When is it Illegal for Minors to Carry Firearms in Arizona?
A.R.S. § 13-3111 makes it a crime for a minor to possess a firearm in the state of Arizona under certain circumstances. However, there are many exceptions to this law. A minor can also possess a firearm while accompanied by a parent, guardian, hunting instructor or firearm safety instructor. An unaccompanied minor between the ages of 14 and 18 is allowed to possess a gun while hunting or during marksmanship competitions. And any minor can possess a gun on land owned by his parents or guardian. These exceptions are described in more detail below.
If none of the exceptions apply, however, then the minor may be charged with a class 6 under ARS 13-3111 and could be tried as either a juvenile or an adult. If a person has any questions about this, it is best to direct them to a competent gun attorney.
A.R.S. § 13-3111 Defined
ARS 13-3111, states:
- An unemancipated person who is under eighteen years of age and who is unaccompanied by a parent, grandparent or guardian, or a certified hunter safety instructor or certified firearms safety instructor acting with the consent of the unemancipated person’s parent or guardian, shall not knowingly carry or possess on his person, within his immediate control, or in or on a means of transportation a firearm in any place that is open to the public or on any street or highway or on any private property except private property owned or leased by the minor or the minor’s parent, grandparent or guardian.
Let’s break this definition down:
First, this law only deals with “unemancipated” minors under the age of 18. What does it mean to be “emancipated”? Under Arizona law, teens who are 16 or 17 may file a motion with the court to become legally free from their parents or legal guardian. ARS 13-3111 does not apply to teens who have been emancipated.
Even if a minor has not been “emancipated,” ARS 13-3111 does not apply if the minor possesses a firearm but is accompanied by any of the following:
- A parents or other guardian
- A certified hunter safety instructor
- A certified firearms instructor
Note: The hunting or firearms instructor must be certified. Also note that the other exception only applies to a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian. Aunts, uncles, or other relatives are not covered under this portion of the statute, nor are other adults, such as adult friends or older siblings.
The law also does not apply to private property that is owned or rented by the minor or his parents, grandparents, or legal guardian. Again, the property must be owned or leased by one of these people. Private property owned or leased by a family friend or someone else would not apply to this exception. However, this does mean that a minor may possess a firearm on his or her parents’ own property without running afoul of this law.
Other Exceptions to the Law
ARS 13-3111 also does not apply to a minor who is between 14 and 18 years old and who is engaged in any of the following:
- Engaged in lawful hunting or shooting events or marksmanship practice at established ranges or other areas where the discharge of a firearm is not prohibited.
- Engaged in lawful transportation of an unloaded firearm for the purpose of lawful hunting.
- Engaged in lawful transportation of an unloaded firearm between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. for the purpose of shooting events or marksmanship practice at established ranges or other areas where the discharge of a firearm is not prohibited.
- Engaged in activities requiring the use of a firearm that are related to the production of crops, livestock, poultry, livestock products, poultry products, or ratites or in the production or storage of agricultural commodities.
In other words, once a child reaches the age of 14, he is allowed to possess and use a loaded firearm for hunting and at marksmanship events. He may also transport the gun, as long as it is not loaded, to that hunting or shooting event. He may only load the gun once he is at the event, and the gun must be unloaded when he transports it back.
If a firearm is possessed under these circumstances, then it does not matter if the minor is unemancipated, accompanied by a guardian, or on his parents’ private property.
Example: A 16-year-old participates in competitive marksmanship events. He is allowed to drive himself to event with an unloaded firearm and use the firearm at the marksmanship competition. When he transports the firearms back to his house, however, the firearms must be unloaded again.
Penalties for Minor in Possession of a Firearm
If a minor possesses a firearm and it does not fall under any of the exceptions described above, then this is a violation of ARS 13-3111. This crime is classified as a class 6 felony. A felony conviction is a serious offense that can wind an offender in hot water and can include jail or prison time.
A juvenile offender may be tried as either a juvenile or an adult.
If the defendant is tried as a juvenile, potential penalty include:
- Being placed on intensive probation
- Paying up to $250 in fines for a crime involving an unloaded firearm, and paying up to $500 for a crime involving a loaded firearm
- Revocation of the juvenile’s driving privileges until he is 18
- Community service
- Serving time in a juvenile correction facility
A juvenile may sometimes be tried as an adult. If that happens, then the juvenile is subject to the same penalties and punishments that an adult might face for a class 6 felony.
The potential penalties for a class 6 felony depend on how many prior felony convictions the defendant has.
Criminal penalties for a class 6 felony include:
- No prior convictions: Probation or .33 to 2 years in prison.
- 1 prior felony: .75 to 2.75 years in prison
- 2+ prior felonies: 2.25 to 5.75 years in prison
Defenses to Minor Possessing a Firearm
As we discussed above, there are a number of exceptions to ARS 13-3111. These exceptions can be very complicated, and when defending these types of charges, we look to see if any of the exceptions could possibly apply in the juvenile’s case. Questions such as “Who the minor was with?” “Was the gun was loaded or not?” and “Where did the crime allegedly take place” all factor into a possible defense to the charges.
- No Possession: Even if the minor does not fall into one the exceptions provided under ARS 13-3111, there are still other ways to attack the charges. One potential option is to challenge the notion that the minor was in “possession” of the firearm. Merely being in the presence of a firearm is not enough under the law to prove possession. Under Arizona law, possession means either physically possession (i.e., holding the gun) or having “dominion or control” over the gun. Having “dominion or control” means that the person has “absolute ownership” or “power over” the gun. See State v. Salinas,No. 1 CA-CR 15-0581 (Ariz. Ct. Appl. Jul. 19, 2016). Physical possession is a fairly straightforward concept, but questions can arise is not actually holding the firearm but the prosecutor tries to argue that the minor exercised “dominion or control” over it. Depending on the facts, this can provide a defense attorney with an opportunity to challenge the notion of possession.
Example: The minor is in a car with three other people. The minor is sitting in the back seat with another person and there is a gun between them. The police charge the minor with possession of the gun because no exception under ARS 13-3111 applies. In these circumstances, it might be argued that the other passenger in the backseat, and not the minor, actually possessed the gun. Mere presence (i.e., simply being in the vicinity of something) does not by itself create “possession” under Arizona law.
How Salwin Law Group Can Help You
If you or your child has been charged with ARS 13-3111, an experienced defense attorney can help. We offer free consultation and can discuss your case with you today. Together we can help you get your life back.