the thing you already enjoy. Hitting the range and firing your collection will help you better understand your weapons. 



Gun Control Act | Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives 

Brady Law | Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Firearm registration requirements by state

How does a person register a firearm or remove a name from a firearms registration? | Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives 

National Firearms Act | Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives 

1 comment

  • Clare Martin: November 17, 2023
    Author's avatar image

    I finally finished my gun safety classes and got my permit to carry, so I need to invest in a handgun soon to use for self-defense from now on since I live by myself and far away from my family. I appreciate you letting us know that while it is not a requirement for most states to register our guns, registration helps create certain safeties for owners and the community as a whole by proving that we meet their specific requirements. I’ll keep this in mind while I look for a gun dealer in Gainesville to contact about the handgun I need for home soon. https://countryboysports.com/index.php/firearms/handguns/

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