What is the Legal Age to Purchase & Possess Firearms in Virginia?

Under federal law the person must be at least 18 years of age in order to possess a handgun or ammunition for a handgun. A violation of this section is a misdemeanor punishable by no more than one year in prison. There is no federal age requirement for the possession of long guns, such as a rifle or a shotgun. In Virginia, this age requirement is covered under Virginia Code Section 18.2-308.7 which makes it unlawful for anyone under the age of 18 or otherwise known as a minor to knowingly or intentionally possess or transport any handgun or assault firearm. A violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. There is no Virginia age requirement for the possession of a long gun such as a rifle or a shotgun unless it comes under the definition of “assault firearm.”

According to Virginia Code Section 18.2-308.7, assault firearm means any semi-automatic center fire rifle or pistol which expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material and is equipped with a magazine which will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or is designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock. It also includes a shotgun with a magazine which will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered. A violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Under federal law there are exceptions to the possession of a handgun if you are under 18. These include in the course of your employment, in the course of ranching or farming, target practice, hunting, or a course of instruction in the safe and lawful use of a handgun. These exceptions go further to include with the prior written consent of the minor’s parents, with exceptions. If the minor is a member of the armed forces of the United States or the National Guard, who possess or are armed with a handgun in the line of duty or in self-defense or defense of others against a residential intruder.

In Virginia there are exceptions for a minor to possess a handgun or assault firearm that come under Virginia Code Section 18.2-308.7. These include any minor while in his home or on his property or while in the home or on the property of his parent, grandparent, or legal guardian; or while on the property of another who has provided prior permission and with the prior permission of his parent or legal guardian if the minor has the landowner’s written permission on his person while on such property. This also includes any minor who while accompanied by an adult is at or going to and from a lawful shooting range or firearms educational class provided that the weapons are unloaded while being transported and any minor actually engaged in lawful hunting or going to and from a hunting area or preserve provided that the weapons are unloaded while being transported and any minor, while carrying out his duties in the armed forces.

Now turning to the purchase of a firearm, according to federal law a person must be 21 years of age or older before they may purchase a handgun from a firearms dealer. Additionally, a person must be 18 years of age or older before they may purchase a long gun from a firearms dealer. A person must be 18 years of age or older to purchase a handgun in a private sale. There is no age limitation to purchase a long gun in a private sale under federal law. According to Virginia law the private sale of firearms is controlled by Virginia Code Section 18.2-308.2:1. This code section prohibits any person who sells, barters, gives, or furnishes or has in his possession or under his control with the intent of selling, bartering, giving, or furnishing any firearm to any person he knows is prohibited from possessing or transporting a firearm pursuant to Virginia Code Section 18.2-308.7.

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