The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Pennsylvania laws that ban 18- to 20-year-olds from carrying firearms in public during a state of emergency are unconstitutional.
The federal appeals court cited a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that expanded gun rights and marked the latest instance of a court striking down a gun law after the Supreme Court’s conservative majority changed the landscape of firearms regulation with its June 2022 ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.
U.S. Circuit Judge Kent Jordan wrote that ““It is undisputed that 18-to-20-year-olds are among ‘the people’ for other constitutional rights such as the right to vote, freedom of speech, peaceable assembly, government petitions, and the right against unreasonable government searches and seizures.
“As we recently observed in Range, there is ‘no reason to adopt an inconsistent reading of “the people.”’ Indeed, wholesale exclusion of 18-to-20-year-olds from the scope of the Second Amendment would impermissibly render ‘the constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense … ‘a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees.’”
His opinion was joined by U.S. Circuit Judge D. Brooks Smith, a fellow appointee of Republican former President George W. Bush.
Judge L. Felipe Restrepo, an appointee of Democratic former President Barack Obama, was the dissenting vote in a 2-1 decision.
“A review of historical sources reveals that the Second Amendment’s plain text does not cover Appellants’ conduct because it would have been understood during the Foundingera that Appellants are not “part of ‘the people’ whom the Second Amendment protects,” wrote Restrepo. “Because Pennsylvania’s statutory scheme does not violate the Second Amendment of the Constitution, I respectfully dissent.”
The ruling was a victory for the Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition, two gun rights groups that along with several young Pennsylvanians filed a lawsuit in 2020 challenging the state restrictions on 18- to 20-year-olds carrying guns.
Adam Kraut, Executive Director of the Second Amendment Foundation, said in a tweet that “Scope of relief is more limited than what I was hoping for, but the Third Circuit has correctly identified that 18-20 year olds are part of “the people” identified in the Second Amendment.”
“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,” said Cody J. Wisniewski, Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) Action Foundation’s Vice President and General Counsel, and counsel for FPC. “If it wasn’t for 18-to-20-year-old adults being empowered to exercise their right to defend themselves, their loved ones, and their communities, our Nation wouldn’t exist–it would be a deep perversion of the Constitution to prevent them the same right today.”
Under Pennsylvania law, individuals must be at least 21 to apply for a license to carry concealed firearms.
This story will be updated