All states limit the right to purchase, own, or possess weapons to some extent, though restrictions differ widely. States commonly make it a crime to possess specific types of weapons, to possess weapons in specified locations, or to use weapons in a prohibited manner. When juveniles illegally possesses weapons, they can be charged just like an adult would.
Criminal statutes apply to both adults and juveniles. But when juveniles break one of those laws, their cases may be handled differently than those of an adult. Most of the time, juveniles are sent through the juvenile court system, where the aim is to counsel and support, rather than punish, the offender.
Thus, a state's weapons possessions laws apply to both adults and juveniles, but when a juvenile commits an offense it is usually dealt with through the juvenile justice system and not the adult criminal courts. Adults who commit a weapons possession crime face penalties such as incarceration, probation, or fines, while juvenile courts have the ability to impose a much broader range of penalties in an attempt to rehabilitate a juvenile offender.
State laws make a wide variety of weapons illegal for anyone to possess, though individual state prohibitions differ significantly. Though the possession of firearms is a constitutionally protected right, states typically make it a crime to possess explosives, exploding ammunition, automatic or “switchblade” knives, gas guns, or similar devices. Also, federal law imposes restrictions on possessing certain types of weapons without an appropriate license, such as suppressed or “silenced” firearms, automatic weapons, or short-barreled shotguns.
Many states also prohibit juveniles from possessing weapons that an adult is otherwise allowed to possess. A state's law may, for example, prohibit anyone from under the age of 18 from owning or possessing a firearm. A state may also prohibit younger juveniles from owning or possessing other types of weapons as well. For example, a state may make it illegal for any juvenile under the age of 16 to own a BB gun, air rifle, electronic stun device, or other weapon, while it may allow those between the ages of 16 and 18 to legally do so.
Juvenile weapons laws allow a juvenile to possess weapons in some situations. These laws provide that a juvenile who is under the supervision of a parent or legal guardian can possess a firearm for hunting or marksmanship training purposes. These exceptions also apply to situations where an adult who is supervising the child has permission from the child's parent or guardian to hunt with or train the child in marksmanship.
Possession means both physically carrying a weapon on you and having a weapon in an area that is under your control. For example, a student who has brought a gun to school and who carries it in his pocket is in possession of a weapon. However, if that same student brings the gun to school and then stores it in his locker, that is also considered possession even if the student is away from the locker or otherwise never has it on his person.
Juvenile courts have wide discretion in determining the appropriate sentence for a juvenile offender. If a court determines that there is enough evidence to show the juvenile committed an offense, it will impose a sentence aimed primarily at rehabilitating the juvenile, instead of simply punishing the juvenile for the offense. The consequence that a court deems an appropriate penalty can differ widely from case to case.
Choose your state from the list below to find information about your states laws regarding guns.