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Oral Arguments Heard in NRA's Appeal for Second Amendment Rights of Young Adults

The NRA challenge to the ban on purchases of handguns from licensed dealers for those over 18 but under 21 was found in the favor of the defendants by U.S. District Court Judge Sam Cummings in September 2011. The suit, Jennings et al v. BATFE et al (former D’Cruz v. BATFE), was brought in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

People 18 years of age or older are NEVER charged as minors, for purposes of criminal violations. In fact, the vast weight of both criminal and civil law treat 18+ year olds as full adults.

Current federal firearms law includes a ban on the sale of firearms to those that the law and society otherwise consider as adults.  Heller specifically held that “public safety” concerns do not trump an enumerated right.  The McDonald case held the Second Amendment as a fundamental right.

The 7th Circuit has held that the corollary right to train at a range cannot be banned, then the corollary right to purchase a handgun for self defense (“in the home”) cannot be banned.  Judge Cummings decision does not follow the most recent higher court findings of the Second Amendment.

The NRA brought this suit approximately two years ago along with a companion suit against the State of Texas to allow the same age group concealed carry licenses. Texas currently only allows those who are serving or have served in the military to be able to obtain Texas concealed carry permits if they are under the age of 21.  The NRA brought both suits on Second Amendment and Equal Protection grounds.

Oral arguments were heard this week in the United Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the case of Jennings v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, in which the NRA is appealing a decision by a federal court in Texas, which held that the Second Amendment doesn’t protect the right of young adults to buy firearms from federally licensed dealers.

“The NRA has been engaged in this ongoing fight—not just in Congress and in state legislatures, but also in the courts—for the right of all law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms.  All Americans deserve for their Second Amendment rights to be fully respected.  If the law says you’re old enough to fight for your country, it should allow 18-20 year old adults to purchase and own a handgun for any lawful purpose,” said NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued the ruling that is being appealed.  The plaintiffs are a group of law-abiding 18 to 20-year-old adults who are challenging the federal ban on dealer sales of handguns to persons under 21, who are treated as adults for virtually every other purpose under the law. The lower court wrongly compared the ban to other restrictions the Supreme Court has said would be “presumptively lawful,” such as the ban on sales to convicted felons.

The NRA filed a brief on behalf of these law-abiding young adults pointing out that nearly a decade before the U.S. Supreme Court decided District of Columbia v. Heller, the Fifth Circuit itself had held (in the 2001 case of United States v. Emerson) that Second Amendment claims should be decided based on the amendment’s history and text. The history of the Founding era makes clear that 18-year-olds were considered adults for purposes of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms; for example, the Militia Act of 1792 required 18-year-olds to “be enrolled in the militia” and to arm themselves accordingly.

A parallel case, challenging the state of Texas’s age limit of 21 for issuance of concealed handgun licenses, is still pending in the Fifth Circuit.

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