Q. What are the Federal & State Age restrictions for firearms purchase and/or possession?
A. Federal law requires that a person be at least 18 years of age to purchase a long gun (rifle or shotgun) from a licensed dealer. A person must be at least 21 years of age to purchase any other firearm from a dealer, including a handgun, a firearm frame or receiver, or a firearm that uses a shotgun action and fires shotgun ammunition but which has no shoulder stock.
Unfortunately, with the 2013 enactment of the private sale background check in Colorado, persons who cannot buy a particular firearm from a dealer because of their age cannot buy them from a private party either. Persons between the ages of 18 and 21 who wish to obtain a handgun, for example, may receive one as a gift from immediate family (spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, first cousins, aunts, and uncles), or they may make it themselves, starting with an 80% machined frame or receiver, for example.
Federal law prohibits persons who are under the age of 18 from possessing a handgun, unless they have a note from their parent or guardian, or fall into certain other limited circumstances. See 18 U.S.C. section 922(x). Colorado also prohibits persons under 18 from possessing a handgun, with very limited exceptions. See C.R.S. Section 18-12-108.5. There are no age limits, state or federal, for possessing a rifle or shotgun.
18 USC section 922(x)
(1) It shall be unlawful for a person to sell, deliver, or otherwise transfer to a person who the transferor knows or has reasonable cause to believe is a juvenile—
(A) a handgun; or
(B) ammunition that is suitable for use only in a handgun.
(2) It shall be unlawful for any person who is a juvenile to knowingly possess—
(A) a handgun; or
(B) ammunition that is suitable for use only in a handgun.
(3) This subsection does not apply to—
(A) a temporary transfer of a handgun or ammunition to a juvenile or to the possession or use of a handgun or ammunition by a juvenile if the handgun and ammunition are possessed and used by the juvenile—
(i) in the course of employment, in the course of ranching or farming related to activities at the residence of the juvenile (or on property used for ranching or farming at which the juvenile, with the permission of the property owner or lessee, is performing activities related to the operation of the farm or ranch), target practice, hunting, or a course of instruction in the safe and lawful use of a handgun;
(ii) with the prior written consent of the juvenile’s parent or guardian who is not prohibited by Federal, State, or local law from possessing a firearm, except—
(I) during transportation by the juvenile of an unloaded handgun in a locked container directly from the place of transfer to a place at which an activity described in clause (i) is to take place and transportation by the juvenile of that handgun, unloaded and in a locked container, directly from the place at which such an activity took place to the transferor; or
(II) with respect to ranching or farming activities as described in clause (i), a juvenile may possess and use a handgun or ammunition with the prior written approval of the juvenile’s parent or legal guardian and at the direction of an adult who is not prohibited by Federal, State or local law from possessing a firearm;
(iii) the juvenile has the prior written consent in the juvenile’s possession at all times when a handgun is in the possession of the juvenile; and
(iv) in accordance with State and local law;
(B) a juvenile who is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States or the National Guard who possesses or is armed with a handgun in the line of duty;
(C) a transfer by inheritance of title (but not possession) of a handgun or ammunition to a juvenile; or
(D) the possession of a handgun or ammunition by a juvenile taken in defense of the juvenile or other persons against an intruder into the residence of the juvenile or a residence in which the juvenile is an invited guest.
(4) A handgun or ammunition, the possession of which is transferred to a juvenile in circumstances in which the transferor is not in violation of this subsection shall not be subject to permanent confiscation by the Government if its possession by the juvenile subsequently becomes unlawful because of the conduct of the juvenile, but shall be returned to the lawful owner when such handgun or ammunition is no longer required by the Government for the purposes of investigation or prosecution.
(5) For purposes of this subsection, the term “juvenile” means a person who is less than 18 years of age.
(6) (A) In a prosecution of a violation of this subsection, the court shall require the presence of a juvenile defendant’s parent or legal guardian at all proceedings.
(B) The court may use the contempt power to enforce subparagraph (A).
(C) The court may excuse attendance of a parent or legal guardian of a juvenile defendant at a proceeding in a prosecution of a violation of this subsection for good cause shown.
18-12-108.5. Possession of handguns by juveniles - prohibited - exceptions - penalty
(1) (a) Except as provided in this section, it is unlawful for any person who has not attained the age of eighteen years knowingly to have any handgun in such person's possession.
(b) Any person possessing any handgun in violation of paragraph (a) of this subsection (1) commits the offense of illegal possession of a handgun by a juvenile.
(c) (I) Illegal possession of a handgun by a juvenile is a class 2 misdemeanor.
(II) For any second or subsequent offense, illegal possession of a handgun by a juvenile is a class 5 felony.
(d) Any person under the age of eighteen years who is taken into custody by a law enforcement officer for an offense pursuant to this section shall be taken into temporary custody in the manner described in section 19-2-508, C.R.S.
(2) This section shall not apply to:
(a) Any person under the age of eighteen years who is:
(I) In attendance at a hunter's safety course or a firearms safety course; or
(II) Engaging in practice in the use of a firearm or target shooting at an established range authorized by the governing body of the jurisdiction in which such range is located or any other area where the discharge of a firearm is not prohibited; or
(III) Engaging in an organized competition involving the use of a firearm or participating in or practicing for a performance by an organized group under 501 (c) (3) as determined by the federal internal revenue service which uses firearms as a part of such performance; or
(IV) Hunting or trapping pursuant to a valid license issued to such person pursuant to article 4 of title 33, C.R.S.; or
(V) Traveling with any handgun in such person's possession being unloaded to or from any activity described in subparagraph (I), (II), (III), or (IV) of this paragraph (a);
(b) Any person under the age of eighteen years who is on real property under the control of such person's parent, legal guardian, or grandparent and who has the permission of such person's parent or legal guardian to possess a handgun;
(c) Any person under the age of eighteen years who is at such person's residence and who, with the permission of such person's parent or legal guardian, possesses a handgun for the purpose of exercising the rights contained in section 18-1-704 or section 18-1-704.5.
(3) For the purposes of subsection (2) of this section, a handgun is "loaded" if:
(a) There is a cartridge in the chamber of the handgun; or
(b) There is a cartridge in the cylinder of the handgun, if the handgun is a revolver; or
(c) The handgun, and the ammunition for such handgun, is carried on the person of a person under the age of eighteen years or is in such close proximity to such person that such person could readily gain access to the handgun and the ammunition and load the handgun.