Kid law, part six: Weapons and the Web |

Kid law, part six: Weapons and the Web

Rohn Robbins
Vail, CO, Colorado

How this list has grown! In the first five parts of this series, we have considered such diverse matters as the limitations of minority, laws pertaining to cars, bikes and other means of locomotion, issues surrounding child abuse and neglect, body piercing, tattooing, curfew, drug laws, fighting, gangs, graffiti and vandalism. You’d think there was nothing left to say. Think again.

In this column, we take a look at kids and guns, hate crimes and the Internet.

While the law varies from state to state, most states limit the possession and use of firearms by minors. Although in general, a minor is defined as one under 18 years of age, firearm restrictions often apply differently to those under 16 and those between 16 and 18. In most states, it is illegal for a person under a specified age (usually 16) to possess a handgun unless he or she is accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or responsible adult. If a minor is 16 or older, he or she can only possess a handgun and/or live ammunition with the written permission of a parent or guardian. Even that possession is limited to specific purposes such as recreational sports. Additionally, no one may sell or give a firearm to a minor without parental consent. In some jurisdictions, this limitation applies equally to air guns.

Some kinds of guns ” sawed-off shotguns, machine guns, etc. ” are illegal to own in any circumstance. Similarly, other weapons may also be illegal, including daggers, belt buckle knives and throwing stars.

In many jurisdictions, if a child is caught with a dangerous weapon at school ” or tries to sell one ” in addition to any criminal charges, he or she will be expelled. If a parent gives a gun to a child ” or even leaves it where a child could get access ” if someone ends up killed or injured, the parent may be civilly and criminally liable.

When it comes to kids and weapons, the best advice is that they be used only for legitimate reasons ” such as hunting ” and then only with responsible adult supervision. If there are any questions relating to weapons and kids’ use of them, one would be wise to contact local police before any confusion may result in an inadvertent and potentially serious violation.

Hate crimes

A hate crime may be defined as a crime committed against a person or his or her property because of certain characteristics ” either real or perceived ” of or about the person. Such characteristics include race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability. Sometimes, a threat alone may amount to a hate crime.

Sadly, a disproportionate number of hate crimes are committed by children or young adults.

When the principal reason ” or in some jurisdictions a significant motive ” behind a crime is prejudice, the punishment for the underlying crime may be increased by as much as three or more years. In addition to criminal charges, a minor committing a hate crime may be suspended or expelled from school and, in most places, the victim may sue for money damages.

Words ” however hateful ” are generally constitutionally protected but the protection is not absolute. If the words amount to threats of violence ” or incite violence in others ” the words themselves may constitute a crime.

The Internet

The Internet is a tool for both good and evil. Most minors have grown up with computers and the Internet from the crib. Not only is sexual exploitation of children over the Internet a well-known and pernicious evil, but so too is the lesser-known use of the Internet as a modern-day vehicle for bullying and harassment. While not of equal consequence as the predation of children, downloading certain material can constitute a crime. What’s more, you as the parent or legal guardian of the child, could be liable.

Sexual solicitation of a child is a crime. It is equally a crime to send a minor sexually explicit material. If your child is being solicited or obscene material is being sent to him or her, in addition to notifying your Internet provider and local authorities, you should contact CyberTipline, on line at, or by phone at 800-843-5678.

In the seventh part of this series, we will consider parents’ rights and responsibilities, kids and privacy, and kids’ encounters with law enforcement.

Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. He is a member of the Colorado State Bar Association Legal Ethics Committee and is a former adjunct professor of law. Robbins lectures for Continuing Legal Education for attorneys in the areas of real estate, business law and legal ethics. He may be heard on Wednesday nights at 7:00 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) as host of “Community Focus.”

Robbins may be reached at 926-4461 or by e-mail at

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