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Alabama currently bans possession of handguns by minors under the age of 18. No exceptions. That’s right, no exception for parental permission, training, or engaging in hunting or other shooting sports. Banned, plain and simple. Many states have similar laws, but they tend to make exceptions for parental supervision and the like. It’s funny that in the popular imagination, the states of the old Confederacy are seen as gun-owning paradises where there are few legal obstacles to owning and carrying a heater. The reality, while improving in recent years, is far different . . .

Members of the Alabama legislature appear to have woken up and decided that it’s time to rectify this nonsense. HB 328 and SB 262 would allow minors to receive or possess a pistol if the minor has the consent of a parent, guardian, or spouse over the age of 18. In addition, the following additional conditions would need to be satisfied:

(1) The minor is in the presence of his or her parent, guardian, or spouse who is 18 years of age or older, or in the presence of another person who is 18 years of age or older.

(2) The minor is on the premises owned or leased by the minor’s parent or other immediate family member, guardian, or on the premises with the consent of the lawful owner or possessor of the premises.

(3) The minor is in the presence of a licensed or accredited gun safety instructor.

(4) The pistol is being used for hunting, trapping, target shooting, competing in a firearm competition, or firearm or hunting training or instruction.

The bill also eliminates a provision of the code that requires “All persons dealing in pistols, revolvers, and maxim silencers” to “keep a permanent record of the sale” to be open for inspection of the police. Supporters of the bill have characterized these requirements as duplicative, as WAFF News reports:

Currently, the law requires that sellers make triplicates of the records, keeping one for six years, sending another to the chief of police or county sheriff and sending a third to the secretary of state.

[Russ] Durling [of Last Resort Guns], a veteran of the Royal Air Force, does not believe the bills currently making their way through the legislature are controversial.

“It brings regulatory requirements in line with common practice,” he said.

Of course, the usual people who oppose all common-sense gun laws can be found wringing their hands over what appears to be a fairly innocuous change. Cullman, Alabama police chief Kenny Culpepper expressed concerns over the law:

“I’m concerned with the bill and have questions,” Cullman police chief Kenny Culpepper said. “Specifically, the section that allows anyone over 18 years of age as a supervisor, without specifying that person’s qualifications or disqualification’s to be the adult overseeing this. I absolutely support the right of a parent or guardian to take a child hunting, or to teach them gun safety, but this just has some questions I’d really like to see answered first.”

Echoing Culpepper with more snark and less thought was Michael Luciano at The Daily Banter

It could be argued that children, in a legal sense, are of unsound mind, which is the reason the justice system distinguishes them as a group (i.e., “minors”) from the general population. Furthermore, it’s not clear if parental or custodial consent that is given would be legally valid if that parent or custodian has themselves “been convicted of a crime of violence or is a drug addict, an habitual drunkard, or of unsound mind.”

This is actually not an idle question. Based purely on the text of the bill (and not taking into account anything else), it appears to me that a parent who (for instance) was disqualified from possessing a firearm would be able to consent to the possession of a handgun by a minor child who was not otherwise disqualified.

To which I add, what’s wrong with that? As I’ve written about earlier, given the myriad ways in which a person can be barred from owning a firearm for life, this is potentially a huge number of people, who were disqualified for reasons having nothing to do with violent crime. There is a large population of illegal aliens in the country, some of whom have children who are American citizens. Should these minor citizens lose the protection of the law when learning about firearms simply because their father is in the country illegally?


DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece, and is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice on this subject, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel.

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  1. Good for them. I’m curious, though, do the four conditions have to be all met? If hunting were the activity, would that have to be, for at least the portion in which the minor possesses the firearm, “in the presence of a licensed or accredited gun safety instructor”?

  2. It’s funny that in the popular imagination, the states of the old Confederacy are seen as gun-owning paradises where there are few legal obstacles to owning and carrying a heater. The reality is that Indiana and Kentucky are usually less restrictive than many Dixie states.
    I still have not figured out why people think Texas is so great for gun rights.

    • Just like South Carolina…they have some pretty odd gun laws for a southern state…but can’t complain about Georgia….

  3. ” if that parent or custodian has themselves “been convicted of a crime of violence or is a drug addict, an habitual drunkard, or of unsound mind.”

    I love this…they can be a crap person but its ok if they raise the kid and form their morals. But oversee them with a handgun? OMG!! Der chilens! They are suddenly overcome with concern for those same children now.

  4. Wow. My family has been breaking that law for five generations.
    We are firm believers in early firearm training.

  5. Glad to see another state moving in the right direction. Here in California, we recently changed the law which formerly allowed minors under 18 with no minimum age to own (not merely possess) a longgun, either given by the parents or by the grandparents with parental consent

    That is no longer the case (though minors already owning such before 2014 didn’t lose ownership)

    At least we can still have kids shoot guns (with responsible supervision of course)

    The law here even allows a minor of any age to possess a handgun, “on lands owned or lawfully possessed by the parent or legal guardian” with written consent, and those 16 or older to possess it elsewhere (say a shooting range or hunting) without adult presence, with written consent as long as far a lawful activity.

    A minor of any age may possess it with presence of parent, or a “responsible adult” that has the written consent of the parents. Again, as long as for any lawful activity. (to be more exact, “actively engaged in, or is in direct transit to or from”)

    The way I read the Alabama law those conditions are read as having an “or” as the bill says if “any” not if “all” are met. That would be good.

  6. I live in alabama and this is more symbolic than anything else. I’ve been “breaking the law” for four years now.

  7. I not giving legal advice and everyone should check their on state laws, BUT the CASE LAW law on possession generally EXCLUDES adult supervised activity, eg at the range or private plinking or training as well as hunting.

    The case law indicates things like handing a kid a firearm to go off on their own as transfer of “possession. “Handing a kid a firearm to shoot at range with you standing there, dry fire or takedown at home with you, hunt along with you is NOT a transfer of “possession” according to the case law I see on findlaw.

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