What is the legal age to purchase firearms in the State of Georgia? What’s the legal age to purchase a handgun? What’s the legal age to purchase and possess a long gun, meaning a rifle or a shotgun? Are there differences between federal and state law? Well, when we discuss this, we’re going to look at handguns and long guns, federal and state law, and sale by a federal firearms licensee versus a sale in a hand-to-hand private transaction by unlicensed individuals.
Let’s talk first about federal law with respect to possession of handguns. There is a minimum age of 18 for possession of a handgun under federal law. When we say “juvenile,” we mean someone under the age of 18. Federal law prohibits the possession of a handgun or handgun ammunition by any person under the age of 18.
There is no minimum age for the possession of long guns or long gun ammunition under federal law. Georgia law closely tracks this federal prohibition. Official Code of Georgia 16-11-132 says this: “It shall be unlawful for any person under the age of 18 years to possess or have under such person’s control a handgun,” meaning a semiautomatic pistol or a revolver.
So, both federal and state law restrict the possession of handguns to individuals under the age of 18 (juveniles). Both federal and state law also have exceptions. With federal law, there are exceptions for ranching, farming, hunting, and target practice. Those can be found at 18 USC 922(b) and (x), the Federal Youth Safety Handgun Act. Under state law, there are also certain exceptions. Anyone who’s target practicing with a firearm, anyone who’s engaged in an organized competition, hunting or fishing pursuant to a valid license, or traveling to or from any of those locations is exempt.
Not only that, any person under the age of 18 years, any juvenile on real property owned or controlled by their parents, grandparents, or legal guardian with permission of their grandparents, parents, or legal guardian can possess, and any person who is a juvenile in their own residence with permission of their legal guardians can also possess that handgun for the purposes of defense of self or others or defense of habitation.
Now, federal law prohibits a federal firearms licensee, someone who is by federal law and federal statute licensed to sell firearms to sell a long gun—meaning rifles or shotguns—to anyone under the age of 18, but there is no federal regulation that exists that restricts the sale of long guns by non-licensees.
So, federal law says if you’re a federal firearms licensee, you cannot sell a long gun, rifle or shotgun, to anyone under the age of 18, but there’s no restriction on the sale or possession of long guns by those under the age of 18 in a private transaction.
Similarly, while federal law prohibits handgun sales by federal firearms licensees to anyone under 21, non-licensees are only prohibited from selling handguns to those under the age of 18. So at the federal level, you can sell a handgun as an FFL at the age of 21, but in an unlicensed, private transaction, an 18-year-old can purchase from an unlicensed dealer.
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