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Legal Age to Purchase or Possess Firearms in Arizona…

November 16, 2009 Federal Firearms Laws, Firearms Transfers, Legal Issues No Comments

Question: Can you tell me the specific ARS law in which it tells you specifics about what ages at which you can buy a handgun or shotgun or any type of gun?  I have been googling binging yahooing and I can’t seem to find it.  I don’t want to be misinformed and would like to read the specific laws about it.  I found your page after hours of looking. Thank you for your help.

Answer: Part of the reason you were having trouble finding the information is because of the way the laws are written regarding age limits on firearms in Arizona.  While you might expect there to be an affirmative statement (you must be X age to buy a rifle, etc.), the law is written in such a way as to exclude people of certain ages from owning certain types of guns.  For example, under ARS 13-3111, the law state that except under certain conditions, that anyone under the age of 18 who is not accompanied by a parent, grandparent, legal guardian or firearms instructor acting with the consent of said parent, grandparent or legal guardian may not carry or possess a firearm.  By definition, that means that anyone who is over the age of 18 and not otherwise prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm may do so.

Federal law provides that in order to purchase a firearm from a federally licensed firearms dealer, a person must be at least 21 years of age and meet the federal and state legal requirements to own a firearm which include, not being a prohibited possessor under state or federal law, be a resident of the state where they are purchasing a firearm, provide proof of age and identity, submit to a criminal background check and meet any other requirements set for by the state for firearms purchases.

Under Arizona law, prohibited possessor are defined in ARS 13-3101 which states:

7. “Prohibited possessor” means any person:

(a) Who has been found to constitute a danger to himself or to others or to be persistently or acutely disabled or gravely disabled pursuant to court order under section 36-540, and whose right to possess a firearm has not been restored pursuant to section 13-925.

(b) Who has been convicted within or without this state of a felony or who has been adjudicated delinquent for a felony and whose civil right to possess or carry a gun or firearm has not been restored.

(c) Who is at the time of possession serving a term of imprisonment in any correctional or detention facility.

(d) Who is at the time of possession serving a term of probation pursuant to a conviction for a domestic violence offense as defined in section 13-3601 or a felony offense, parole, community supervision, work furlough, home arrest or release on any other basis or who is serving a term of probation or parole pursuant to the interstate compact under title 31, chapter 3, article 4.

(e) Who is an undocumented alien or a nonimmigrant alien traveling with or without documentation in this state for business or pleasure or who is studying in this state and who maintains a foreign residence abroad. This subdivision does not apply to:

(i) Nonimmigrant aliens who possess a valid hunting license or permit that is lawfully issued by a state in the United States.

(ii) Nonimmigrant aliens who enter the United States to participate in a competitive target shooting event or to display firearms at a sports or hunting trade show that is sponsored by a national, state or local firearms trade organization devoted to the competitive use or other sporting use of firearms.

(iii) Certain diplomats.

(iv) Officials of foreign governments or distinguished foreign visitors who are designated by the United States department of state.

(v) Persons who have received a waiver from the United States attorney general.

The definition of a prohibited possessor under Federal law is found in the Gun Control Act of 1968, and was later amended under what is generally referred to as the “Laudenberg Amendment”.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 is actually Chapter 44 of Title 18 of the US Code which defines a prohibited possessor as follows:

(d) It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person—
(1) is under indictment for, or has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
(2) is a fugitive from justice;
(3) is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802));
(4) has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution;
(5) who, being an alien—
(A) is illegally or unlawfully in the United States; or
(B) except as provided in subsection (y)(2), has been admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa
(6) who [2] has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
(7) who, having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced his citizenship;
(8) is subject to a court order that restrains such person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner of such person or child of such intimate partner or person, or engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child, except that this paragraph shall only apply to a court order that—
(A) was issued after a hearing of which such person received actual notice, and at which such person had the opportunity to participate; and
(B)
(i) includes a finding that such person represents a credible threat to the physical safety of such intimate partner or child; or
(ii) by its terms explicitly prohibits the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against such intimate partner or child that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury; or
(9) has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

So the way that it works is that the laws defines who cannot be in possession of a firearm as opposed to saying who can.  The presumption is that if the prohibitions DON’T apply, a person can legally purchase or possess a firearm.

To explicitly answer the age question, here is the breakdown for Arizona:

Handgun – 18 years of age to possess or purchase via private party transaction, 21 years of age to purchase from a federally licensed firearms dealer.

Rifle or Shotgun – 18 years of age to possess or purchase via private party transaction, 21 years of age to purchase from a federally licensed firearms dealer.

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