In Arizona, background checks are required to buy a gun from a commercial firearms dealer unless the buyer has a CCW permit. Background checks are never required to buy a gun in the state from a private seller. Most types of guns are legal to purchase in Arizona, and there is no permit necessary to carry guns concealed.
In this article, our Arizona criminal defense attorneys discuss the five steps for purchasing a gun in the state:
- Step 1. Check that you are not a prohibited person
- Step 2. Check that the firearm is legal
- Step 3. Submit to a background check (for dealer sales)
- Step 4. Take possession of the firearm (with some exceptions)
- Step 5. Follow the law
1. Check that you are not a prohibited person
The following people may not purchase, own, or have possession of a firearm in Arizona unless they had their gun rights restored:
- People convicted of a felony offense.
- People convicted of domestic violence, even as a misdemeanor.
- Probationers or parolees pursuant to an interstate compact.
- People on parole, community supervision or work furlough, or people on home arrest.
- People on probation for a felony or domestic violence.
- People currently charged with a felony.
- People currently subject to a court order (“restraining order”) prohibiting the person from stalking, threatening, or harassing an intimate partner, or the partner’s child.
- Dishonorably discharged veterans.
- Drug addicts or users.
- People adjudicated as guilty except insane.
- People found incompetent due to mental illness, defect, or disability, and they since have not been found competent.
- People found to be a danger to themselves or others.
- People adjudicated as a mental defective or who have been committed to a mental institution.
- Former U.S. citizen who renounced their U.S. citizenship.
- Undocumented aliens.
- Nonimmigrant aliens with a foreign residence who are currently in Arizona for business, pleasure, or school, with some exceptions:
- Some diplomats.
- People with a waiver from the U.S. Attorney General.
- Foreign government officials or distinguished foreign visitors designated by the U.S. Department of State.
- Foreigners with a valid U.S. hunting license or permit.
- Foreigners who entered the U.S. to compete in target shooting or to display guns at a hunting or sports trade show sponsored by a local, state, or national firearm trade organization devoted to the competitive use or sporting use of firearms.1
Note that dealers may not sell handguns to anyone under 21 years of age. But private gun sellers may sell handguns to anyone 18 or older as long as the buyer would not otherwise be a prohibited possessor.2
Also note that it is a class 6 felony in Arizona for any person to sell a gun to a minor without written consent of the minor’s parent or legal guardian. But the temporary transfer of firearms to a minor by firearms safety instructors is lawful as long as the minor’s parent or guardian has given consent for the minor to participate in activities such as firearms or hunting safety courses, firearms competition or training.3
2. Check that the firearm is legal
Arizona residents may purchase nearly any kind of gun in the state, including most assault-style / semi-automatic rifles. (Machine guns are generally illegal to possess or transfer unless they are registered with the ATF and made before May 19, 1986. And the purchase process for machine guns can take several months.)4
But non-Arizona residents who buy guns in Arizona have the following restrictions:
- The firearm must be lawful in the buyer’s home state; and
- The transaction must be legal in the buyer’s home state.5
3. Submit to a background check (for dealer sales)
Buyers purchasing a gun from a licensed gun dealer first need to present a government-issued ID. This must show the buyer’s name, address, date of birth, and signature.
State law then requires the buyer to complete and sign the ATF Form 4473. Then the dealer will run the federal background check called NICS – National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Note that buyers with current and valid concealed carry permits from Arizona do not have to submit to a background check. (Learn how to obtain Arizona CCW permits.)
The background check process typically lasts less than one minute. NICS will then issue one of three responses:
- Proceed; or
- Delay; or
If the sale is denied, the buyer can appeal through the FBI. A “Delay” means the FBI has to do more research about the sale. If they do not issue a denial in three business days, then the sale can go through.6
No background check is required for private gun sales.7
4. Take possession of the firearm (with some exceptions)
Arizona residents who pass the background check may take immediate possession of their firearms. There is no waiting period.
But non-Arizona residents cannot take immediate possession of the handguns they purchase from a dealer. Instead, the dealer must ship it to a dealer in the purchaser’s home state. And immediate possession of long guns is permitted only if the purchaser’s home state allows it.8
Note that there is no limit to the number of guns people can purchase in Arizona.
5. Follow the law
Arizona gun laws are comparatively lax. No registration of firearms is required. And no special permit is required for concealed carry.9 But gun owners must be careful not to take their guns to prohibited locations, even for self-defense. In general, people other than law enforcement officers are not allowed to have guns at:
- K-12 school grounds
- Public colleges where the board prohibited carrying guns
- Government facilities
- Polling places on election day
- Airports beyond security checkpoints
- Indian reservations
- Game preserves
- Federal buildings
- Hydroelectric or nuclear power generating stations
- Detention facilities and correctional facilities10
Also, gun buyers may not give or resell their guns to a person prohibited from having a gun.
- Arizona Revised Statute 13-3101; 18 U.S.C. § 922, subsection g (federal law). Note that – in general – there is state preemption over local laws and political subdivisions that try to limit gun rights. ARS 13-3108. See also Jennifer Martinez, Arizona Governor signs Second Amendment Freedom Act, protecting state from federal gun laws, FOX 10 Phoenix (April 8, 2021).
- 18 U.S.C. 922(b)(1).
- ARS 13-3109.
- 18 U.S.C. § 922(o); 26 U.S.C. § 5861(d).
- 18 U.S.C 922(a)(3); 27 CFR 478.29.
- 18 U.S.C. 922(c).
- ARS 44-1382.
- 18 U.S.C. 922(b)(3).
- Arizona is a shall issue state. Under Arizona carry laws, concealed carry permits (CCW permits) are not necessary to carry concealed weapons and concealed firearms. Though, having a concealed weapons permit may be necessary to carry concealed handguns in other states that have reciprocity with Arizona. (Like Arizona, some states do not require CCW permits, such as Alaska and Vermont.) State permit holders must have demonstrated firearms safety, usually through a firearms training course.
- ARS 13, et seq. Note that 18-to-20-year-olds may open carry firearms in a vehicle as long as they are in plain view to those outside the car. Otherwise, 18-to-20-years-old must store firearms in a motor vehicle (“means of transportation”) inside a case, holster, scabbard, pack or luggage, or is located within the glove compartment, trunk, storage compartment, or map pocket. Also note it is a crime for people to attend a public event or public establishment or even go to private property with a deadly weapon after the establishment’s operator/sponsor/owner asked them to remove it. ARS 13-3102.