Do Pawn Shops Run Background Checks for Guns?

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution ensures that all citizens have the right to bear arms except for in certain situations. Under federal law, an individual with felony convictions forfeits their right to bear arms. Felons that have been convicted of violent crimes often find it challenging to have their firearm applications accepted.

State laws differ from federal regulations. Gun restoration laws offer a convicted felon the opportunity to regain their right to bear arms. Some states are more accessible than other states, as some may require the process of expungement, while others can petition the court for the right to be reinstated.

What Is Included in a Background Check?

A background check can be various types.A background check completed by a pawn shop can include some of the following information:

  • Credit Reports
  • Driving Records
  • Educational Records
  • Criminal Offenses

A pawn shop will focus on any criminal offenses to identify risks for safety and security. The review of the criminal record will include criminal history files for any criminal offenses, including all convictions and non-convictions. These types of documents will consist of cases that are not prosecuted, and ones that have been dismissed. The reporting of convictions has no time limit, while a non-conviction will show up for seven years. Any felony record that has been expunged will not show up on a background check.

Pawn Shop

A pawn shop is a place that offers quick cash loans for household items such as jewelry, electronics, and collectibles. When you enter a pawn shop with an item, they will provide you with a loan based on fair market value of the item. If you accept the loan, the pawnbroker will hold the item as collateral until the loan is paid. The terms of the loan, including interest and a time frame of one to four months. If the loan is not paid, the pawnshop will sell the item to recover the costs of the loan.

Thirteen federal laws apply to all pawn shops in the United States. These laws include but are not limited to :

  • Bank Secrecy Act
  • USA Patriot Act
  • Truth in Lending Act:
  • Equal Credit Opportunity Act; and
  • Gramm-Leach Bliley Act
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Pawn Shops that handle business with firearms are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Most Pawn shops that handle firearms will also be Federal Firearms License (FFL) holders.

The requirements for pawning a firearm are to have a valid state-issued identification card, be 21 years of age to pawn a pistol, and 18 years of age to pawn a rifle. Pawning is easy, but picking up the firearm may be more difficult, especially with a felony conviction, as it will require a background check for the Pawnshop to be in compliance.

Pawn Shop Background Check?

When an individual pawns an item, a pawnshop requires valid identification. The majority of pawn shops will need a photocopy of your ID as well as a fingerprint. This information is used by the police department to determine the identity of anyone involved with another crime. Pawnshops are required to report to the local police department daily regarding any potentially stolen goods.

Pawnshops that handle firearm transactions  are federally licensed gun dealers. To claim back or purchase a firearm, a customer must have a valid state ID and a permit to buy or carry a firearm. A transaction record must be completed by all buyers and sellers and includes:

  • Criminal history
  • Drug use
  • Military service citizenship
  • Domestic violence convictions
  • Mental health issues

Lying on this form can result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a $250,000 fine. Pawn shops will complete the form and maintain a record of any firearm transaction by recording:

  • Type of firearm
  • Model
  • Caliber
  • Serial Number
  • Buyer’s ID

The information gathered will be processed through the National Instant Criminal System (NICS) for a background check. The check will be processed through the FBI. The FBI can take three days to complete the review. The background check will verify that the name and birth year of the buyer does not match an individual who is ineligible to buy a firearm. The background check will result in one of the three conclusions:

  • Proceed
  • Delayed
  • Denied

If the result is to proceed, an individual can purchase a firearm immediately. Delayed means that they will need to wait for the results before a firearm is released to you. The reasons for receiving a delayed result are:

  • Having an extremely common name
  • Having had a military security clearance
  • If the social security number is similar to one of a convicted felon
  • If there are unpaid speeding or parking tickets

After a particular amount of time, your firearm can be released to you. Due to federal law, a pawn shop must wait for the dictated time to pass. Receiving a denial is usually due to any felony conviction of any kind at any time.

A pawn shop cannot return or release a firearm to an individual who is ineligible to receive or possess a firearm due to criminal history, age, or disability.

Firearm Restrictions

The Gun Control Act (GCA) requires that citizens and legal residents be a minimum of 18 years of age to purchase shotguns or rifles and the ammunition. To purchase a handgun, one must be at least 21 years old.

Not only are individuals with felony convictions restricted from purchasing or possessing firearms, but anyone who has had a misdemeanor sentence of more than two years is also restricted.

Other restrictions are those where an individual is deemed a danger to society, a fugitive, or an individual who has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution is also restricted. Federal law restricts the sale of guns to those who have been found guilty of possession or use of a controlled substance within the past year. A controlled substance includes marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law.

Restrictions apply to those who have been issued a restraining order to prevent harassment, stalking, or threatening. Any convictions of domestic violence, dishonorable discharge from the military, being adjudicated as mentally defective by a court of law, renouncing your U.S. citizenship, and tourists.

Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?

A background check includes your personal information, and it is recommended that you obtain a copy for yourself. According to a study completed by the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), only 45.9% of records in the FBI’s National Database meet federal standards for being accurate, complete, and unambiguous. There is a phenomenal 79% of files that contain errors.

An individual must review all the information included in their background check. It is helpful to know precisely what will be discovered when a pawn shop collects a background check. There are various types of personal background checks that an individual can obtain. Many reports are available online or through the court in which the individual was charged.

Recommended Action

Being denied the opportunity to use or own a firearm can be discouraging. The good news is it is possible to have your gun rights restored. The policy varies from state to state, but typically the applicant can not have a felony conviction within the past 20 years.

Many states will allow the restoration of your gun rights; however, it varies from state to state. If your record is expunged, many states will reinstate the rights automatically. In certain instances, state law will conflict with federal law.

It is much easier to get civil rights, including gun rights restored if the convictions were at the state level rather than a federal level. If the conviction is at a federal level, then an individual will need to file with the U.S. Attorney General’s office or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Both of these agencies are notorious for leaving convicts in limbo as they fail to review the documents.

If the convictions are at a state level, there are a few options available for reinstating gun rights:

  • Having your criminal records expunged. This is one way for felons to get a second chance. When the records are expunged, the record is erased as though the crime never happened. An individual will need to check with the state’s website to determine eligibility and discuss this option with an attorney.
  • The second option is to petition for the restoration of firearm rights. Usually ,the state will only consider this option if the conviction was not a violent offense.
  • A Governor’s Pardon is a requirement from individual states.
  • A federal pardon is a petition for a presidential pardon that requires the assistance of an attorney. An ex-offender must wait five years after the completion of their sentence before petitioning.

Complete honesty about a felon’s criminal background is essential is being successful in re-establishing gun rights. Being dishonest shows a pattern of being untrustworthy and unwilling to follow directions from authoritative figures.


A criminal record of any kind but especially one with a felony conviction can have negative consequences that have the potential to discourage ex-offenders from setting goals and living life as an ordinary U.S. citizen. Many ex-offenders realize that they have a conviction on their record that may affect employment or housing opportunities, but many do not understand the loss of Constitutional rights.

The mistakes from your past do not need to define you. It is possible to start again and live a life that will enable you to achieve your goals. Having the support from family and friends can make a big difference with a felon’s future.

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