The Legal Fight To Restore 2A Rights To Young Americans

It’s the right of the people to keep and bear arms that shall not be infringed, according to the Second Amendment, but many states and the federal government have placed draconian restrictions on American adults under the age of 21 when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms.

On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co. Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation joins the show to talk about a series of lawsuits filed around the country challenging those infringements, as well as his thoughts on the potential dangers awaiting gun owners in a Biden presidency. It’s a great conversation, and I encourage you to check out the entire thing in the video window above.

When it comes to the litigation strategy pursued by SAF and other 2A allies like the Firearms Policy Coalition, Gottlieb says they’re pursuing complementary cases around the country, where one good decision could have an impact on other lawsuits or could create a split among the various circuit courts, making it more likely that the Supreme Court would agree to hear one of the challenges.

There are four main lawsuits that the SAF and others are engaged in at the moment that deal with the right to keep and bear arms for adults under the age of 21, all of them part of a larger effort by the SAF to take the Second Amendment fight to the courts, where they’re currently involved in around 40 separate litigation efforts.

We kicked off our conversation with a discussion about Jones vs. Becerra, which challenges California’s prohibition on 18-20 year-olds lawfully purchasing or possessing center-fire rifles. Taken together with the state and federal ban on retail sales of handguns to those under the age of 21, the state has created a situation where “the vast majority of firearms—including the firearms most useful for self-defense—are now off-limits to law-abiding Californians in this age bracket.” The lawsuit asks that the “age-based firearm ban must be enjoined, for the Second Amendment takes such a draconian infringement of the right to keep and bear arms ‘off the table.’”

SAF, along with the Firearms Policy Coalition, recently requested an injunction with the Ninth Circuit to block the ban on sales of center-fire rifles to those under 21 from being enforced, and we’re waiting now on the court’s response.

In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, SAF and FPC are challenging the state’s ban on concealed carry for those not yet 21. As Gottlieb notes, for the past two years the state has actually operated under a declared emergency by Gov. Tom Wolf, which under state law suspends the right to openly carry a firearm. Again, the totality of the laws has resulted in a situation where those under the age of 21 have now lost all legal means of carrying for self-defense.

The case, known as Lara vs. Evanchick, was just filed back in October, so the case has not yet gone to trial, but the gun rights groups have requested a preliminary injunction seeking both an expedited trial as well as judicial relief allowing those under the age of 21 to apply for a license to carry.

Louisiana is the setting for a lawsuit challenging the federal prohibition on handgun purchases for 18, 19, and 20-year olds. Once again the FPC is playing a role in the litigation, but the gun groups have also been joined by the Louisiana Shooting Sports Association in the quest to declare that section of federal law null and void.

“One mission of the Louisiana Shooting Association is to protect Americans’ right to keep and bear arms which necessarily includes their ability to acquire firearms,” said Dan Zelenka, Louisiana Shooting Association’s president. “Handguns are the firearm of choice for self-defense as well as for many types of sport shooting disciplines. Nothing in the Constitution would subject adults under the age of 21 to different rights and protections under the Second Amendment as adults over the age of 21. On behalf of our members who are currently banned under federal law, as well as our younger members who will soon be in that banned age group, the Louisiana Shooting Association is proud to be a part of this effort to stop the federal government from enforcing its unconstitutional ban.”

The last case that Gottlieb and I discussed involves Washington State’s 2016 gun control referendum, which included a ban on so-called “assault weapons” for adults under the age of 21. The SAF and the National Rifle Association recently appealed a ruling by a federal judge that upheld the gun control restriction, but oral arguments in the Ninth Circuit have yet to be scheduled in the case.

Taken in total, these four cases represent an excellent opportunity for the Supreme Court to weigh in before long, and hopefully on the side of the Constitution. It makes absolutely no sense that 18-year olds would be required to register for the draft and can be compelled to bear arms in defense of this nation, while at the same time being prohibited from keeping or bearing arms in self-defense. Let’s hope that there are at least five justices on the Supreme Court who agree.

Aug 18, 2022 5:30 PM ET