Citing a “categorical burden on the fundamental right to keep and bear arms,” the National Rifle Association is petitioning the Supreme Court to reverse decades-old regulations prohibiting the sale of handguns to people under the age of 21.
The NRA’s petition to the Nation’s highest court challenges an October ruling handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit which upheld the regulations, contending that people between the ages of 18 and 20 “tend to be relatively immature and that denying them easy access to handguns would deter violent crime.”
“As with felons and the mentally ill, categorically restricting the presumptive Second Amendment rights of 18-to-20-year-olds does not violate the central concern of the Second Amendment,” the court ruled.
The court stressed that adults under the age of 21 are not denied 2nd Amendment rights because they are currently legally allowed to purchase rifles, shotguns and other weapons. As for handguns, the court also noted that parents and guardians can give 18 to 20 year olds firearms in that class as gifts, and that no laws bar the possession or use of those weapons by people in the age bracket.
But the NRA argues that disallowing American adults under the age of 21 the right to purchase handguns—the most popular class of self-defense firearm—violates the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller ruling that assures Americans the right to carry handguns for protection.
“The Framers’ decision to enshrine the Second Amendment and this Court’s decisions recognizing that the right it secures is both individual and fundamental are decisions with consequences,” the NRA wrote in its petition. “One obvious consequence is that individuals above the legal age of majority cannot be denied any meaningful ability to purchase the quintessential means for exercising the core individual right.”
Legal analysts expect the Supreme Court, which could rule on the petition by September’s end, to side with the lower court ruling and to reference higher suicide, substance abuse and crime rates among younger Americans to justify the restrictions. NRA supporters, however, have noted that 18-year-olds are eligible to bear arms, including handguns, in defense of the Nation, and shouldn’t be denied the right to purchase self-defense firearms in the homeland.