Pennsylvania Gun Restrictions For Adults Under 21 Struck Down By Federal Court

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Sunday, Jan 21, 2024 - 10:30 PM

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Pennsylvania’s ban on adults under 21 carrying guns in public violates the U.S. Constitution, a federal court ruled on Jan. 18.

GREELEY, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 12: Pistols and other weapons are displayed at a shooting range during the “Rod of Iron Freedom Festival” on on October 12, 2019 in Greeley, Pennsylvania. The two-day event, which is organized by Kahr Arms/Tommy Gun Warehouse and Rod of Iron Ministries, has billed itself as a “second amendment rally and celebration of freedom, faith and family.” Numerous speakers, vendors and displays celebrated guns and gun culture in America. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The Constitution’s Second Amendment, which says that “the people” have the right to “keep and bear arms,” applies to all adults, a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit panel said in a split decision.

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,” U.S. Circuit Judge Kent Jordan wrote for the majority.

In a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision, the nation’s top court found that gun restrictions must be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

Pennsylvania law bars carrying guns in a concealed manner in public without a license. People under 21 cannot apply for a permit.

While most Pennsylvania adults are typically allowed to carry guns openly in public, only those who met certain criteria, such as having a license, were able to do so legally once a state of emergency was declared for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those restrictions violated the constitutional rights of adults under 21, plaintiffs argued in a lawsuit filed in 2020.

U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV ruled against them in 2021. He said that per guidelines outlined in a 2008 Supreme Court decision, the restrictions were “longstanding” and “presumptively lawful” and thus fell “outside the scope of the Second Amendment.”

The Firearms Policy Coalition and the other plaintiffs appealed, arguing the ruling was wrong. When the Supreme Court issued its 2022 ruling, the plaintiffs notified the appeals court. The 2022 ruling established that the right of adults to carry guns in public “is squarely protected by the Second Amendment” and Pennsylvania “has not carried its burden in proving that the State’s restrictions as to 18-to-20-year-olds are analogous to any historical restrictions,” the plaintiffs said.

Pennsylvania officials argued that the regulations still fell outside the scope of the Constitution, in part because adults aged 18 to 20 are not part of “the people” and should not be struck down.

Judge Jordan, in the new ruling, said that’s not true.

18-to-20-year-olds are, like other subsets of the American public, presumptively among ’the people' to whom Second Amendment rights extend,” he wrote.

That means Pennsylvania officials would have to identify historical laws that limited the population’s gun rights, and they did not do so, the judge added. In fact, an act passed by Congress shortly after the Second Amendment was ratified required all men to enroll in a militia when they turned 18. They were then armed.

“We understand that a reasonable debate can be had over allowing young adults to be armed, but the issue before us is a narrow one. Our question is whether the Commissioner has borne his burden of proving that evidence of founding-era regulations supports Pennsylvania’s restriction on 18-to-20-year-olds’ Second Amendment rights, and the answer to that is no,” Judge Jordan said.

U.S. Circuit Judge D. Brooks Smith joined with Judge Jordan. Both were appointed by former President George W. Bush, while Judge Stickman was appointed by former President Donald Trump.

U.S. Circuit Judge L. Felipe Restrepo, appointed under former President Barack Obama, offered a dissent.

“There is no dispute that there is some age threshold before which the protection of the Second Amendment does not apply,” Judge Restrepo wrote, adding later that consultation with various sources led him to believe that “the scope of the right, as understood during the Founding-era, excludes those under the age of 21.”

The decision reversed the earlier ruling against the plaintiffs.


The Firearms Policy Coalition cheered the new ruling.

“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,” Cody J. Wisniewski, counsel for the coalition, said in a statement. “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.”

Today’s ruling ensures that these individuals have the ability to defend themselves during a state of emergency,” Adam Kraut, the Second Amendment Foundation’s executive director, added. The foundation was also part of the suit.

Other plaintiffs included Madison Lara, an adult under 21 who owns a rifle and handgun and said she wants to be able to carry them around for self-defense, and Logan Miller, another affected Pennsylvania resident who lawyers said has abstained from carrying guns to avoid being charged with a felony.

The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) was the named defendant in the case.

“PSP has no comment, as our attorneys are still reviewing the ruling,” a spokesman told The Epoch Times in an email.

The office of Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, did not respond to a request for comment.