Laws imposing minimum age requirements for the possession and purchase of firearms are intended to decrease access to firearms by young people and, correspondingly, to decrease the number of suicides, homicides, and unintentional shootings among that population. Given that young people are at elevated risk of engaging in violent behaviors against themselves or others, these laws have the potential to protect a particularly vulnerable group.
Minimum Age for Gun Possession
Subject to limited exceptions, federal law prohibits the possession of a handgun or handgun ammunition by any person under the age of 18.15 Federal law provides no minimum age for the possession of long guns or long gun ammunition. Federal law provides exceptions for the temporary transfer and possession of handguns and handgun ammunition for specified activities, including employment, ranching, farming, target practice and hunting. Several states impose minimum age requirements that extend beyond those contained in federal law. Those laws generally fall into four categories:
• Laws imposing a stricter minimum age for handgun or firearm purchases than federal law;
• Laws imposing a minimum age for all long gun purchases, from licensed or unlicensed sellers;
• Laws imposing age requirements for possession of handguns that are stricter than federal law; and
• Laws imposing a minimum age for possession of long guns.
Although federal law prohibits licensed dealers from selling long guns to persons under 18, there is no federal regulation of the sale of long guns by unlicensed dealers to minors. Similarly, while federal law prohibits handgun sales by licensed dealers to persons under 21, unlicensed dealers are prohibited only from selling handguns to persons under 18. Many states have imposed a minimum age for the purchase of all firearms, including both handguns and long guns, regardless of whether they are purchased from a licensed firearms dealer. Licensing laws ensure that gun owners have passed a background check before they purchase a gun. In contrast to states which require a background check at the point of sale of a firearm, licensing laws typically require an in-person application at law enforcement agencies, which provides an additional safeguard against fraud or inaccuracies that could allow dangerous individuals to obtain guns. Licensing laws that require periodic renewal can also reduce gun crimes by helping law enforcement confirm that a gun owner remains eligible to possess firearms and facilitating the removal of firearms from people who become ineligible. Furthermore, licensing laws can help to empower safe and responsible gun ownership. Many states will only issue or renew license after an applicant has completed a safety training course and firearm safety tests showing that the applicant knows relevant gun laws and how to safely load, fire, and store a gun.
Studies show that these attributes of licensing laws can lead to significant reductions in both gun homicides and gun suicides.
• When Connecticut passed a licensing law, its firearm homicide rate decreased by 40% and its firearm suicide rate decreased by 15%.
• Conversely, when Missouri repealed its licensing law, its firearm homicide rate increased by 25% and its firearm suicide rate increased by 16%.
• A study of licensing laws across 80 large urban counties found that these laws are associated with an 11% decrease in firearm homicides.
Licensing laws also help to prevent gun trafficking and the diversion of guns to criminals.
Who’s restricted from purchasing or possessing firearms?
Fugitives, people deemed a danger to society and patients involuntarily committed to mental institutions are among those who may not purchase firearms. People with prior felony convictions that include a prison sentence exceeding one year, or misdemeanors carrying sentences of more than two years, are also prohibited from purchasing firearms. Federal law also blocks the sale of guns to people who have been found guilty of unlawfully possessing or using controlled substances within the past year. This includes marijuana, which, though legalized in many US states, remains illegal under federal law. Other restrictions apply to people who have been issued restraining orders by courts to prevent harassment, stalking or threatening; people who have renounced their citizenship; dishonorably discharged military personnel; unauthorized migrants; and people temporarily visiting the US on non-immigrant visas,
Does the federal or state government regulate firearms?
The Second Amendment serves as the legal basis for the “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Though state and local governments regulate whether residents may, for example, carry guns in public, laws regulating who may receive or possess guns are set out at the federal level. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), a division of the Department of Justice, administers the GCA. The ATF also regulates the standards for issuing licenses to gun vendors. Shotguns, rifles, machine guns, firearm mufflers and silencers are regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934. The purchase of semi-automatic weapons is legal in most states, as are automatic weapons made before 1986.
Who may sell firearms?
Like handgun owners, dealers interested in obtaining a Federal Firearms License (FFL) must be at least 21 years of age. They must have premises for conducting business and must alert a local law enforcement official at the time of submitting their applications to the federal bureau that regulates firearms. Just like gun owners, they must fulfill the same criteria regarding their history of prior convictions and mental state. The license fee costs $200 (€170) for an initial three-year period and $90 for each subsequent three-year-long renewal. Selling firearms online also falls under these regulations. Although the purchase may be paid for online, the gun itself must be shipped to a registered FFL holder, who then conducts the necessary background check before handing the firearm over to its owner. However, the law is unclear on what constitutes selling guns for profit. Any individual may sell firearms without a license if his or her motive isn’t to make profit for livelihood through repeated and regular sales.
Is a background check required to purchase a firearm?
The amendment to the 1968 Gun Control Act known as the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 requires holders of FFLs to conduct a background check. Potential firearm purchasers fill out a federal form known as the ATF 4473, which checks for prior convictions and other red flags. FFL holders then use the information provided on the form in the background check. States may decide whether the background check is carried out solely by the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) or a combination of the NICS and state agency information. Roughly 30 states rely solely on the NICS. Estimated to take under 10 minutes by phone or online, the check gives the FFL holder an immediate answer: approve, delay or deny. A delay indicates the need for further research for three business days, after which point FFL holders can act at their own discretion if the research proves inconclusive. The Brady law, however, does not apply to someone who is obtaining a firearm from an individual without an FFL.
Do states require permits to carry firearms?
Most states require permits to carry handguns. Concealed carry and open carry vary by state. Some states allow residents to carry handguns without permits. By contrast, virtually no state requires a permit to carry rifles and shotguns. Utah requires people carrying rifles and shotguns to bring along a form of ID or firearms identification. The law on selling, receiving and possessing firearms is clear. Yet not every individual providing the gun in a transfer requires an FFL, which in turn means that not every buyer is legally subject to a background check. This potentially enables guns to fall into the hands of users who might otherwise not be allowed to own a firearm. According to the ATF, anyone can sell a gun without an FFL from their home, online, at a flea market or at a gun show as long as he or she is not conducting the sale as part of regular business activity. One example would be someone who sells a firearm from his or her personal collection. Others who are exempt include those giving guns as gifts. Only individuals whose “principal motive” is to make a profit via sale must obtain an FFL. Commonly referred to as the “gunshow loophole,” this ambiguity also explains how a purchase can occur without a background check and without breaking the law. A gun may also be purchased on behalf of a third party as long as it is a gift and as long as the recipient does not violate federal restrictions on gun ownership to the best of the gift giver’s knowledge. The same applies to the general transfer of guns. Children younger than 18 may possess guns that were given to them by parents or guardians as gifts provided that they have written permission. Though there are many ways to obtain guns illegally — through gun trafficking, theft and “straw purchases” — there are thousands of avenues for legal sales. Gun shows often feature a mix of exhibitors selling guns, ammunition, holsters, targets and other items. Some are federally licensed dealers who must follow the same regulations as if they were operating out of a store. But gun shows are also frequented by private collectors who set up tables to buy, sell and trade guns. These sales do not require a federal license if they’re made between two people in the same state. And they don’t require a background check. This exception to the background check system is commonly known as the “gun show loophole,” and there have been several unsuccessful attempts in Congress to close it.
Utah’s Gun Control Laws
• Utah does not require a permit to possess a rifle, shotgun or handgun, and no permit is required to buy one.
• A criminal background check is required if a gun is purchased from a licensed dealer.
• Utah do need a permit to carry a concealed weapon. With those permits, Utah can openly carry a fully loaded firearm anywhere that is not listed as off-limits. A permit is not required to keep a gun inside a vehicle.
• Guns are not allowed in courthouses, mental health facilities, correctional facilities, airports, and houses of worship that have given notice they are not allowed.
• They are also not allowed in places that are prohibited federally, including most federal properties like post offices and rented federal offices.
• On land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, firearms are allowed based on the legal carry rules of the state, except in areas posted as no firearms allowed.
• Carrying a loaded firearm on a public street is not allowed without a permit, and it is illegal to carry a concealed firearm without a concealed carry permit.
• A gun that is unloaded and “securely” put away is not considered a “concealed weapon” though, and does not require a permit.
• Utah permits for concealed firearms are honoured in some neighbouring states, including Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming and Idaho, but not in others, including California and New Mexico.
• Cities, towns and other local governments are not allowed to create their own regulations regarding gun ownership or firearms, unless specifically approved by the state legislature.
• Utah does not prohibit the possession or transfer of machine guns, although people younger than 18 cannot own any fully automatic weapon. It is a felony to sell or transfer a gun to a minor.
Firearm Carry Laws
There are two ways firearms are carried in Utah, concealed carry and open carry. The names are self descriptive with an open carried firearm being visible to everyone and a concealed carry firearm being hidden from view. No federal law has ever covered the issuance of permits to carry firearms in the Utah. It has been left to all the 50 individual states in the US to determine how they will issue permits or if a permit is even required to openly or conceal carry firearms. All states will allow in theory the carry of firearms. However, there are some states that make the application process so difficult that in practice a regular citizen is banned from having a handgun. These states are usually the ones that have a “May Issue” policy.
Concealed carry laws are mostly grouped into three categories or issue policies. Up until recently there was four categories but the fourth category “No Issue” has all but been banned from the Utah by court rulings that it was unconstitutional. The three other categories are:
• Unrestricted: Does not require a permit to carry a firearm and is often referred to as Constitutional Carry.
• Shall Issue: Requires a permit to carry a firearm. Applicant only has to meet the requirements set by law such as minimum age, training, background checks etc.
• May Issue: Again a carry permit is required but laws can be restrictive and in some states impossible to comply with. Often an applicant will be asked to demonstrate a justifiable need for a permit to be issued. It is left to the discretion of law enforcement as to whether a permit to carry will be issued and a few states such as Hawaii will refuse to issue a permit to anyone.
The May Issue states are slowly disappearing with court rulings against their gun policies. The laws vary greatly for each state with states that do not have an open carry law or require a permit to an outright ban on open carry. In the states that have no open carry law you will often find that the local authorities have ordinances in place to regulate the open carrying of firearms. Permits to purchase a firearm are required in some states. These permits can just cover handguns or be extended to long guns and ammunition in the more restrictive states. Utah requires a buyer to have a FOID card to purchase any firearm or ammunition although lately they have allowed concealed carry permits to be used for purchases. But the buyer must still have been issued a FOID card. Other states will also often allow a concealed carry license to be used as a purchase permit. Background checks are required by federal law on all persons purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer. To facilitate these checks the FBI maintains a database where all requests are processed through called the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System).
Stand Your Ground Laws
Stand Your Ground, commonly known as “Castle Doctrine” laws that permit a person to defend themselves with deadly force and with no duty to retreat have been enacted in 27 states. These laws vary from state to state in the conditions that it may be used such as the degree of retreat, places covered and if there is any non lethal force required before using deadly force. Most of these laws will have some of the following conditions:
• An attempt to forcibly and unlawfully enter an occupied vehicle, business or residence.
• The intruder cannot have been provoked by the occupants of the home.
• There must be a reasonable belief by the occupants of the home the intruder will cause death or serious bodily harm to them. There are a few states that allow stand your ground laws to be used for less serious felonies such as burglaries or arson.
• The intruder is required by most of these laws to be acting unlawfully.
• These laws cannot be used against law enforcement officers who are legally carrying out their duties. Such as when they are forcibly entering a premises to arrest a person.
To use the law occupants must be legally in the building or vehicle. If they are a fugitive or helping another fugitive then they cannot defend themselves with deadly force. In addition to Utah’s firearm statutes, federal gun laws also regulate gun ownership, mostly by restricting the kinds of guns a person may legally own. As noted above, the Second Amendment does allow citizens to own certain firearms, but courts have allowed the government, both state and federal, to place some restrictions on the types of firearms people can own, who may purchase them, and how they can be purchased. In cases where federal and state laws overlap, federal law is always superior. Therefore, Utah gun owners are also subject to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the National Firearms Act.
Utah Concealed Carry Permit
Requirements For Utah Concealed Carry Permit
• Must be at least 21 years of age.
• Proof of good character.
• Completed a firearms familiarity course certified by BCI.
• Has not been convicted of a felony.
• Has not been convicted of any crime of violence.
• Has not been convicted of any offense involving the use of alcohol.
• Has not been convicted of any offenses involving the unlawful use of narcotics or other controlled substances.
• Has not been convicted of any offenses involving moral turpitude.
• Has not been convicted of any offense involving domestic violence.
• Has not been adjudicated by a court of a state or of the United States as mentally incompetent, unless the adjudication has been withdrawn or reversed.
• Is qualified to purchase and possess a firearm.
• Federal Law Requirements
Provisional Permit For Utah Concealed Carry
Persons aged between 18–21 can obtain a provisional permit. Apart from the age, the requirements are the same as those for a standard permit. These permits are also issued to non-residents. However, there are a number of states that will not honor the provisional permit as the required age to carry concealed is 21 in these states.
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