U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- A federal district court judge in Fort Worth, Texas has struck down a state law prohibiting young adults in the 18-20-year age group from carrying handguns in a case brought by the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), Inc., and two private citizens.
In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Mark T. Pittman, a Donald Trump appointee, wrote, “The issue is whether prohibiting law-abiding 18-to-20-year-olds from carrying a handgun in public for self-defense is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation. Based on the Second Amendment’s text, as informed by Founding-Era history and tradition, the Court concludes that the Second Amendment protects against this prohibition. Texas’s statutory scheme must therefore be enjoined to the extent that law-abiding 18-to-20-year-olds are prohibited from applying for a license to carry a handgun.”
According to the Texas Tribune, Judge Pittman stayed the order for 30 days, pending appeal, which is almost certain.
The issue of young adults enjoying full Second Amendment rights has become a flashpoint for debate since recent high-profile mass shootings, in Texas, New York and Florida have all been committed by adult males under age 21.
But lost in that discussion is the fact that the perpetrators in those crimes armed themselves with rifles, while this case deals specifically with the right to carry a sidearm legally. As Judge Pittman noted in his ruling, “Are law-abiding 18-to-20-year-olds a part of ‘the people’ mentioned in the Second Amendment? As explained below, the Court concludes that they are.”
“Beyond the First and Fourth Amendments, other constitutional provisions, which do not specifically mention ‘the people,’ support the Court’s conclusion that ‘the people’ protected by the Second Amendment include 18-to-20-year-olds. On this point, neither the Fifth Amendment nor the Fourteenth Amendment exclude—or have been interpreted to exclude—18-to-20-year-olds.”—Judge Mark T. Pittman
Judge Pittman’s 23-page decision underscores arguments that rights enumerated in the Constitution are equal in importance. For decades, prior to Supreme Court rulings in 2008 (Heller), 2010 (McDonald) and earlier this year (Bruen), the Second Amendment was treated differently, with some local governments and even some courts treating the right to keep and bear arms as a government-regulated privilege. This differentiation, some believe, brought forth the “two-step” framework for analyzing Second Amendment challenges, combining history with “means-end scrutiny.”
But that notion has been displaced by the decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, authored by Associate Justice Clarence Thomas and released in June. Judge Pittman’s ruling alludes to Bruen.
As noted by Justice Thomas in Bruen, “Despite the popularity of this two-step approach, it is one step too many. Step one of the predominant framework is broadly consistent with Heller, which demands a test rooted in the Second amendment’s text, as informed by history. But Heller and McDonald do not support applying means-end scrutiny in the Second Amendment context.”
Predictably, the gun prohibition lobby is not happy. As quoted by the New York Times, David Pucino, chief deputy counsel at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, stated, “Going back all the way to 2013, the Fifth Circuit precedent has said that you can prohibit both the purchasing of handguns and the carrying of handguns for people of the age of 18 to 21.”
He asserted the Pittman ruling is “squarely at odds” with Fifth Circuit precedent.
However, the Times also quoted Cody J. Wisniewski, an attorney for constitutional litigation with the FPC, who countered, “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…Texas cannot point to a single Founding-era law that prohibited 18- to 20-year-olds from carrying a functional firearm for self-defense.”
In his ruling, Judge Pittman writes, “Texas unsuccessfully attempts to avoid this holding by claiming that the Court’s conclusion is foreclosed by Fifth Circuit precedent…. Texas argues that because Bruen abrogated only the Step Two analysis, the Step One analysis in both cases remains binding precedent. The Court agrees that Bruen overruled any Fifth Circuit precedent as to the Step Two analysis.”
This could be an important decision, if upheld, with implications for other cases challenging bans on ownership of certain firearms—specifically semiautomatic modern sporting rifles—by young adults.
Judge Pittman’s ruling explains that because other amendments in the Bill of Rights—the First and Fourth amendments, for example, which also refer to “the people”—exclude “nor have been interpreted to exclude” young adults ages 18-20, “the Court declines to read an implicit age restriction into the Second Amendment.”
Pittman’s ruling adds further credibility to the contention that former President Trump’s lasting legacy will be his appointments to the federal courts. During his four years in office, he was able to fill some 300 court vacancies at all levels, including the Supreme Court. While Joe Biden has been scrambling to put liberals into vacancies, the impact of Trump’s appointments cannot be dismissed.
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