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18-20 Year Old Handgun Possession

Eugene Volokh asks and interesting question about how hard it would be for 18-20 year olds to get a handgun. Federal law prevents anyone under the age of 21 from buying a handgun from a federally licensed dealer, but in most states 18-20 years olds are permitted to purchase and possess firearms under state law.

It would indeed be a straw purchase for someone to purchase a gun from a federally license firearms dealer on behalf of someone 18-20 years old, because you are not the actual buyer. It would, however, be legal for a parent to buy one for their 18-20 year old as a gift, I believe. In a gift situation, you are the actual buyer, even if you’re not the person to possess it in the end. In Pennsylvania, private transactions of handguns are unlawful, but the County Sheriff is one of the authorities that can process a transaction. Since he is not a federally licensed dealer, and PA law allows for possession of a handgun by someone 18 years or older, I would presume a Pennsylvania Sheriff would be able to process this transaction. It would still, presumably, require a PICS check, but since the transaction is not federally regulated, no 4473 should be required. So I believe an 18-20 year old could still get a handgun in a private transfer, even under Pennsylvania restrictive transfer regime.

16 Responses to “18-20 Year Old Handgun Possession”

  1. LFS says:

    It was my impression that in VA and other states that allow private transactions, an 18-20 year old could purchase one that way.

  2. Crucis says:

    Missouri has no such limitations over private sales. Missouri does have limitations (age 23) for CCW, but a driver, age 21, can have a loaded weapon in his vehicle legally.

    Contradictions exists all over.

  3. In PA, a transfer between a parent and child does not have to go through a dealer or sheriff.

  4. Joe Allen says:

    Moreover, Maine will issue a non-resident permit to 18 and over, so anyone resident in a state that recognizes a Maine (NR) permit can legally CCW at 18.

  5. Greg B says:

    In MN possession of a handgun by someone 18 years old is legal. When I got my own place (19), my father loaned me a .40 cal h&k usp for home defense. Best father ever.

  6. Spade says:

    My dad and I did the whole ‘gift’ thing when I wanted to get a USP .45F at 19. My dad did the 4473 and gave it to me. FFL didn’t have a problem with it at all.

    Of course, in a totally unrelated gesture I also did give my dad a ‘gift’ of $650.

  7. Harvey says:

    It makes for an interesting situation in FL. The minimum age for an LEO is 19, yet while a sworn officer, the person can’t legally buy a handgun.

  8. the 18-20 would have a fun time buying ammo. Maybe they could make it themselves?

  9. Pete says:

    I always like telling the Wally world cashier that my 9×19 ammo is for my rifle (my AR15-9mm). It makes their eyes cross.
    The ammo restriction is as stupid as the restriction to 21+ buying from FFLs.

    Would the “no FFL sales to anyone 18-20” this be a violation of due process? In Heller the SCOTUS said that owning a handgun is a fundamental right. Not being able to purchase one because you are 19 seems like the argument DC made that you could use a shotgun for self defense.

  10. ParatrooperJJ says:

    Pete – Quite possibly – you are considered an adult at 18 under federal law.

  11. > I always like telling the Wally world cashier that my 9×19 ammo is for my rifle (my AR15-9mm). It makes their eyes cross.

    If you are over 21, tell them the first 8 rounds go in the pistol, the reminder are for the rifle,

  12. Justin Buist says:

    the 18-20 would have a fun time buying ammo. Maybe they could make it themselves?

    That restriction only applies to FFL holders. So, a sporting goods store, hardware store, barber shop, etc. that doesn’t deal in guns but sells ammo doesn’t have to bother with it unless state law comes into play.

    Likewise there’s no restrictions on a private individual so it’s perfectly legal to purchase handgun ammo from an FFL and sell it to the 20 year old waiting in the parking lot.

    A bit inconvenient but not at all impossible.

  13. Diomed says:

    Or find an ammo seller who isn’t a FFL.

    I don’t think there’s anything prohibiting straw buying ammo, either.

  14. Mike Gordon says:

    Some years ago, in New Jersey of all places, eighteen year olds, could legally purchase a handgun, but not from a dealer. The way around this was for two individuals to obtain pistol purchaser permits. The older than 21 individual could buy the handgun from the dealer and immediately and often in the gun shop transfer the pistol to the the younger party. Since then NJ has raised the age for purchasing a handgun to 21 and federal law would consider the immediate transfer a straw purchase. I know at least one police officer who purchased his off duty gun this way since he was younger than 21 when hired.

  15. Bram says:

    Funny, when I was in the Marines, they were just handing out pistols are rifles to 18 to 21 year-olds for free. We were more concerned about the ability to acquire beer.

  16. Alpheus says:

    L. Neil Smith wrote an essay where he made the case that children should be free to own and carry guns; I’ve come to agree with him. There was a time where we’d think nothing of giving a rifle to a six-year-old. Indeed, one of my favorite gun websites, “The Cornered Cat”, has a picture somewhere of a six-year-old holding a rifle and a small critter he just shot. Of course, the person holding the rifle is now 80+ years old…

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the primary reason children now-a-days can’t be expected to safely handle guns is because we’ve stopped teaching them how to safely handle a gun; and this, in part, is because guns are no longer as pervasive in our society as they should be!

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