NRA: Opening Briefs Filed in Federal Age Limit Challenge

From a Nation Rifle Association/Institute for Legislative Action email

On Dec. 5, the NRA filed its opening appellate brief on behalf of several law-abiding young adults challenging the federal ban on dealer sales of handguns and handgun ammunition to persons between the ages of 18 and 20. The case is Jennings v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and will be heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. (A similar case challenging Texas’ age limit of 21 for issuance of concealed handgun licenses remains pending in the trial court.)

The appeal challenges a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, which held that the law does not violate the Second Amendment.  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.

In response, the brief points out that nearly a decade before 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.

The brief also argues that the right to possess arms clearly implies a right to acquire arms—a principle that has been recognized in other areas, such as First Amendment law.  For example, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a New York City anti-graffiti law banning retail sales of marking pens and spray paint to people under 21, even though older friends or relatives could buy these items for use by legitimate young artists.

Amazingly, the government makes a similar argument in Jennings, suggesting that the ban on dealer sales is constitutional because young adults could legally receive handguns or ammunition as gifts, or buy them in private, unlicensed sales.  (The government’s argument surely must be causing heartburn at the Brady Center, since the alternatives suggested by the government would not be subject to background checks in most states.)

But as the NRA’s brief notes, “none of the Plaintiffs has found this mode of random scrounging for second-hand pistols from unlicensed individual gun owners to be a satisfactory avenue for acquiring reliable, safe, and popular handguns.”  And a “friend of the court” brief by the National Shooting Sports Foundation points out that the ban deprives young buyers of benefits that are more readily available through licensed dealers, such as warranties, instruction manuals and safety training.

Related:  The President Of The United States publicly put forward that he’s above The Constitution, The Bill Of Rights and the laws of the land.  Obama Says He Won’t Be Bound by Gun Control Ban in Omnibus

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