Although the Second Amendment “right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation” is supposed to belong to all Americans, right now Adult Americans age 18-20 are excluded from the commercial market for handguns. They may vote, enter contracts, and marry. They are eligible to serve in the military and die for their country. And they have, obviously. But they are prohibited by the federal Government from purchasing handguns and handgun ammunition commercially. They can buy rifles or shotguns commercially, but not handguns, which according to the SCOTUS is “the most preferred firearm in the nation to ‘keep’ and use for protection of one’s home and family.” See McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010) (quoting Heller).
This week we filed a memorandum in support of our motion for summary judgment in the Second Amendment Foundation’s federal lawsuit against the ATF challenging the ban on sales of handguns to 18-21 year olds. Here’s the filing:
Following New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. Bruen, if a law restricts conduct falling within the scope of the Second Amendment’s text, as the federal Government’s Handgun Ban does, that law is presumed invalid and can only be saved if the government demonstrates the existence of a “distinctly similar historical regulation” that burdened the right to bear arms in the same way and for the same reasons.
Of course, that doesn’t exist. At the time the Second Amendment was ratified, not only were there no laws in any state that purported to limit the rights of 18 to 20 year olds to purchase handguns for self defense, there were several laws enacted, including the Militia Acts of 1792, that required 18 year olds to buy and maintain firearms.
The correct historical period in examining the public’s understanding of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is 1791. “Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them.” See Heller. The Second Amendment was adopted in 1791.The Government directs the Court to look at laws adopted in the late 19th century and beyond to justify their Handgun Ban. The Supreme Court has already made clear that 1791 is the appropriate period.
Even at the time that the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, in 1868, only two states had a ban like the Handgun Bun and it would be another five years before another state adopted such a law. The ATF cannot point to any historical tradition that could justify the federal government’s attempt to deviate from the plain text of the Second Amendment. Therefore, we are asking the federal court to declare the federal Handgun Ban unconstitutional.