How Old Do You Have to Be to Buy a Gun?

Owning a firearm is both a Constitutional right and a time-honored tradition passed down among Americans since the founding of our country. That said, there are many laws, both state and federal, that protect guns from ending up in the wrong hands. One of the most common ways this is done is by setting a required age to buy a gun.

Laws associated with gun ownership are often complex and are changing all the time. This complexity makes answering questions about age and gun ownership more difficult than many people think. In the following article, however, we’ll attempt to answer these questions such as “how old do you have to be to buy a gun in Florida” as directly as possible.

So, how old do you have to be to buy a gun? Let’s take a closer look.

Gun Definitions

As far as Federal and State Governments are concerned, there are three main classes of weapons.

The first class of weapons includes Handguns, which many states restrict heavily due to their easily-concealed size. That said, handguns are considered by many experts to be essential to home protection, as they are far easier to wield in close quarters. These are also the guns most commonly used by law enforcement.

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The second class of weapons includes Long Guns, which are shotguns and rifles. These weapons can be used for home defense, hunting, and sport shooting, and are usually much easier for the average citizen to obtain.

The third class of weapons includes those guns, ammunition types, and devices deemed illegal by the U.S. Government. These often include things like armor-piercing bullets, grenades and bombs, and fully-automatic machine guns. Possession of these weapons in most states can lead to hefty fines and jail time.

Though not necessarily considered a “class” of weapon, non-powered guns like BB Guns are still regulated by the government. How old do you have to be to buy a BB Gun? At least 18 years in all states.

Federal Law

As far as the Federal Government, Handguns, Long Guns, gun possession, and gun sales are all different things. The separate definitions can be extremely frustrating for those who think “how old do you have to be to buy a gun” is a relatively simple question. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Handguns – Licensed firearms dealers may not sell a handgun or handgun ammunition to anyone under the age of 21. Unlicensed persons cannon delivery or transfer a handgun or handgun ammunition to anyone under the age of 18, unless they are using the weapon for hunting, target practice, or work.
  • Long Guns – Licensed firearms dealers may not sell a long gun or ammunition to anyone under the age of 18. However, unlicensed persons can sell or transfer a long gun to a person of any age.
  • Possession – Using a gun and possessing a gun are considered two different things. This fact is why it may be OK for an underage person to use their father’s handgun at the shooting range, but possession or ownership of that handgun requires the person to be at least 18.

State Laws

Though the Federal Laws associated with gun ownership are a bit muddy, they are much easier for the average person to navigate than many State Laws. Those laws often impose minimum ages on both purchase and possession of handguns and long guns and sometimes require parental consent.

More often, questions regarding gun ownership come in the form of “how old you have to be to buy a gun in Texas?” or “how old do you have to be to buy a gun in California?”

Below, we’ll outline each state of the United States and highlight where they differ from the gun laws above. As the conversation around gun control continues in response to gun violence and mass shootings, we may see these age restrictions change. But, for now the legal age in each state is listed below”

  • Alabama – No permits are required for the purchase of any weapon providing the resident is above the age of 18.
  • Alaska – There is no registration or permit required to purchase firearms. Long guns can be purchased at 18 and possessed at 16 with parental consent.
  • Arizona – Long guns can be purchased and possessed at 18 without parental consent.
  • Arkansas – Long guns can be purchased without parental consent by an 18-year-old.
  • California – You must be 21 to purchase a handgun or long gun.
  • Colorado – Age requirements strictly adheres to Federal Law.
  • Connecticut – You must be 21 to purchase and possess a handgun, and 18 to purchase a long gun.
  • Delaware – You must be 21 to purchase a handgun and 18 to purchase a long gun without parental consent.
  • Washington D.C. – You must be 21 to purchase and possess a handgun, and 18 to purchase a long gun.
  • Florida – You must be 21 to purchase either a handgun or long gun, and 18 to be in possession of the latter.
  • Georgia – Strictly adheres to Federal Law.
  • Hawaii – You must be 21 to purchase any weapon.
  • Idaho – You can purchase a long gun at 18 and also possess one along with a valid hunting license.
  • Illinois – You must be 21 to purchase any weapon.
  • Indiana – You can possess a long gun at the age of 18.
  • Iowa – You must be 21 to own or possess a handgun, and 18 to own or possess a long gun without parental consent.
  • Kansas – Strictly adheres to Federal Law.
  • Kentucky – Strictly adheres to Federal Law.
  • Louisiana – You can purchase a long gun at 18.
  • Maine – You can have a long gun transferred to you at 16, and purchase one at 18.
  • Maryland – You must be 21 to buy or possess a handgun, and 18 to purchase a long gun.
  • Massachusetts – You must be 21 to buy or possess a handgun. You can purchase a long gun at 18 and possess one at 15 with parental consent.
  • Michigan – You can purchase and possess a long gun at 18.
  • Minnesota – Long guns can be purchased at 18 if you live in the city, and 14 if you live outside cities. A firearms safety certificate is necessary to be in possession of a long gun between 14 and 16.
  • Mississippi – Strictly adheres to Federal Law.
  • Missouri – Long guns can be purchased at 18 without parental consent.
  • Montana – Strictly adheres to Federal Law.
  • Nebraska – You must be 21 to purchase a handgun and 18 to purchase a long gun.
  • Nevada – You can possess a long gun at 18.
  • New Hampshire – Strictly adheres to Federal Law.
  • New Jersey – You must be 21 to buy or possess a handgun, and 18 to purchase and possess a long gun.
  • New Mexico – You can possess a handgun at 19.
  • New York – You must be 21 to buy or possess a handgun, and 16 to possess a long gun.
  • North Carolina – Strictly adheres to Federal Law.
  • North Dakota – You can possess a handgun at age 18.
  • Ohio – You can purchase a handgun at age 21 and a long gun at age 18.
  • Oklahoma – You can purchase and own a long gun at age 18.
  • Oregon – You can purchase and own a long gun at age 18.
  • Pennsylvania – You can purchase and own a long gun at age 18.
  • Rhode Island – You can purchase a handgun and buy and own a long gun at age 18.
  • South Carolina – You can purchase and own a handgun at age 18.
  • South Dakota – Strictly adheres to Federal Law.
  • Tennessee – Strictly adheres to Federal Law.
  • Texas – You can purchase a long gun at 18 without parental consent.
  • Utah – You can buy and possess a long gun at 18 without parental consent.
  • Vermont – You can purchase a handgun and long gun at 21 without a hunting safety certificate.
  • Virginia – You can purchase and possess a handgun at 18.
  • Washington – You must be 21 to purchase and possess almost all weapons.
  • West Virginia – You must be 18 to possess a long gun with the exception of hunting.
  • Wisconsin – You can buy and possess a long gun at age 18.
  • Wyoming – You can purchase a handgun at 21 and a long gun at 18.

U.S. Gun Ownership in Summary

As you can see, there is no simple answer to “how old do you have to be to buy a gun?” By paying close attention to the laws in your state of residence as well as the changing landscape of Federal Law, you can find the best (and most legal) way to exercise your Constitutional Second Amendment gun rights.

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