U.S. Firearms and Ammunition Laws


Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Arms Export Control Act (both as Amended)


For a full review of U.S. Firearms and Ammunition Regulations and Laws, please go to ATF’s public website at https://www.atf.gov/questions-and-answers/firearms-qas.

To read the published Press Release about this subject please visit: https://sv.usembassy.gov/reminder-firearms-appropriate-exportation-and-importation-documentation/

(A7) Are there persons who CANNOT legally receive or possess firearms and/or ammunition in the United States?

Yes, a person who —

(5) Is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States or an alien admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa;

[18 U.S.C. 922(g)(5) and (n); 27 CFR 478.32] NOTE: This violation carries a prison term of up to 10 years and a $250,000 fine.

(R1) Who is a nonimmigrant alien?

A nonimmigrant alien is an alien in the United States in a nonimmigrant classification as defined by section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)). Generally, “nonimmigrant aliensare tourists, students, business travelers, and temporary workers who enter the U.S. for fixed periods of time; they are lawfully admitted aliens who are not lawful permanent residents.

[27 CFR 478.11]

(R2) May a nonimmigrant alien who has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa possess a firearm or ammunition in the United States?

An alien admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa is prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing a firearm or ammunition unless the alien falls within one of the exceptions provided in 18 U.S.C. 922(y)(2), such as: a valid hunting license or permit, admitted for lawful hunting or sporting purposes, certain official representatives.

(B1) To whom may an unlicensed person transfer firearms under the GCA?

A person may transfer a firearm to an unlicensed person who resides in his or her State, provided the transferor does not know or have reasonable cause to believe the transferee is prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms under Federal law. (An unlicensed person is a person that does not have a license from ATF to buy and sale firearms to the public)

[18 U.S.C 922(a)(5) and 922(d); 27 CFR 478.30, 478.32] NOTE: This violation carries a prison term of up to five years and a $250,000 fine.

(B2) May an unlicensed person acquire a firearm under the GCA in any U.S. State?

Generally, a person may only acquire a firearm within the person’s own State (State of Residency). (NOTE: If a person resides in a foreign country, that person does not reside in any U.S. State)

[18 U.S.C 922(a)(3); 27 CFR 478.29] NOTE: This violation carries a prison term of up to five years and a $250,000 fine.

(B10) What constitutes residency in a State?

For Gun Control Act purposes, a person is a resident of a State in which he or she is present with the intention of making a home in that State.

(NOTE: As per the above and as per Federal case law, residency is established by living in a State for more than 90 days)

[18 U.S.C. 921(b), 922(a)(3), and 922(b)(3); 27 CFR 478.11]

(B7) May an unlicensed person ship a firearm by common or contract carrier?

An unlicensed person may ship a firearm by a common or contract carrier to a resident of his or her own State or to a licensee in any State. A common or contract carrier must be used to ship a handgun. In addition, Federal law requires that the carrier be notified that the SHIPMENT contains a firearm or ammunition… (Examples of common/contract carriers – all airlines and any transport company, to include packing/moving companies that transport household goods from State to State and who ship internationally)

[18 U.S.C. 922(a)(2)(A), 922(a)(5), 922(e) and (f); 27 CFR 478.30 and 478.31] NOTE: This violation carries a prison term of five years and a $250,000 fine.

All of the above can be found in ATF’s Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide, ATF P 5300.4 or in the above mentioned ATF website.

Sales to Aliens in the U.S. for Export

Removal of a firearm or ammunition from the U.S. by anyone is an exportation. With few exceptions, the person or firearms licensee must obtain an export license (Form DSP–5) from the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) or the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) prior to exportation. When a licensee exports firearms directly to an alien’s residence outside the United States, the licensee need only record the name and address of the foreign customer in his or her bound book. ATF Form 4473 need not be completed. (NOTE: the sale of firearms and ammunition to an alien in the U.S. is legal, however the transfer of said firearms or ammunition is not. The physical transfer of said items must be done through licensed persons or businesses)

Exportation of firearms other than sporting shotguns is regulated by the Department of State, DDTC. Any person who intends to export or temporarily export firearms, ammunition or components as defined under the United States Munitions List (22 CFR 121) must obtain the approval of the DDTC prior to export unless the export qualifies for an exemption under the provisions of the International Traffic in Arm Regulations (22 CFR 120–130).

For further information about the exportation of firearms, ammunition or components, contact DDTC:



The Department of Commerce regulates the exportation of shotguns with a barrel length of 18 inches and over, as well as related parts, components, shotgun shells, and certain muzzle loading (black powder) firearms. The Department of Commerce requires a specific license to export or re–export these items to most destinations. For further information, contact an Export Counselor at:

202–482–4811, Outreach and Educational Services Division (located in Washington, DC)

949–660–0144, Western Regional Office (located in Newport Beach, CA) 408–998–8806, Northern California Branch (located in San Jose, CA)


The above was taken directly from ATF’s Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide, ATF P 5300.4.

Arms Export Control Act (AECA)

22 USC 2778: Control of Arms Exports and Imports (which includes firearms and ammunition)

(c) Criminal violations; punishment:

Any person who willfully violates any provision of this section, section 2779 of this title, a treaty referred to in subsection (j)(1)(C)(i), or any rule or regulation issued under this section or section 2779 of this title, including any rule or regulation issued to implement or enforce a treaty referred to in subsection (j)(1)(C)(i) or an implementing arrangement pursuant to such treaty, or who willfully, in a registration or license application or required report, makes any untrue statement of a material fact or omits to state a material fact required to be stated therein or necessary to make the statements therein not misleading, shall upon conviction be fined for each violation not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) of AECA

ITAR, 22 CFR 120-130

  • 123.17   Exports of firearms, ammunition, and personal protective gear

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the legal authority at all ports of entry and exits, thus any person exporting any U.S. goods, to include firearms or ammunition must declare these items to a CBP officer and present them to a CBP officer for inspection prior to exportation.

  • 121   U.S. Munitions List and the Commerce Control List (Shotguns with a barrel length of 18 inches or more)
  • 121.1   Includes revolvers, pistols, carbines, rifles, combinations, short barreled shotguns, machineguns and ammunition .22 caliber and above.

Other U.S. Associated Criminal Violation


  • USC 554: Smuggling Goods from the United States
  • In General.—


Whoever fraudulently or knowingly exports or sends from the United States, or attempts to export or send from the United States, any merchandise, article, or object contrary to any law or regulation of the United States, or receives, conceals, buys, sells, or in any manner facilitates the transportation, concealment, or sale of such merchandise, article or object, prior to exportation, knowing the same to be intended for exportation contrary to any law or regulation of the United States, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.

The above information was taken from the Federal Criminal Code.

NOTE: All exportation of goods at its final port of exit, must be declared with U.S. Customs and Border Protection for inspection and for review of corresponding permits and licenses.

Additional Information

If one is a U.S. Visa holder and under criminal investigation by U.S. and/or El Salvadoran authorities for firearms and/or ammunition violations, the U.S. Embassy would consider the cancellation of visas for travel to the U.S.