For the past sixty years, federal laws have prohibited the sale of handguns and handgun ammunition to adults under the age of 21. But now, a coalition of Democratic attorneys General is hoping to convince the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the federal ban based on their argument that it is “consistent with this Nation’s relevant historical tradition of firearm regulation.”
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who is also defending the state’s ban on so–called assault weapons and “large capacity magazines” in both state and federal courts, is leading the charge in filing a brief with the Court. He is joined by the Attorneys General of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.
They argue that the Second Amendment does allow governments to impose age–based restrictions on the purchase and use of firearms in order to protect the public safety. That said, some states – including Texas – have struck down bans on concealed carry for those under the age of 21, which presents a challenge for the coalition of attorneys general.
Moreover, the coalition of AGs is facing opposition from the Firearms Policy Coalition and the Louisiana Shooting Association, both of whom filed a lawsuit back in 2020 arguing that the federal ban should be overturned. U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays declared in December of last year that, “burdening the conduct at issue—the ability of 18–to–20–year–olds to purchase handguns from FFLs—is consistent with a longstanding, historical tradition which suggests that the conduct at issue falls outside the Second Amendment’s protection.”
However, many gun rights advocates disagree and argue that the Second Amendment does indeed protect semi–automatic handguns for lawful self–defense. “The Second Amendment isn’t a second–class right,” declared Erich Pratt, Senior Vice President of Gun Owners of America. “By denying young adults from accessing handguns, a fundamental right of self–defense is stripped away and an arbitrary age restriction is placed in the way of their constitutional rights.”
The case is currently before the Fifth Circuit, and all eyes will be on the Court to decide whether young adults should be able to purchase firearms from FFLs as guaranteed by the Constitution or if the current federal ban should remain in place. Whichever ruling comes down, it is sure to have far–reaching implications for both gun owners and non–gun owners alike.