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Oral Arguments Heard in NRA's Appeal for Second Amendment Rights of Young Adults

Friday, July 13, 2012

Oral arguments were heard this week in the United Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the case of Jennings v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, in which the NRA is appealing a decision by a federal court in Texas, which held that the Second Amendment doesn't protect the right of young adults to buy firearms from federally licensed dealers.

"The NRA has been engaged in this ongoing fight--not just in Congress and in state legislatures, but also in the courts--for the right of all law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms.  All Americans deserve for their Second Amendment rights to be fully respected.  If the law says you're old enough to fight for your country, it should allow 18-20 year old adults to purchase and own a handgun for any lawful purpose," said NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued the ruling that is being appealed.  The plaintiffs are a group of law-abiding 18 to 20-year-old adults who are challenging the federal ban on dealer sales of handguns to persons under 21, who are treated as adults for virtually every other purpose under the law. The lower court wrongly compared the ban to other restrictions the Supreme Court has said would be "presumptively lawful," such as the ban on sales to convicted felons.

The NRA filed a brief on behalf of these law-abiding young adults pointing out that nearly a decade before the U.S. Supreme Court decided District of Columbia v. Heller, the Fifth Circuit itself had held (in the 2001 case of United States v. Emerson) that Second Amendment claims should be decided based on the amendment's history and text. The history of the Founding era makes clear that 18-year-olds were considered adults for purposes of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms; for example, the Militia Act of 1792 required 18-year-olds to "be enrolled in the militia" and to arm themselves accordingly.

A parallel case, challenging the state of Texas's age limit of 21 for issuance of concealed handgun licenses, is also pending in the Fifth Circuit.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.