How Old Do You Have to Be to Buy a Gun in the US?

Read Time: 4 min

If you’re a firearms business owner, you may be wondering how old you have to be to buy a gun. Knowing the age restrictions of the industry you serve helps you operate your business legally and safely. Unfortunately, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people. Almost half of the cases where minors died by suicide involved firearms. Because of this, gun laws include age restrictions to help protect children and young people. Ultimately, adult citizens have the constitutional right to own firearms. However, age restrictions on young adults and minors buying guns vary from state to state. And while these laws set a certain age you must be to buy a gun, regulations still have a long way to go. Read on to find out the legal age to buy a gun and why these measures are in place.

legal age to buy a gun

If you are wondering about the minimum legal age to buy a gun, there are a few regulations to understand. First, the federal government sets minimum ages for gun sales and transfers to help keep adolescents out of harm. These are:

  • 18 years old for the sale of rifles, shotguns, and their ammunition
  • 21 years old for the licensed transfer of a handgun

Of course, there are exceptions when it comes to the legal age to buy a gun. Minors may be able to temporarily own or possess firearms due to activities like employment or farming.

Read your state’s regulations to become familiar with what firearm-related activities are allowed for people under the age of 21.

State vs. federal regulations

Now that you understand how old you have to be to buy a gun on the federal level, it’s important to know different how state and federal regulations differ.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 regulated interstate and foreign firearm sales and imposed stricter licensing and regulation of the firearm industry. The act also defined new categories of gun offenses. In addition, it made the sale of weapons to felons and other prohibited persons illegal. While federal regulations establish a national baseline, states can choose to impose their own requirements for firearms, like the California Firearm Safety Certificate. These laws vary greatly from state to state and should be considered if you plan to service all of the U.S.

Considerations for Owning a Firearm

It’s always important to keep safety at the forefront when buying and selling guns. Before you decide to sell a firearm, there are a few key questions to consider. These ensure that you are making a responsible and sound decision as it pertains to young people.

  • Do you have a federal firearms license?
  • Are your customers old enough to own the type of firearm they’re trying to purchase? What is the intended use?
  • Granting possession of a gun to a young person could increase the chances of them dying by suicide. Are they showing signs of depression or manic behavior?
  • Is the young person of sound mind?
  • Does the intended buyer have a history of violence or abuse?

Long guns

Long guns refer to rifles and shotguns. Federal law does not allow a licensed dealer to sell these types of weapons to a minor under the age of 18. However, unlicensed individuals may sell or transfer a rifle or shotgun (and its ammunition) to a person of any age.

While there is a set age to buy or sell a long gun through a licensed transfer, the law is much looser for unlicensed sellers.


Handguns also carry a couple of considerations worth noting. Federal law says licensed dealers cannot sell handguns to anyone under the age of 21. However, unlicensed dealers may not sell or transfer handguns to anyone they believe is under the age of 18.

Again, the age to buy a gun varies based on whether the buyer is interacting with a licensed or unlicensed dealer in their state.

States with Stricter Minimum Age Restrictions

Various states have set stricter age restrictions for minors who wish to possess handguns. These states include:

age to buy a gun
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Washington
  • District of Columbia

If you live or operate your business in one of these states, take the necessary precautions for dealing. Understand what state laws exist that may restrict an area of your business.

States with Relaxed Minimum Age Restrictions

When it comes to the legal age to buy a gun, some states have more relaxed restrictions than others. There are some states where firearms heavily contribute to the economy. On top of this, firearms are sometimes woven into their societies, and thus, more gun-friendly laws are in place. These states are:

  • Arizona
  • Idaho
  • Texas
  • Arkansas
  • New Hampshire
  • Georgia
  • Alabama
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • South Carolina

How Old do You Have to be to Buy a Gun? It Depends

As you now know, how old you have to be to buy a gun varies from state to state. In addition, there are still loopholes and laws in place that allow minors to purchase firearms from an unlicensed seller. While the legal age to buy a gun from a licensed dealer is clear, there is much work left to be done to regulate age requirements for unlicensed dealers.

Now that you know more about the legal age to buy a gun and how laws vary by state, look into your state’s legislation. It is also helpful to secure gun-friendly credit card processing to ensure you’re complying with the proper regulations. This will help you make the best decisions for your business and community. The most important step you can take is to educate yourself. You never want to find your business in a tough legal situation for simply not doing your due diligence.

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