The 6 U.S. States Where Under 21s Can't Buy Guns

President Joe Biden called on Thursday for new age restrictions on the purchase on assault weapons following the deadly shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Biden said he supported a ban on assault weapons but if that wasn't possible "we should raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21" as well as taking other measures such as background checks and red flag laws.

The president noted that the alleged Uvalde shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, "purchased two assault weapons for himself. Because in Texas, you can be 18 years old and buy an assault weapon even though you can't buy a pistol in Texas until you're 21."

Federal law currently prohibits licensed firearms dealers from selling handguns and handgun ammunition to any person the dealer believes is under 21 but private sellers are only prohibited from selling to people they believe are under 18, with certain exceptions.

Similarly, federal law prohibits licensed firearms dealers from selling long guns—rifles and shotguns—to persons the dealer believes to be under 18. Unlicensed, private sellers can sell to people of any age.

States have the power to impose more stringent age restrictions but just six states prohibit the sale of both handguns and long guns to those aged under 21, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Eleven states and the District of Columbia prohibit the sale of handguns to people under 21 but those states also permit the sale of long guns to those aged 18, as does D.C.

Here is the list of states that prohibit gun sales to those under 21:


California's law contains exceptions allowing those under 21 to buy guns if they're members of the armed forces or law enforcement or if they have a valid hunting license.


The state's restrictions do not apply to shotgun or rifle purchases by law enforcement officers, correctional officers and servicemembers.


Hawaii issues permits to acquire firearms to those aged 21 and older but permits are not required for those under 21 who use a rifle or shotgun while they are "actually engaged" in hunting or target shooting.


Illinois law generally requires individuals to hold a valid license called a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card in order to possess firearms. In order to get a FOID card, a person must be over 21 or have written permission from their parents.


Those aged 21 and over can buy handguns and long guns without a hunting safety certificate. An 18-year-old may purchase a firearm if they can show a certificate showing that they have satisfactorily completed a hunting safety course approved by the state Commissioner of Fish and Wildlife.

Members of law enforcement, the armed forces and the National Guard who are under 21 may also purchase firearms.


In Washington, the age restriction of 21 applies to the purchase of semiautomatic weapons.

It's important to note that states sometimes apply different age restrictions to the purchase and possession of firearms. In Nebraska, for example, the minimum age for purchasing a handgun is 21, but 18-year-olds are permitted to possess handguns.

A Guns and Ammo Sign in Arizona
The silhouette AR-15 style rifle is displayed on signage for the Firearms Unknown Guns & Ammo gun store, in Yuma, Arizona on June 2, 2022. President Biden has called for a ban on assault weapons. Patrick T. FALLON / AFP/Getty Images