From time to time, individuals inquire as to whether they can lend a firearm to a friend. While state firearms laws vary on this subject (for instance, in Pennsylvania an individual can lend shotguns and rifles but not handguns, unless the person receiving the handgun has a license to carry firearm), Federal law specifically allows one to lend a firearm to another individual, provided the individual is not prohibited.
Pursuant to 18 USC 922(a)(5), it is unlawful for “for any person…to transfer, sell, trade, give, transport, or deliver any firearm to any person…who the transferor knows or has reasonable cause to believe does not reside in…the State in which the transferor resides; except that this paragraph shall not apply to…(B) the loan or rental of a firearm to any person for temporary use for lawful sporting purposes;”
However, pursuant to 18 USC 922(d),
It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person—(1) is under indictment for, or has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year; (2) is a fugitive from justice; (3) is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance…; (4) has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution; (5) who, being an alien— (A) is illegally or unlawfully in the United States; or (B) except as provided in subsection (y)(2), has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa…(6) who has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions; (7) who, having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced his citizenship; (8) is subject to a court order that restrains such person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner of such person or child of such intimate partner or person, or engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child…(9) has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
So, what does all of this mean? Under Federal law, an individual may loan or rent a firearm to a resident of any State for temporary use for lawful sporting purposes, if he/she does not know or have reasonable cause to believe the person is prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms under Federal law.
So when do you have reasonable cause to believe a person is prohibited? That is always going to depend on the circumstances. For instance, if someone tells you that he/she has been previously denied the purchase of a firearm, you would have reasonable cause to believe the individual is prohibited. If, on the other hand, the person has never made any such statements (and I highly recommend that prior to lending any firearm, you have the individual sign a statement that he/she is not prohibited under state or federal law from possessing a firearm or ammunition) and you haven’t heard “rumors” of him/her having a criminal past or involuntary civil mental health commitments, then you can likely lend your firearm to that individual.
The grey arises when he/she states that he/she is not prohibited but you have heard “rumors” of his/her criminal past or psychological issues. In this scenario, I always advise a client against lending the firearm, as it is not clear whether you have reasonable cause to believe the individual is prohibited. Clearly, it is not worth the next several years of your life fighting the Government over and the loss of your home to pay the legal bills.
Even if you have no reason to believe the individual is prohibited, you still must determine whether your state permits the lending or renting of firearms. To make this determination, you should consult an attorney that is licensed in your state and familiar with your state’s firearms laws. Once you are satisfied that the individual is not prohibited and your state’s laws allow for the lending of the type of firearm that you intend to lend, you can actually lend your firearm to your friend.