Can You Give Your Child a Gun as a Gift – and Other Questions About Minors and Firearms

Can You Give Your Child a Gun as a Gift – and Other Questions About Minors and FirearmsTexas has a long and complicated relationship with firearms, including when those possessing the guns are minors. Here are some common questions people have about minors and firearm laws in Texas:

Can a parent legally gift a gun to a child in Texas?

Under Texas law, a person cannot give or sell a firearm to a child younger than the age of 18. However, according to Texas Penal Code Section 46.06 Subsection (c), “a parent’s permission for the transfer can be an affirmative defense to prosecution.” If the minor is purchasing the weapon, the permission must be writing.

What does federal law say about giving a gun to a minor as a gift?

The U.S. sets a minimum age for operating a vehicle, registering to vote, and drinking alcoholic beverages to encourage responsible behavior. However, according to the Giffords Law Center, there is no federal law that establishes a minimum age for possessing or receiving rifles or shotguns. Under Title 18, Chapter 44, Section 922(x) of the U.S. Code, it is illegal to transfer a handgun or handgun ammunition to a minor. It is also illegal for a minor to possess a handgun unless all the following conditions are met:

  • The minor is using the handgun for employment purposes.
  • The minor has written permission from a parent or guardian who is not forbidden by law from possessing a firearm.
  • The minor must have the written permission in their possession any time they are in possession of the handgun.
  • The minor follows other state and federal laws while in possession of the handgun.

Are minors ever allowed to possess firearms in Texas?

Although it is generally illegal for someone under 18 years old to possess a handgun in Texas, minors can possess firearms under certain circumstances, including when they are participating in lawful hunting activities, are using a gun with adult supervision at a shooting range, or if they are engaged in other legal activities involving firearms—with parental consent. However, individuals under the age of 18 are generally prohibited from purchasing firearms in Texas.

Does the U.S. have a minimum age for gun sales and transfers?

Federal law distinguishes long guns (rifles and shotguns) from handguns, gun possession from gun sales, and requires provides stricter age restrictions for sales by licensed gun sellers.

  • Handguns. Licensed firearms dealers are not allowed to sell or deliver a handgun or ammunition for a handgun to anyone the dealer reasonably believes is under the age of 21. Unlicensed individuals may not sell, deliver, or otherwise transfer a handgun or handgun ammunition to someone who is reasonably believed to be under age 18, with certain exceptions.
  • Long guns (rifles and shotguns). Licensed firearms dealers are prohibited from selling or delivering a long gun (or ammunition for a long gun) to anyone they believe is under age 18. Unlicensed people may sell, deliver, or transfer a long gun (or long gun ammunition) to someone, regardless of age.

Can students carry handguns on college campuses in Texas?

Until recently, most Texans had to wait until they turned 21 to apply for a license to carry a handgun. However, in 2022, a federal judge reversed the age restriction, permitting adults as young as 18 to carry licensed concealed handguns on public university campuses, into certain businesses, and even travel with them to other states like Oklahoma and Louisiana. The judge wrote in his ruling that the “plain text of the Second Amendment, as informed by Founding-Era history and tradition, covers the proposed course of conduct and permits law-abiding 18-to-20 year-olds to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.” Texas also allows school personnel to carry guns in K-12 schools.

Can Texas parents be held liable for failing to keep their guns locked up?

Yes. Texas is one of 14 states with a “negligent storage law” that can hold gun-owning parents criminally liable for crimes their children committed with their firearms. Negligent storage laws generally apply when a gun owner “knows or reasonably should know that a child is likely to gain access to their firearm.

Under Texas law, if a child under 17 years of age gains access to a firearm loaded with ammunition, whether or not a round is in the chamber, a person may be criminally liable if he or she, “with criminal negligence:”

  • Failed to secure the firearm (take steps a reasonable person would take to prevent the access to a readily dischargeable firearm by a child, such as keeping a firearm in a locked container or temporarily disarming it with a trigger lock or some other means)
  • Left the firearm in a place where the person knew (or should have known) the child would be able to access.

However, a person is generally not guilty under this law if the child’s access to the firearm:

  • Was supervised by someone over age 18 and was using the firearm for hunting, sport, or other lawful purposes
  • Consisted of lawful defense by the child of people or property
  • Was gotten by entering the property illegally
  • Occurred during a time when the actor was engaged in agricultural work

The law provides tougher penalties for violations if the child discharges the firearm and causes death or serious bodily injury to themselves or another person. However, there are no laws in Texas that demand unattended firearms to be stored in any particular way, and the state does not require a locking device when a firearm is sold.

Texas has more than 1.3 million registered gun owners. Although the state strongly supports gun rights, the law also comes down swiftly on those who violate state statutes. If you’re accused of a weapons or firearm offense, the criminal defense attorneys at the Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm will work hard to protect your rights. Call us in Copperas Cove or fill out our contact form to schedule an initial consultation today. Don’t try to go it alone—we can help. We maintain another office in Killeen and proudly serve folks in and around Belton, Harker Heights, Waco, Williamson County, Bell County, Coryell County, and McLennan County.