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Frequently Asked Legal Questions

Find answers to common questions in our searchable FAQ.


704 views   |   3   |   Last updated on Jul 10, 2020    Guns Criminal Law

It depends. Texas law and federal law set different age requirements regarding how old you have to be to buy a weapon. Depending on what kind of weapon you would like to purchase and who you are buying it from, the legal age could be as high as 21 under federal law.

The state law about illegal transfers or sales of weapons can be found in the Texas Penal Code, Section 46.06.  Here, “firearm” means “any device designed, made, or adapted to expel a projectile through a barrel by using the energy generated by an explosion or burning substance or any device readily convertible to that use,” not including some antique or curio firearms. This law says that:

Sec. 46.06. UNLAWFUL TRANSFER OF CERTAIN WEAPONS. (a) A person commits an offense if the person:

    […]

    (2) intentionally or knowingly sells, rents, leases, or gives or offers to sell, rent, lease, or give to any child younger than 18 years of age any firearm, club, or location-restricted knife;

However, subsection (c) states that it is an affirmative defense if the child’s parent or legal custodian gives written permission for the sale.

Federal law is slightly more complicated. There are different age requirements depending on whether you are buying from a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) or a private individual, and whether you are purchasing a long gun, such as a shotgun or rifle, or a handgun.

The federal law regarding the legal age to purchase from a FFL can be found in 18 U.S. Code 922(b)(1). It states that a licensed dealer cannot sell any firearm or ammunition to someone who they know is or believe to be under the age of 18. For sales of firearms that are not rifles or shotguns and the corresponding ammunition, the dealer cannot sell to someone who they know is or believe to be under the age of 21. Here, "firearm" is defined by 18 U.S. Code 921(a)(3) as "any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive," with the exception of some antique or curio weapons.

However, if the sale is between private individuals, different age limits apply. 18 U.S. Code 922(x) makes it illegal to “sell, deliver, or otherwise transfer” a handgun or handgun ammunition to a juvenile (defined here as a person less than 18 years of age) and for a juvenile to possess a handgun unless all of the following are true:

  • The juvenile is using the handgun for their employment, ranching or farming, target practice, hunting, or taking a firearm education course
  • The juvenile has written permission from a parent or guardian who is not prohibited by law from possessing a firearm
  • The juvenile has the written permission in their possession at any time that they are also in possession of the handgun
  • The juvenile follows other state and federal laws when possessing the handgun

According to the Giffords Center, federal law does not place a minimum age on possessing or receiving rifles or shotguns.

If you are prevented by law from purchasing a firearm due to your age but are wondering if you can receive a gun as a gift, see: Can I gift a firearm to a minor? How old do you need to be to receive a gun as a gift?


For more information about buying guns, please see the Buying & Transferring page of our Gun Laws guide. To ensure that your purchase of a firearm is conducted legally, please consult with an attorney.

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