Buying or Building Your First AR! Read on to Know if You can Legally Buy and Build AR 15 Rifle in your State
The last two blogs talked about the parts of AR 15 and how the AR 15 works. In this blog, we will answer your questions about the legalities of AR 15 in every state of the US. We will discuss whether buying or building the AR 15 rifle is legal as per federal and state laws. We will also talk about the need to register your AR 15 rifle or if you can own it without registering it. What does the federal law say about owning them, which states have put a control on owning the AR 15 rifles, and if you can carry a concealed or unconcealed firearm…
Buying AR 15 Rifle – The Federal Law
The simple answer to legally buying the semi-automatic AR 15 rifle is a big ‘Yes.’ The federal law allows you to legally buy a new AR 15 rifle from an FFL dealer. The only requirements are
- You should be 18 years of age.
- You need to pass the NICS background check that involves filling up the form 4473, based on which your background gets checked and that’s done in minutes. Sometimes, if the ATF does not respond on a background check for 3 days, the FFL dealer is in a legal position to transfer the firearm to the buyer. Few reasons you might fail a background check are if you have ever been a convicted felon, fugitive, unlawful drug user, or convicted of domestic violence.
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE), the only legal part of the AR 15 rifle is the lower receiver which is always serialized. As per federal law, when you buy a new AR 15, the FFL dealer keeps a record of serial no. in your name. On the other hand, the federal law also prohibits keeping a national register for firearms registration. But, when you buy the AR 15 rifle on a resale from an owner, you do not need to transfer it to your name.
Building the AR 15 Rifle – The Federal Law
Now, there are two ways to build the AR 15 rifle.
- The first way is to buy a complete lower receiver online with the same process as buying a new AR 15 (with age certification and background check). The lower receiver will be transferred to you through an FFL dealer after form 4473 and the background check. Buy the rest of the parts and assemble all the parts together to ready your rifle. One thing to note here is that you can build a firearm at home only for your personal use and not for selling it to anyone. If you build a firearm for commercial purposes or for the purpose of making money without having a license to do so, you are committing a felony.
- The other way is to buy an 80% lower receiver and build your rifle from the ground up. They are the lower receivers that are only 80% done by the manufacturer and they are not considered a firearm by the BATFE, which is why they are not serialized. 80% receivers are not transferred via the FFL dealer, they are directly shipped to you. You can mill and drill the 80% receivers using a lower jig, drill press, end mills, and drill bits and ready your lower receiver to finish your rifle. Again, there are some rules to follow here.
- Unless you have a license, you cannot complete the lower receiver for anyone else. And, you cannot have anyone else do it for you.
- Make sure you are building the AR for personal use.
All the above-mentioned criteria to buy or build the AR 15 rifle apply under federal law. However, you also need to be wary of your state laws on buying, building, and transporting the AR 15 rifle across state lines. Let us now find out what rules your state lays for buying, owning, or building the AR 15 rifle.
State Laws on Buying AR 15 Rifle
States are independent of federal gun laws. However, state laws can be broader or limited in scope as compared to federal gun laws. As a firearm owner, you are subject to the gun laws of the state you are currently in and not where you stay or your place of residence. This means you need to adhere to the gun laws of the state you are currently in. While many states allow you to buy and build the AR 15 rifle at home legally, six states, along with one District of Columbia, have put a partial or a complete ban on certain firearms and magazine capacity. Let us discuss those in detail one by one.
- In Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, you do not require a state permit to purchase a long rifle like AR 15. You do not need to register your 16 or more inches of rifles. There is no restriction on magazine capacity as well. Just follow the same procedure as the federal law when buying your regular AR 15 rifle. You do not need a permit for concealed and open carry. A background check is also not required when buying from a private dealer.
- In Arkansas, everything remains the same except for concealed carry. You need an enhanced concealed carry permit to carry in some places like public colleges, public buildings, non-secure places at airports, churches, and other public places. For these enhanced permits, you need to go for a background check and pass a training course.
- In California, you should be 21 years of age to buy any firearm. You need a Firearm Safety Certificate and proof of residency to acquire the permit to purchase the AR 15, amongst other formalities (check with your dealer). All the long guns or rifles purchased in and after 2014 must be registered with their serial no. There are restrictions on large-capacity magazines (check with the California law agency as this law keeps changing from time to time). In California, you do not need a license to concealed carry, and open carry is partially banned (in case of some handguns or pistols). The rifle must be unloaded and locked in a case when carrying in a vehicle. A background check is required when purchasing from a private seller as well.
- In Colorado, everything else remains the same except for magazine capacity restriction and state background checks for private sales. You cannot own a magazine with more than 15 rounds unless they were bought and possessed before July 1, 1993. You also need to go through the background check when buying from a private dealer.
- In Connecticut, you need a state permit to buy the AR 15 rifle. Your purchase also gets registered with the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP). You need to go through a background check for private sales, and magazines with more than 10 rounds cannot be bought and sold. You cannot load a registered large-capacity magazine with more than 10 rounds, except in your home or a licensed shooting range. For a long gun like AR 15 rifle, you do not need a permit for concealed carry.
- For Delaware, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, every other law remains the same for buying the AR 15 rifles other than a background check. You need to go through a background check in a private purchase.
- In the District of Columbia, you need a permit to buy the AR 15 rifle. The registration process, along with a background check and online training, serves as the permit. Concealed carry is allowed in the District of Columbia, but open carry is prohibited. You cannot possess a magazine with a capacity of more than 10 rounds.
- In Florida, only age restrictions on purchasing long guns apply. You cannot purchase a long gun like the AR 15 rifle from a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer before the age of 21.
- In Hawaii, you need a permit to purchase AR 15 rifle, and you must be 21 years of age to do so. You need to register the rifle with the county police chief within 5 days of buying one. You need a permit to open carry the rifle. You also need to go through the background check when buying from a private dealer. No restriction of magazine capacity or concealed carry.
- In Illinois, you need a Firearm Owner’s Identification card as a permit to buy the AR 15 rifle. However, you do not need to register it, and there is no restriction on magazine capacity. The license of concealed carry is not required, and you cannot carry it openly. A background check is required for private purchases.
- In Maryland, you do not require a permit to buy the AR 15 rifle. You need not register it. Concealed or open carry does not need a permit and, a magazine with more than 10 rounds is prohibited from owning or buying in Maryland. A background check is also required when buying from a private dealer.
- In Massachusetts, You need a permit to purchase the AR 15 rifle but do not need to register it. License to carry is required, and a license to concealed or open carry is needed too. You cannot possess a more than 10 round magazine manufactured after September 1994. You also need to go through a background check for a private purchase.
- For Minnesota, every law is the same as federal law for buying AR 15 rifles, except you need a permit in Minnesota for open carry within the state.
- In New Jersey, you need a state permit to buy a new complete AR 15 rifle. However, you do not need to register it nor get a permit for concealed or open carry. Magazines with more than 10 rounds are not allowed for rifles in New Jersey. You also need to go through a background check for purchase from a private dealer.
- In New York, you cannot openly carry a rifle, but you can carry it concealed without a permit. The magazine capacity is restricted to 10 rounds. You also need to go through a background check for private dealer purchases.
- In Ohio, you cannot buy a rifle unless you are 21 years of age.
- In Vermont, there is a ban on selling or possessing magazines with more than 10 rounds for long guns like the AR 15 rifle. You also need to go through a background check in a private purchase.
- In Virginia, magazines with more than 20 rounds are legal but make the AR 15 an assault weapon, meaning you need proof of age and citizenship to buy the rifle (if you buy it with a magazine of more than 20 rounds). Background checks are also required for a private purchase.
- In Washington, you need a permit to buy the AR 15, and the permit requires you to be 21 years of age and to have completed a recognized firearm safety training program in the last five years. Not particularly registration, but the dealer must record and report the sales of all rifles. Washington D.C. gives a US citizen the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. There are no restrictions on magazine capacity, but you need to go through the background check when buying from a private seller.
These state laws apply when purchasing rifles above 16 inches or more like the AR 15. For further elaborated laws on buying AR 15, get in touch with the local law agency or talk to your dealer when opting for a purchase. Let us now look at the laws about building the AR 15 with complete and 80% receivers.
Building the AR 15 Rifle with a Complete Lower Receiver – State Laws
When building the rifle with a complete receiver, the laws remain quite the same as buying a new rifle, as the lower receiver is serialized and transferred to you by the FFL dealer after a background check and form 4473. Again, check your local law agency to better understand your local and state laws before building a rifle for yourself.
Building the AR 15 Rifle with 80% Lower Receiver – State Laws
For 80% receivers, most states allow you to build the rifle legally, as the 80% receiver is not finished and not considered a firearm by the ATF. Some states, however, have a partial or complete ban on building the rifle at home with 80% receivers while some states have some conditions to be met before you make one. Here are those states.
- In California, you can buy the 80% lower receiver without any paperwork, but you cannot build the rifle from it unless you get a serial no. from the state. California states that you serialize the 80% lower receiver before finishing it and making it ‘complete’ to turn into a firearm. Apply for serial no. at the California Department of Justice. To do so, apply for a state-level background check via the ‘Personal Firearm Eligibility Check Application’ and follow the rest of the process to get a unique serial no. for your lower receiver. Once your application to get a unique serial no. is approved and you legally have received the serial no., you will have 10 days to engrave it on your receiver. That is how you can legally make the AR 15 rifle from the 80% receiver in California.
- In New York, no law at present bans the sale, purchase, or possession of 80% lower receiver. You can legally buy it and make a rifle with it, but the rifle should be ‘SAFE’ act complaint or per the state’s gun laws.
- In New Jersey, you cannot buy or build any firearm with 80% lowers, it is outright illegal.
- In Washington, you cannot mill a polymer 80% lower and make a rife using it as polymer material comes under ‘undetectable’ material. It cannot be detected by the metal detectors or accurately depict the shape of any part of the rifle when examined by the X-ray machines. But, you can mill the 80% lower receiver made with metal or aluminum (serialized or not) and build a rifle with it. Also, the rifle you manufacture should be for your personal use only and not intended to sell it.
- In Connecticut, you need to get the serial no. from the ‘Department of Emergency Services, and Public Protection’ for your 80% lower and have it engraved on your lower before manufacturing your rifle. We recommend checking for local laws before deciding to make one for yourself, as it will give you better clarity on the issue.
- In Hawaii, after HB 2274, 80% lowers are illegal, and it is prohibited to build or purchase parts to build firearms with 80% lowers that have no serial no.
As per our best knowledge, these are some of the states that have put control over 80% receivers. In other states, federal law applies to manufacturing AR 15 rifles with 80% lower receivers. Still, check for your local and state laws to be in the best of knowledge about manufacturing AR 15 rifles at home.
The gun lovers of America are proud to manufacture AR 15 rifles at home. Be a proud gunner and make one for yourself today. Check out our AR section to get some of the best-manufactured parts to assemble your next AR.