A federal judge in Fort Worth has ruled that the Second Amendment applies to those under the age of 21. The decision comes after a case was brought before the court by two adult plaintiffs under 21 and the Firearms Policy Coalition which is an advocacy nonprofit. The plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of a new statute that would make adults 18-20 years old eligible for a handgun license if they were under protective orders.
The federal judge ruled that the Second Amendment was written within a historical and traditional context that did not exclude people 18-20. The issue extends to constitutional interpretation, but the main point of note is that expanding access to firearms may raise concerns about public safety and could lead to criminal accusations for more people. Keep reading for more information.
The Case for Freedom
A lawsuit brought against the state in November 2021 by two adult plaintiffs under 21 and the Firearms Policy Coalition, a gun-rights advocacy nonprofit, challenged the constitutionality of the statute. The lawsuit argued that “18- to 20-year-old adults were fully protected by the Second Amendment at the time of its ratification.”
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman of the Northern District of Texas wrote that the Second Amendment, “as informed by Founding-era history and tradition,” did not exclude 18- to 20-year-olds from the right to bear arms.Judge Pittman, who was nominated by President Donald J. Trump in 2019, ordered the injunction stayed for 30 days, pending appeal, meaning that it would not immediately go into effect.
The Case Against
“This decision is a significant victory for the rights of young adults in Texas and demonstrates for the rest of the nation that similar bans cannot withstand constitutional challenges grounded in history,” Cody J. Wisniewski, a senior attorney for constitutional litigation at the Firearms Policy Coalition, said in a statement, noting that many people ages 17 to 20 fought in the American Revolution. He added: “Texas cannot point to a single Founding-era law that prohibited 18- to 20-year-olds from carrying a functional firearm for self-defense.”
Texas gun laws have grown less restrictive in recent years, even as the state reels from mass shootings, including in Uvalde, where an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in May. Months before the Firearms Policy Coalition filed its lawsuit in 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law that ended the requirement for Texans to obtain a license to carry a handgun.
As of June, six of the nine deadliest mass shootings in the United States since 2018 were carried out by people who were 21 or younger, reflecting a demographic shift in mass shootings. Before 2000, men in their mid-20s, 30s and 40s were more likely to engage in mass shootings.
Whether the judge’s decision improves gun laws and public safety or not has yet to be seen, but there are risks that giving access to more people could lead to increased reactionary measures where violence is concerned.
Shane Phelps Law will continue to follow this matter as it develops.