How old do you have to be to purchase a gun? It depends on what type of gun and what type of transaction. Under federal law when dealing with a Federal Firearms Licensee, also known as an FFL, you have to be at least 18 years old to purchase a long gun, and at least 21 years old to purchase a handgun. Here in Texas to purchase a long gun the rules are the same. But unlike federal law, Texans can purchase handguns at 18.
How does a Texas resident purchase a handgun at age 18? The answer is simple: through a private sale. A Texas resident 18 or older but under 21 won’t be allowed to purchase a handgun through an FFL dealer but that person can purchase a handgun from another Texas resident. Sales between two people who aren’t licensed dealers are called private sales. We often receive questions from members asking whether they can allow their children or other family members to use or access their guns. The question’s answered differently depending on federal and state possession laws.
Under federal law you must be at least 18 years old to possess a handgun and handgun ammunition. But fear not, there are exceptions that balance out this rule such as defense against an intruder, target practice, hunting, or as part of a safety course. When it comes to long guns, the federal government doesn’t restrict possession for someone under 18. On the state side, Texas law doesn’t criminalize the child’s possession of firearms, child being defined as someone under 17 years of age. A child with a firearm might not get into trouble, but any person who transfers or makes readily dischargeable firearms accessible to a child can be liable.
To review, if you’re 21 or older, you won’t run into any problems purchasing handguns or long guns, either in a private sale or from an FFL. If you’re 18 to 20, you can buy a long gun from an FFL but are limited to private sales for handguns. And remember, purchasing a firearm, and legally possessing or carrying a firearm all involve different legal issues. For example, an 18-year-old can legally purchase a handgun in a private sale but is generally prohibited from carrying that same gun on their person in public without a license to carry. Ignorance of the law is no excuse and you have to comply with both the law of purchase and the law of possession.
We hope you found this information helpful. If you have any questions about purchasing firearms, please call Texas LawShield and ask to speak to an Independent Program Attorney.