NRA asks SCOTUS to strike down gun limits for minors

The gun lobby is challenging a law that bans the sale of handguns to those between 18 and 21

By Jillian Rayfield
Published August 1, 2013 9:22PM (EDT)
      (<a href=''>chinahbzyg</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
(chinahbzyg via Shutterstock)

The National Rifle Association is asking the Supreme Court to overturn a federal law that prevents federally licensed gun owners from selling handguns to people over 18 and under 21.

In a court filing, the NRA and two 19-year olds ask the court to strike down the 1968 law, which a three-judge panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld last year.

The law prevents licensed gun dealers from selling handguns, shotguns and rifles to anyone under 18, and further prevents the sale of handguns and ammo to anyone under 21. It does not prevent anyone between 18 and 21 from obtaining a gun through other channels, like private sales, and it does not stop them from purchasing a rifle or shotgun from a federally licensed dealer. The NRA is strictly challenging the provision of the law that applies to the purchase of handguns from licensed dealers for anyone over the age of 18 and under the age of 21.

Writing on behalf of the 5th Circuit panel, Judge Edward Prado argued that Congress was correct when it “restricted the ability of minors under 21 to purchase handguns because Congress found that they tend to be relatively immature and that denying them easy access to handguns would deter violent crime." He added that Congress "could have sought to prohibit all persons under 21 from possessing handguns — or all guns, for that matter. But Congress deliberately adopted a calibrated, compromise approach."

The NRA's petition was filed in April, after eight of the 15 judges on the 5th Circuit voted against rehearing the case en banc. The filing asks the court to consider "Whether a nationwide, class-based, categorical ban on meaningful access to the quintessential means to exercise the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense can be reconciled with the Second Amendment, the equal protection guarantee, and this Court’s precedents."

"The Framers’ decision to enshrine the Second Amendment and this Court’s decisions recognizing that the right it secures is both individual and fundamental are decisions with consequences," the filing continues. "One obvious consequence is that individuals above the legal age of majority cannot be denied any meaningful ability to purchase the quintessential means for exercising the core individual right."

From Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSBlog:

Since the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, establishing a personal Second Amendment right to have a gun for self-defense, and its 2010 decision in McDonald v. Chicago, extending that right all across the country at the state and local level, the Court has not granted review of any new gun control case.   In fact, it has turned down at least six such challenges by gun rights advocates to federal or state restrictions.

Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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Gun Control Minors Nra Second Amendment Supreme Court