Michigan Handgun Laws

Disclaimer:  While the information provided here is legal in nature, it is not to be construed as legal advice, and is for educational and entertainment purposes only.  

Keeping up with the latest gun laws of your state has become more important than ever in making sure you are on the right side of the law when it comes to owning and using your firearms.

While Michigan does have a good amount of freedoms for gun owners, it also has some pretty strict regulations, especially when it comes to handguns.  Today we’ll go over everything you need to know on how to buy a gun, and where and when you can use it!

Flag of Michigan
Flag of Michigan

Buying a Handgun

First, the bad news.  The handgun laws in Michigan are some of the more restrictive ones in the country.  It’s certainly not the worst, but take a look at the gun laws of states like Arizona or Alaska and you’ll see what I mean.

But the good news is that it’s not impossible to buy a handgun!  If you meet certain requirements, of course.  

There are two situations where you would normally buy a handgun: from your local gun store, or through a private sale.  In both situations, though, you are effectively registering your handgun when you make the purchase, either through the record of the handgun sale when you buy at the gun store, or with a license to purchase you’ll have to use when buying from a private seller.

Buying from the Store

While no permit is required to buy a handgun from your local gun dealer, to buy a handgun, you must:

  • Be 21 or older;
  • Provide state ID;
  • Have the licensed firearms dealer perform a background check; and
  • Complete a pistol sales record, containing the dealer’s FFL number.

Private Sales

Buying from a private seller has some benefits, but there are also more hoops to jump through to do so.

To buy a handgun from a private seller, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old; and
  • Have a License to Purchase.

Those two requirements can be deceiving though, as getting the License to Purchase is actually a pretty big hassle.  You must obtain a license to purchase from the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction of the city/township you live in, or the county, if you are in an area without its own police department.

When you actually make the purchase, you’ll need to fill out 3 copies of the license, making sure the license includes a description of the handgun that is sold, with the signatures of both the buyer and the seller.  Each person keeps one copy of the License to Purchase.  

The buyer has to then take the third copy of the license to the local police station within 10 days of the sale so they can register the handgun to the new owner.

One thing to keep in mind is that the License to Purchase expires in 30 days, so you should make sure you can agree on the terms of the sale, or you may still be trying to settle on a price with the seller when the license expires, and have to apply for a new one all over again.

The good news is that if you have a Michigan CCW permit, you can skip all the licensing hassle when buying through a private sale.

There’s More!

Even after all that hassle, you may still not be allowed to buy a handgun!  There are certain conditions that prevent you from owning a firearm.

You are prohibited from owning a firearm if you:

  • Have been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for over a year;
  • Are a fugitive from justice;
  • Illegally abuse controlled substances;
  • Have been adjudicated as mentally defective of incompetent, or have been committed to a mental institution;
  • Are an illegal resident of the United States;
  • Are a former US citizen who has renounced his citizenship;
  • Were dishonorably discharged from the US Armed Forces;
  • Are subject to a restraining order;
  • Were convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
Michigan Gun Store
Michigan Gun Store

But There’s Good News

For those of you who collect antique handguns, the rules on purchasing firearms don’t apply!  As long as the handgun is for display purposes and not made to use modern ammo or is permanently deactivated, you can buy and sell the handgun just like any item you’d buy from your local supermarket.

Of course, you’ll need to make sure the handgun you want to buy actually qualifies as an “antique firearm”, or you will have to go through the standard handgun purchasing dance.

An antique firearm is:

  • A firearm not designed (or redesigned) to use rimfire or centerfire ignition with fixed ammo and was manufactured before 1899; or
  • A firearm using fixed ammo and was manufactured before 1899, and ammo for the gun is no longer made in the US.

This means any type of firearm, like a flintlock pistol, whether it was actually made before 1899, or is a replica of a flintlock made before 1899, would qualify as an antique firearm, and not require any of the handgun purchase rules you would normally go through for something like a Glock or 1911.

Don’t Forget About Long Guns!

With all of those laws on how to buy handguns, the laws for buying long guns seems a lot simpler.

To buy a long gun, you must:

  • Be 18 or older;
  • Provide ID; and
  • Have a background check done by a licensed firearms dealer.

The good news is that there is no License to Purchase like with handguns when dealing with private sales, and you won’t have to go through a background check in that situation either!

Of course, all the prohibited categories for handguns also apply to long guns.  

Where You Can Carry

After jumping through all those hoops to get a handgun, you probably want to show it off!  Luckily, open carry is perfectly legal without a permit, as long as you are 18 or older (and allowed to own the handgun, of course!).  

To be able to carry concealed, however, you will need to have a Michigan CPL. If you’re interested in getting a permit, or just want to know what’s involved, be sure to reach out and ask us what the next steps are!

Even without a CPL though, you can still carry concealed in your own house or workplace, and on your own land.  Of course, if you don’t run your own business, you would need to check with your boss on the office policy for carrying concealed.

Open Carry at a Coffee Shop
Open Carry at a Coffee Shop

Places Off Limits

Although you can open carry without a permit and carry concealed with a CPL, there are still places where firearms are not allowed.

You cannot carry a firearm in a:

  • Financial institution;
  • Church or other house of worship;
  • Courthouse;
  • School;
  • Theater;
  • Sports arena;
  • Day care center; or
  • Restaurant with an alcohol license.

If you are going to a place where firearms aren’t allowed, you can always leave the gun in the car so it’ll be waiting when you get back.  Of course, you’ll want to have it hidden away somewhere, and probably locked in a car safe.

Ride Along

If you are on your way to the range, or going somewhere else with your gun, there are certain laws to watch out for in terms of how you need to store your gun.

For Handguns

If you are transporting a handgun, the handgun must:

  • Be unloaded in a container, in the trunk; or
  • In a container and not readily available (but only if the car doesn’t have a trunk).

And for our antique firearms collectors, this rule does apply to you as well, and you will need to have the unloaded gun in a container in the trunk, even though it is not treated like a handgun when you buy it. 

Long Gun Storage

Transporting long guns is slightly less annoying, but actually more confusing, because of the way the requirements are made.

To transport a long gun, it must first be unloaded.  In addition, the gun must be:

  • Broken down;
  • Enclosed in a case;
  • Carried in the trunk of the car; or
  • Inaccessible from the inside of the car.

Seems like a lot of hassle, but for those of you paying attention, it’s actually very simple!  The long gun needs to be unloaded, no question, but aside from that, all you need to do is put the long gun in a case!  You can go through the steps of breaking it down, putting it in the trunk, or making sure it isn’t accessible, but that’s all just extra work!  Put it in a case and call it a day!

AR stored in trunk of car
Make sure that AR is unloaded!

But There’s More

Pellet guns are considered firearms in Michigan.  This means everything that applies to standard guns applies to pellet guns, from the purchasing requirements to the CPL if you want to carry it concealed.  

If that wasn’t enough, if your pellet gun does not have a serial number, you are required to take it to the State Police so they can stamp one onto it.  

BB Guns Count, Too!

If you thought you could get around the pellet gun laws by getting a BB gun, think again!  You must be 18 or older in order to have or use a BB gun outside of your yard, unless you are supervised by someone over 18.  

So when can you actually use your gun?

Aside from a day at the range, you’ll probably also want to use your gun if you or your family are ever faced with a home invasion or robbery.

Protecting Your Castle

Michigan has adopted what is known as the “Castle Doctrine”, which basically allows you to defend yourself when you are in your home, or “castle”.  

You can use deadly force if you honestly and reasonably believe imminent death, sexual assault, or great bodily harm is about to happen to you or someone else, due to a person who:

  • Is breaking into or has broken into your house or place of business; or
  • Is trying to kidnap someone from a home, place of business, or vehicle.

So if you hear a bump in the night and discover someone has broken into your home, as long as you honestly and reasonably believe the person will harm you, you are justified in using deadly force to meet that threat.

Man with rifle in home
Defending His Castle

Stand Your Ground!

In addition to being able to defend yourself against home invasions, Michigan also follows what is commonly known as the “Stand Your Ground” policy, which says you can defend yourself wherever you are, even if you are not at home.

As long as you are somewhere you are legally allowed to be (i.e. at a restaurant or a ball game), you do not have a duty to retreat, and can use deadly force if you honestly and reasonably believe deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent death, great bodily harm, or sexual assault against you or someone else.

Of course, just because you do not have a duty to retreat does not mean you must engage and use deadly force.  Sometimes the situation may call for retreating for the safety of yourself and others around you.  Always use your best judgement when deciding to use deadly force.    

You Made It!

That’s all you need to know about Michigan gun laws!  And while you’re out buying that brand new AR-15, don’t forget you’ll need to keep it somewhere safe!  

Michigan does not have any specific laws on storing firearms, but for those of you with children, or just want to keep your gun collection locked away when you’re out of the house, a strong safe or inexpensive gun cabinet will do just fine.

If you’ve only got a couple handguns, then a handgun safe may be all you need to keep your guns protected.

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