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When Can Kids Legally Own, Shoot Guns?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

Firearm enthusiasts who may also be parents or grandparents should be aware that the laws regulating the ownership, possession, and use of guns by kids are often different from the laws for adults.

These rules are also facing increased scrutiny following a fatal accident at an Arizona gun range in which a nine-year-old girl shot an instructor in the head when she lost control of a fully automatic Uzi submachine gun, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

What are the rules for when kids can legally own or shoot a gun?

Both federal and state gun laws typically distinguish between long guns, such as rifles and shotguns, and handguns. Under federal firearms law, licensed firearm dealers may not sell a handgun to anyone under age 21, or sell a long gun to anyone under age 18. Unlicensed individuals may not sell, deliver, or permanently transfer (such as giving a gun as a gift) a handgun to anyone they have reasonable cause to believe is under age 18, but there is no minimum age for selling, delivering, or transferring a shotgun or a rifle for individuals not licensed as a firearm dealer under federal law.

Know someone who has been arrested or charged with a crime? Get in touch with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in your area today.

There is also no minimum age for possession of a long gun under federal law. However, those under 18 are prohibited from possessing handguns or handgun ammunition, except if doing so in the course of employment, in the course of ranching or farming related activities, for target practice, hunting, or during the course of instruction in the "safe and lawful use of a handgun."

In addition to federal laws, individual states each have their own laws regulating the possession and use of firearms, which may affect the legality of a minor's ability to own or possess a firearm.

Many states choose not to further restrict the temporary transfer of firearms to minors for use in target practice or firearm safety training allowed by federal firearms law. These exceptions to the general rules for firearm possession by minors have led to something of a cottage industry in some states. One Texas gun range even opened up two rooms for hosting children's birthday parties.

In Arizona, the state in which the nine-year-old girl inadvertently killed her shooting instructor with an Uzi, state law allows for the temporary transfer of firearms to minors by firearms safety instructors or by another adult accompanying a minor in hunting or target shooting activities -- so long as the child's parents give consent.

And though the incident in Arizona was tragic, the Mohave County Sheriff's office told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that no citations or charges will be filed in the incident

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