Before looking at the difference between long gun sales and pistol sales it is helpful to understand that Michigan law sets forth many important distinctions between pistols and long guns. While both are considered firearms because both can expel a projectile by the action of an explosive, the laws governing the sale, possession, and use of these firearms is significantly different.
A pistol is defined as any firearm with an overall length of 26 inches or less, or that by its construction and appearance conceals itself as a firearm. Thus, it is the concealability that helps distinguish a pistol from a rifle. These definitions are set forth in Michigan Compiled Laws § 750.222.
Furthermore, Michigan Compiled Laws § 3.111 indicates that Michigan residents may purchase rifles and shotguns in any state if they conform to the federal gun control act of 1968, Public Law 90-618, and the regulations issued under that act, as administered by the secretary of the treasury, and with the laws of the state in which the purchase is made. Michigan Compiled Laws § 3.112 addresses the reverse, which is that Michigan residents my sell to residents of other states, again, providing they conform to the federal gun control act, and with the laws of the state in which the purchaser resides.
With that background, we can look at the law the covers the purchase and sale of pistols in Michigan which is found at Michigan Compiled Laws § 28.422. This section of the law provides in section one:
Except as otherwise provided in this act, a person shall not purchase, carry, possess, or transport a pistol in this state without first having obtained a license for the pistol as prescribed in this section.
The critical fact here is that there is no such Michigan law that covers the private sale of a long gun. Accordingly, a private purchaser of a long gun need not obtain a purchase license of any kind and the private seller is not required to perform any sort of background check. The same cannot be said of retail sales. The purchase of a rifle from an FFL dealer does require the dealer to run a background check.
When selling a long gun as a private owner it is a good idea to obtain and copy the purchaser’s driver license, and to present to the buyer and request their signature on a bill of sale that includes the serial number of the firearm sold, the names of seller and buyer, the purchase price and date. It is also a good idea to refuse the sale to any individual whom you for any reason deem unfit to own a firearm.