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Youth Firearm Access and Safety

Written by Dr. Sarah Anderson
Published on February 24, 2023
Research Highlights

It is not clear if minors can legally open carry firearms in permit-less concealed carry states like Missouri.

In Missouri, firearms were the leading cause of injury-related deaths among youth under 18 from 2018-2021.

Child access prevention laws reduce juvenile firearm suicides, homicides, and firearm assaults.

Firearm violence contributes to many youth fatalities in MO.

Missouri is among the top states for youth firearm fatality rates (Figure 1; KFF 2020). Between 2018-2021, firearms and suffocation were the top causes of injury-related death among youth under 18 (9.9% and 9.7% of all youth deaths respectively; CDC WONDER).

  • Most youth firearms deaths were homicides (58%), followed by suicides (32%), accidents (7%) or unknown causes (CDC WONDER).
  • Youth firearm deaths in Missouri are more common in inner cities (19.5 per 100,000 youth) than the rest of the state (4.4-7.3 per 100,000; CDC WONDER).

In CO and IA, more rural youth reported easy access to firearms than those in urban areas, with the majority of rural youth reporting access to an unsecured firearm in their homes (Spark 2021; Jennissen 2021).

  • In addition to unsecured firearms in the home, youth may access firearms by firearms bought for them, friends, theft, or illegal purchases.
  • There are no recent studies on how these methods vary based on geography or other demographic features.


The laws regarding minors and firearms are unclear in MO.

Under federal law, one must be at least 18 years old to buy a long gun and 21 years old to buy a handgun from a licensed dealer. Dealers are federally licensed and follow federal statutes.

  • Parents may buy a handgun for juvenile use in ranching, hunting, etc. The youth must have written permission from their parent to possess the handgun (ATF).

MO law states that “federal laws deemed infringements of United State and Missouri Constitutions… [such as] any act forbidding the possession, ownership, use, or transfer of a firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition by law-abiding citizens…” will not be enforced.

  • The U.S. Department of Justice is currently suing Missouri on the grounds that this approach “is invalid under the Supremacy Clause, is preempted by federal law, and violates the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity” (DOJ 2022).
Age of Possession

MO law allows firearms to be sold or given to a minor with parent consent, excluding people who cannot legally possess a firearm- fugitives from justice and those who are convicted of a felony, regularly intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, or judged to be mentally in-competent (RSMo 571.070).

  • MO law states that the legislature “…strongly promotes responsible gun ownership, includ-ing parental supervision of minors in the proper use, storage and ownership of all firearms…” There are no statutory penalties included in this section.
Open/Concealed Carry

MO does not require a permit to carry a concealed firearm. However, open carry requires a valid concealed carry permit (RSMo 571.037).

  • In MO, a person must be at least 19 years old to apply for a concealed carry permit. There are no stated penalties for open carry without a concealed carry permit (RSMo 571.101; RSMo 571.037).

In MO, youth (6-15) can hunt. At age 11, youth can get certified in hunter education and hunt certain animals alone. If not certified, they must hunt with an adult who is (MO MDC).

  • The type of firearm allowed depends on what animal is being hunted. MO youth need licenses to hunt deer and turkey (MO MDC).

Firearm policies impact youth safety.

Child Access Prevention

Limits to youth firearm access such as secure firearm storage and minimum age requirements can reduce gun violence among young people (RAND).

  • Between 1981 and 2017, laws that restricted juvenile firearm access and raised the age of purchase to 21 reduced youth suicide (13% and 6% respectively; Kappelman 2021; Kivisto 2020).
  • Child-access prevention laws decrease homicides and firearm assault injuries among young people (RAND 2023).
  • In a national study, states that held the firearm owner responsible for negligent storage had a 15% decrease in firearm homicides (Azad 2020).
Other Firearm Policies

There is some evidence that policies such as dealer background checks, purchaser waiting periods, firearm surrender, and prohibitions of firearm possession for select offenders lower homicide rates (RAND).

  • Firearm homicides increased by 23% after Missouri’s permit-to-purchase law was repealed in 2007 (Webster 2014).

Shall-issue laws, where a permit must be given if the applicant meets the standards set in law, and ‘stand-your-ground’ laws increase firearm homicides (RAND 2023).

  • One national study found a 7% higher firearm homicide rate in shall-issue com-pared to may-issue states (Knopov 2019).
  • Firearm homicides in FL increased by 31.6% after a “stand-your-ground-law" was enact-ed in 2005 (Humphreys 2017).

Read our Science Note on Secure Firearm Storage for more on the relationship between firearm storage and firearm deaths.



Azad HA, Monuteaux MC, Rees CA, Siegel M, Mannix R, Lee LK, Sheehan KM, Fleegler EW. Child Access Prevention Firearm Laws and Firearm Fatalities Among Children Aged 0 to 14 Years, 1991-2016. JAMA Pediatr. 2020 May 1;174(5):463-469. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.6227. PMID: 32119063; PMCID: PMC7052788. 

Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives . (2020, January). Q&A. Retrieved from ATF: https://www.atf.gov/firearms/qa/may-parent-or-guardian-purchase-firearms-or-ammunition-gift-juvenile-less-18-years-age 

Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics System, Mortality 2018-2021 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released in 2021. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 2018-2021, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10-expanded.html on Feb 20, 2023 

Humphreys DK, Gasparrini A, Wiebe DJ. Evaluating the Impact of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" Self-defense Law on Homicide and Suicide by Firearm: An Interrupted Time Series Study. JAMA Intern Med. 2017 Jan 1;177(1):44-50. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.6811. PMID: 27842169. 

Jennissen CA, Wetjen KM, Wymore CC, Stange NR, Denning GM, Liao J, Wood KE. Firearm Exposure and Storage Practices in the Homes of Rural Adolescents. West J Emerg Med. 2021 May 19;22(3):498-509. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2021.3.50263. PMID: 34125019; PMCID: PMC8202998. 

KFF. (2020). Deaths Due to Firearms by Age. Retrieved from State Health Facts: https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/deaths-due-to-firearms-by-age/ 

Kappelman J, Fording RC. The effect of state gun laws on youth suicide by firearm: 1981-2017. Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2021 Apr;51(2):368-377. doi: 10.1111/sltb.12713. PMID: 33876479. 

Kivisto, A. J., Kivisto, K. L., Gurnell, E., Phalen, P., & Ray, B. (2021). Adolescent suicide, household firearm ownership, and the effects of child access prevention laws. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 60(9), 1096-1104. 

Knopov A, Siegel M, Xuan Z, Rothman EF, Cronin SW, Hemenway D. The Impact of State Firearm Laws on Homicide Rates among Black and White Populations in the United States, 1991-2016. Health Soc Work. 2019 Oct 17;44(4):232-240. doi: 10.1093/hsw/hlz024. PMID: 31665302. 

Missouri Department of Conservation. (n.d.). Permit Exemptions. Retrieved from Missouri Department of Conservation: https://mdc.mo.gov/permits/permit-exemptions 

RAND. (2023, January 10). Effects of Child-Access Prevention Laws on Violent Crime. Retrieved from Gun Policy in America: https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/child-access-prevention/violent-crime.html 

RAND. (2023, January 10). Effects of Concealed-Carry Laws on Violent Crime. Retrieved from Gun Policy in America: https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/concealed-carry/violent-crime.html 

RAND. (n.d.). Gun Policy in America. Retrieved from RAND Corporation: https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy.html 

Revisor of Missouri. (n.d.). Title XXXVIII Crimes and Punishment; Peace Officers and Public Defenders . Retrieved from Revisor of Missouri: https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneChapter.aspx?chapter=571 

Spark TL, Wright-Kelly E, Ma M, James KA, Reid CE, Brooks-Russell A. Assessment of Rural-Urban and Geospatial Differences in Perceived Handgun Access and Reported Suicidality Among Youth in Colorado. JAMA Netw Open. 2021 Oct 1;4(10):e2127816. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.27816. PMID: 34623407; PMCID: PMC8501400. 

Webster, D., Crifasi, C.K. & Vernick, J.S. Effects of the Repeal of Missouri’s Handgun Purchaser Licensing Law on Homicides. J Urban Health 91, 293–302 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-014-9865-8 

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