Appeals court declares gun ban targeting young adults unconstitutional

 January 21, 2024

In yet another vindication of the Second Amendment stemming from a pivotal 2022 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, a federal appeals court in Pennsylvania just declared that a ban preventing those aged 18 to 20 from carrying guns in public during a state of emergency is unconstitutional, as The Hill reports.

By a margin of 2-1, the appeals panel found that young adults are entitled to the same constitutional rights as any other adult citizen, and the jurists cited the high court's decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen to reach that conclusion.

Ban found unconstitutional

The panel took into consideration the key holding in Bruen stating that when reviewing legislative restrictions on the Second Amendment rights of citizens, courts must examine the country's traditions and history regarding firearms in order to determine the constitutionality of such measures.

Having conducted just that sort of analysis, the majority of the panel declared, “The words 'the people' in the Second Amendment presumptively encompass all adult Americans, including 18-to-20-year-olds, and we are aware of no founding-era law that supports disarming people in that age group.”

“Accordingly,” the panel continued, “we will reverse and remand,” a move that revives the initial lawsuit that challenged the ban, as CBS News noted.

Evidentiary hurdles not met

In the case before the appeals panel, the Pennsylvania police commissioner contended that individuals under the age of 21 were considered to be minors under regulations in place at the time of the nation's founding.

However, the judges at the appeals level did not find that the commissioner met the evidentiary burden of establishing that claim in relation to Second Amendment guarantees.

Despite two of his colleagues finding evidence lacking for the claim, dissenting Judge Felipe Restrepo argued that America's Founding Fathers simply did not consider those under 21 to be full adults afforded the full complement of legal rights.

Reactions pour in

Representing the plaintiffs in the underlying case was the Firearms Policy Coalition, which has taken an active role in litigation nationwide and sought to bolster challenges to legislative attempts to restrict Second Amendment rights.

The group stated that “it would be a deep perversion of the Constitution” to declare young adults exempt from liberties provided by the founding documents, including those related to the right to keep and bear arms.

Cody Wisniewski, vice president and general counsel for the group said, “We applaud the Third Circuit's decision in this case confirming that 18-to-20-year-old adults have the same right to armed self-defense as any other adult.”

Though the Pennsylvania State police did not offer comment in the immediate wake of the ruling, an attorney for Everytown for Gun Safety declared the outcome “misguided.”

Janet Carter from Everytown Law declared, “Research shows us that 18-to-20-year-olds commit gun homicides at triple the rate of adults over the age of 21.”

She further claimed that “Pennsylvania's law has been an essential tool in preventing gun violence,” and contended that the court's decision demands reversal, but whether there is any chance at all of that happening, given the persuasive force of the Bruen precedent, only time will tell.