Pawn shops can be an outstanding place to buy a secondhand gun, especially if your budget doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room. Some pawn shops are also federally licensed firearms dealers, which means they carry an extensive selection of firearms, both handguns and rifles. And with gun sales surging across the United States in recent months, pawn shops are an excellent place to find merchandise that may be out of stock at other stores.
Contrary to popular belief, buying a gun from a pawn shop won’t allow you to skirt federal and state background check laws. And you’ll still have to prove you have a permit to carry a gun in Virginia before you buy. But it’s a tremendous way to save some money or add to a growing firearms collection.
Buying a secondhand firearm requires a bit of planning and research. It also takes patience, since you’ll probably have to sift through items you don’t want to find what you’re looking for.
To simplify the process, it’s wise to do your homework before you walk into your local pawn shop. Doing so can save you a big headache and ensure you get what you’re looking for.
How to Buy Guns From Pawn Shops
If you’re considering buying a gun from a pawn shop, you’ll need to understand the process. After all, getting a secondhand gun isn’t quite the same as walking into a store and purchasing a brand-new, never-fired gun. So, before you make a pawn shop purchase, remember the following.
1. Pawn Shops Are Still Accountable to State and Federal Gun Laws
Federal law requires pawnbrokers to have licenses to buy and sell firearms. But having a license to buy and sell firearms doesn’t automatically mean that a pawn shop meets the criteria for being a “firearms dealer.” If you buy a firearm from a pawn shop that isn’t a licensed firearms dealer, Virginia law still requires a background check before you complete the transaction. You’d need to go to another location to obtain a background check. Once you pass a background check, you can take the information to the pawn shop and complete your purchase. But if you purchase from a licensed firearms dealer like The Vault, you can complete a background check in the store. This process takes approximately five minutes or less, assuming your record is clear.
In addition to background checks, most states have a series of restrictions on private gun sales, including regulations about waiting periods and required maintenance records for gun purchases. Do your homework before heading to a pawn shop to ensure you understand the laws and how they apply to you. You’ll also need to bring your state-issued ID and a permit to carry or buy a handgun if that’s what you’re planning to purchase.
Many people mistakenly believe purchasing a gun from a pawn shop will allow them to get around their state’s requirements for a safe and transparent gun purchase. However, pawn shops are still subject to federal and state government licensing and regulations, meaning the law requires them to follow the rules and regulations designed to keep you — and others around you — safe.
2. You Must Follow the Rules
Besides being subject to state requirements for background checks, firearms dealers and many pawn shops in Virginia require their customers to follow a strict set of rules to ensure safety and transparency. For example, you must be at least 18 years old to purchase a semi-automatic rifle and at least 21 years old to buy a handgun. While most background checks are quick, yours might get delayed or denied. A delay can take up to three business days to resolve, while a denial means just that — no sale. Background checks that prohibit the purchase of a firearm do so for various reasons, including prior convictions for drug- or gang-related issues, domestic violence or mental illness that resulted in being committed to a treatment facility or otherwise being a public danger.
3. Most Prices Are Negotiable
Many people mistakenly believe a price tag in a pawn shop is final, but pawn shops are an optimal place to negotiate a better deal on a secondhand gun. Whether you’re looking for a newer-model handgun or a collector’s antique, you’re likely to find a shop owner ready to strike a deal and knock a percentage off the price.
It’s wise to carefully inspect the gun before making an offer. If you find damage or imperfection, this can also help you negotiate a lower price. Before you buy, disassemble the gun to look for dents, cracks or rust, and hold the barrel up to the light to make sure it’s smooth. If you find an imperfection, ensure it won’t impact the gun’s ability to fire safely. If it will interfere with the gun’s operability, search for another option.
If you’re looking at a rifle and can’t remove the barrel, you can still safely peer down the bore to look for signs of pitting. If the dealer agrees, take the stock off and examine it for cracks around the stock bedding and rust below the stock line. If there’s a small amount of rust, you can probably clean that yourself, but a large amount of rust is a sign that it’s time to keep browsing.
Pawn shop owners are in business to earn a profit, and guns aren’t inexpensive. The best way to find a reasonable deal and develop a mutually beneficial relationship with the shop owner is to negotiate fairly and respectfully. Realize when you aren’t going to find a better deal than the one in front of you.
4. Pawn Shop Purchases Aren’t Anonymous
Pawn shops may not be the ones to initiate the background check in Virginia, but reputable shops will keep records of all purchases to keep themselves and their customers safe. Maintaining accurate records helps protect the shop and its customers because there is always the chance the store may acquire a stolen item without realizing it. If pawn shop employees discover they’ve accidentally sold you a stolen firearm, they can use your information to contact you to facilitate the gun’s return and negotiate a refund or a replacement item.
5. Used Guns Don’t Come With a Warranty
Purchasing a secondhand gun is an excellent way to get a firearm at a reasonable price, but it’s not going to come with warranties and guarantees. Even if you’ve inspected the gun before buying it, there’s always the chance that it won’t fire or will break soon after purchase. That’s why it’s critical to examine a gun before you buy it to reduce the risk of getting one with mechanical problems. It’s also a best practice to look for a gun from a reputable manufacturer to ensure you’re purchasing a high-quality product. If you buy a gun that breaks or doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, there are no requirements in place for the pawn shop to refund your money or allow an exchange, though The Vault will work with you to find a solution if something were to happen.
6. Patience Is Crucial
Finding a reputable pawn shop is an essential first step in the gun-buying process. But the best pawn shop gun finds take some time to procure. Don’t settle for the first gun you find in your price range! Look for a shop with a reputation for safety and quality. If you’re specifically in the market for a gun, look for pawn shops that specialize in firearms or have established a reputation for selling these types of items.
Once you find a reputable pawn shop, take time to thoroughly inspect the gun, inquire about similar items and make an informed decision. If you don’t have a specific gun in mind, you’ll probably find something you like quickly. But, if you’re in the market for a particular make or type of gun, be ready to spend a lot of time searching. Talk with the owner or manager about what you’re looking for. In some cases, they may be willing to take your contact information and call you when they see something that fits your specifications.
Are Pawn Shops a Good Place to Buy Handguns?
Pawn shops are an excellent place to buy handguns if you’re looking for an inexpensive gun for personal protection or to add to a collection. Buying a secondhand firearm is also ideal for figuring out what you like before upgrading to a more expensive option. To make your purchasing experience a pleasant one, take the following steps.
1. Examine the Firearm
We’ve said it before, but this bears repeating. Always inspect a gun before you agree to buy it. Ask the employee or owner working with you if you can disassemble the gun or if they can help you with that. Carefully inspect the gun for signs of damage or rust. It’s OK to buy a gun that doesn’t look flawless, but it’s pointless to waste money on a gun with obvious operational issues. If you aren’t sure how to do this, we recommend you take a gun safety course — or two — before you attempt to buy a gun. Guns aren’t toys, and they require maturity and knowledge to handle appropriately. While pawn shop employees can help you inspect a gun before purchase, they cannot be responsible for teaching you how to safely use a weapon.
2. Stick to Name Brands
If you think you might resell the gun later, it’s crucial to get a gun with a reputable brand name behind it. Name-brand guns have a higher resale value and are also more durable over time. It will be easier to find ammo and replacement parts when you need them later. A brand name can attest to the gun’s quality when you can’t test-fire it. Some of the most reputable handgun brands on the market today include Smith & Wesson, Kimber, Glock, Beretta and Sig Sauer. Some of those companies are also behind some of the more reputable rifles on the market today, too.
Of course, many pawn shops offer off-brands or lesser-known name brands, too. In some cases, these may be adequate to meet your needs. If you’re looking to get a handgun to learn how to shoot or get a sense of your preferences before making a costlier purchase, starting with a smaller, more affordable gun is an excellent way to do that.
3. Do Your Homework
Before you head to your local pawn shop and start negotiating prices, do your homework! Spend time researching various brands and how much they cost brand-new and used. This foundational research will allow you to spot a good deal and negotiate a good price with the pawn shop owner. You can compare gun prices with many different online tools, but gunbroker.com is an excellent place to start. You can also visit multiple firearms dealers and pawn shops in your area to get an idea of what guns are going for locally.
Doing your due diligence also gives you the confidence to walk away from a gun if you know the price isn’t fair or if it’s a low-quality item. Never be afraid to turn down a deal if you suspect price inflation or a damaged, poor-quality item. Many people mistakenly believe purchasing through a pawn shop means they can’t be picky about an item’s quality. But a gun is a significant purchase — and a damaged, broken or poorly made gun can put lives at risk. So always hold high standards and walk away if you don’t find a reasonable deal on the best gun.
Once you arrive at the shop, don’t hesitate to ask questions! Many pawn shop owners or managers, especially those who are licensed firearms dealers, are incredibly knowledgeable about the guns they are selling and are more than willing to talk about what you’re looking for. They can be an excellent resource to ensure you find what you want at a reasonable price. And, if you cultivate a relationship with the shop employees, they’re more likely to alert you when they see an item come in that they know you’ll be interested in.
4. Know Your Reasons for Purchasing a Gun
Pawn shops can be an ideal source of rare or antique firearms if you’re a collector. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort to seek out pawn shops with high-quality inventory, you may be surprised by what you can find. They can also be an excellent spot to purchase a handgun if you want to own one to keep for self-defense or to protect your home in case of emergency.
Do Pawn Shops Check If Guns Are Stolen?
There is a significant difference between selling a gun to someone else and pawning a gun at a pawn shop. When you pawn a gun, you essentially offer it as collateral for the loan the pawn shop offers you. You have a specific period to repay the loan and get your gun back. You can also opt not to repay the loan, allowing the pawn shop owner to recoup the money they loaned you. When someone brings a gun to pawn, the shop does not run a background check on them at that time. However, some shops may briefly hold on to the gun and other new acquisitions before selling them to ensure they are not stolen goods.
Pawn shops put other safeguards in place to protect against accidentally selling stolen guns. The law requires pawn shops to keep detailed records for the guns they pawn, including where they came from and who bought them. Pawn shops can also use the guns’ serial numbers to determine if someone has reported a gun as stolen. If you pawn a gun instead of selling or consigning it, the pawn shop employees will collect your information. Keeping the seller’s information on hand is helpful if questions arise about the gun’s origins.
If pawn shop staffers realize they’ve inadvertently sold a stolen gun, they’ll use their detailed records to contact the new owner and ask that they return the gun to the shop for the police to handle. At that time, the pawn shop and the new owner can negotiate a refund or replacement with another comparable gun. If you purchased a gun from a pawn shop that later turned out to be stolen, you will not be liable for it as long as you return it promptly.
Many people don’t realize if you pawn a gun and come back for it instead of leaving it for the pawn shop to sell, you must undergo a background check before the pawn shop will return the gun to you. That’s because you are essentially buying it back from the store by repaying your loan. So, to comply with state laws, you’ll have to undergo the background check process, even if you went through it when you initially purchased that gun. Yes, it seems like a pain to get a background check done for an item you already own, but this law ensures you can legally own a gun and that nothing about your status has changed since the gun was last in your possession.
Are Pawn Shops a Good Place to Buy Handguns?
Pawn shops can be excellent places to purchase firearms, especially if you have a limited budget to work with. Many shops offer a wide selection of firearms at reasonable prices. And today’s gun laws go a long way toward protecting you and your purchase. The Vault is Northern Virginia’s premier pawn shop, dealing in various high-quality goods, including firearms. But that’s not all. We offer a wide selection of power tools, jewelry, musical instruments, designer handbags and electronics. Whether you’re looking to spend $100 or $1,000, you’ll find a range of options. Visit one of our four locations or contact us to shop or pawn your valuable items today.