Despite the known importance of zinc for human immunity, molecular insights into its roles have remained limited. Here we report a novel autosomal recessive disease characterized by absent B cells, agammaglobulinemia and early onset infections in five unrelated families. The immunodeficiency results from hypomorphic mutations of SLC39A7, which encodes the endoplasmic reticulum-to-cytoplasm zinc transporter ZIP7. Using CRISPR-Cas9 mutagenesis we have precisely modeled ZIP7 deficiency in mice. Homozygosity for a null allele caused embryonic death, but hypomorphic alleles reproduced the block in B cell development seen in patients. B cells from mutant mice exhibited a diminished concentration of cytoplasmic free zinc, increased phosphatase activity and decreased phosphorylation of signaling molecules downstream of the pre-B cell and B cell receptors. Our findings highlight a specific role for cytosolic Zn2+ in modulating B cell receptor signal strength and positive selection.