2A Groups Launch Legal Challenge To Minnesota Carry Laws

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

A coalition of individual gun owners and Second Amendment groups has filed suit in federal court in Minnesota alleging that the rights of 18-20 year-olds are being violated by the state’s prohibition on concealed carry for those under the age of 21.

The Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, and Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, along with three gun owners younger than 21 filed their complaint on Monday, accusing the the director of the state’s Department of Public Safety and several Minnesota sheriffs with violating both the Second and Fourteenth Amendment rights of young adults.

Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of SAF, argues that “we recognize the rights of law-abiding young adults to vote, join the military, sign contracts, start businesses, get married and do other things, but when it comes to exercising one of the most basic fundamental rights protected by the Constitution, suddenly we treat them like children. You shouldn’t be able to have it both ways.”

“Minnesota law prohibits private citizens from carrying guns outside the home or vehicle without a permit,” he added, “but the state does not issue permits to anyone under age 21. This is patently unfair to an entire class of citizens who have otherwise achieved ‘majority status’ to exercise these other rights and privileges, but their right to keep and bear arms is kept off-limits. Young adults between eighteen and twenty-one were fully protected by the Second Amendment at the time of its ratification. Hundreds of statutes from the colonial and founding eras required 18-to-20-year-olds to keep and bear arms.”

Adam Kraut, the Firearm Policy Coalition’s senior director of legal operations, agrees. “There is simply no constitutionally acceptable justification for Minnesota, or any other state, to completely deny a broad class of adults their fundamental, individual right to bear arms,” Kraut said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

The Minnesota case, known as Worth v. Harrington, is one of several recent legal challenges brought against states that prohibit the lawful carrying of firearms by those under the age of 21. California, Illinois, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Georgia are also facing litigation over the restrictions on young adults exercising their Second Amendment rights, and as the filing in Minnesota lays out, the young gun owners who are suing all have compelling arguments supporting their right to carry.

Kristin Worth works at a grocery store, and according to the new complaint “is frequently tasked with closing the grocery store. This requires her to leave the store at approximately 10 p.m. and traverse the dark parking lot to her car, alone.” It’s completely understandable that a young woman like Worth would not only feel safer if she could lawfully carry her gun, but would actually be safer as a result of her being able to exercise her Second Amendment rights.

Austin Dye is a barista and soon-to-be college student who is “concerned about a recent increase in violent crime, including civil unrest and political violence, in his immediate neighborhood, as well as in the area of East St. Paul, Minnesota, where he travels monthly to visit his stepfather.” The increase in crime is real, and a look at Minneapolis Police’s crime dashboard reveals that as bad as things were in the city last year, 2021 is even worse.

Axel Anderson, the last named plaintiff in the case, is an 18-year old who works a lot of overnight shifts at a local hotel. As the lawsuit states, the teen “must commute to and from his place of employment late at night and/or early in the morning. And the nature of his work itself often leaves Anderson alone in the hotel lobby over the late night and early morning hours.”

On one occasion, Plaintiff Anderson’s girlfriend, who had come to the hotel to visit him, was accosted and chased through the hotel parking lot by a group of unknown aggressors. Plaintiff Anderson desires to carry a handgun outside the home, in public for self-defense, defense of others, including his girlfriend, and other lawful purposes.

I can understand why Anderson, Dye, and Worth all want to carry a firearm for self-defense, and I applaud them and SAF, FPC, and the MN Gun Owners Caucus for bringing this case forward. Each of these plaintiffs can serve in the military, on a jury, get married, sign legal contracts, and would be charged as adults if they happened to violate Minnesota’s carry laws. They’re also not immune to being victims of violent crime.

Why then should they have to wait until they’re 21-years old to fully exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms in self-defense? “Because I said so,” isn’t a very good argument, but that’s ultimately going to be the legal justification provided by the defendants here. Let’s hope that common sense and the Constitution prevail in this case, and that the federal courts provide real relief to these young adults.