See our Background Check Procedures policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)
New Hampshire is a “partial point of contact” state for NICS. New Hampshire law authorizes, but does not require, the New Hampshire Department of Safety (“DOS”) to act as a point of contact for NICS.1 DOS has chosen to act as a point of contact for handgun sales, but not long gun sales. This means that, in New Hampshire, firearms dealers selling handguns must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting DOS, but firearm dealers selling long guns must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly.2
For a discussion of persons prohibited by federal or state law from possessing or purchasing a firearm, see the New Hampshire Prohibited Purchasers Generally section.
New Hampshire does not require private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. See our Private Sales policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.