WaPo Analysis: Minors Can Possess Long Guns in 30 States

Wednesday, 27 Aug 2014 10:14 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Federal laws bar anyone under 18 from owning a handgun, but no minimum age exists for possessing a long gun, an analysis by The Washington Post shows.

Some federal exceptions apply to gun ownership — and 20 states and the District of Columbia have age minimums on long guns, which include rifles and shotguns, the Post reports.

Those state minimums range from 14 in Montana to 21 in Illinois, but a child could legally have a long gun in 30 states.

But a youngster could not necessarily buy such a weapon at a gun show.

"There are federal laws for minimum-age purchasing of firearms," Daniel Webster,  director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research in Baltimore, told the Post. "Technically, anybody selling a gun in that context should look for age verification that someone is at least 18 years old."

He said, however, that "if dad wants to give his son a rifle or a shotgun on his 13th or 14th birthday, he's pretty much free to do that in most states."

Many states also allow children to fire guns at shooting ranges so long as an adult or instructor is present.

The Post report stemmed from the accidental death of an Arizona shooting instructor on Monday when a 9-year-old girl lost control of her aim because of the strong recoil on her Israeli-made Uzi submachine gun.

Story continues below video.



The Mohave County Sheriff's Office said that Charles Vacca, 39, had been standing next to the girl at the Last Stop shooting range in White Hills near the Nevada border showing her how to fire the automatic weapon.

When the child pulled the trigger, the recoil forced her aim over her head, and Vacca was shot in the head, the office said. The girl was at the outdoor range with her parents. She was not charged.

According to the Post, the Uzi used in the incident could be classified as a handgun or as a long gun based on the model and any modifications.

Some Uzi models can fire up to 1,700 rounds per minute, or almost 30 rounds per second, according to the manufacturer's website.

"The laws aren't designed, in essence, to protect children from accidental shootings of this nature," Webster said. "There's a mindset that's fairly prevalent in the U.S. that there's nothing wrong with kids firing guns."

Webster cautioned that parents and adults be aware of children's cognitive, emotional and physical limitations when providing gun instruction.

"A very common view of gun-owning parents is that what gun safety is all about is teaching your children rules," he told the Post. "What they don't consider are the developmental issues and physical abilities of children to actually follow these instructions.

"It was obvious to me when I saw this 9-year-old girl holding an incredibly powerful gun like an Uzi," Webster added. "Why anyone was surprised when she couldn't handle the recoil is beyond me."

The National Rifle Association had no comment on the incident, a spokesman told Newsmax.

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