Last year, the Texas Legislature passed a permitless carry bill that allows any adult to carry a handgun without obtaining a license — except 18 to 20-year-olds were excluded from the provisions, as that age group is generally prohibited from carrying a handgun.
This lawsuit, brought by the Firearms Policy Coalition and two individuals between the ages of 18 and 20, was first filed in November last year, asserting that the prohibition violated the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms and the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.
Col. Steven McCraw, director of the Department of Public Safety, was the state defendant in the case along with a trio of county attorneys.
“The issue is whether prohibiting law-abiding 18-to-20-year-olds from carrying a handgun in public for self-defense is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation,” Judge Mark Pittman ruled in a Thursday opinion.
“Based on the Second Amendment’s text, as informed by Founding-Era history and tradition, the Court concludes that the Second Amendment protects against this prohibition. Texas’s statutory scheme must therefore be enjoined to the extent that law-abiding 18-to-20-year-olds are prohibited from applying for a license to carry a handgun.”
Pittman analyzed the application of other amendments — namely the First and Fourth — to the 18-20 age cohort, and ruled “because neither [of those amendments exclude] 18-to-20-year-olds, the Court declines to read an implicit age restriction into the Second Amendment.”
Additionally, Pittman addressed the case made by many gun control advocates that the Second Amendment’s prefatory clause — “a well regulated militia” — justifies increased restrictions on gun ownership.
“[A]t the Founding, the ‘militia’ was generally understood to be comprised of ‘all able-bodied men,’ which included 18-to-20-year-olds,” he wrote.
After the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, Pittman asked respondents in this case to opine on Bruen’s implications for Texas’ handgun carry restrictions.
In his opinion, Pittman invoked the Bruen decision early on, writing, “The Second (and the Fourteenth) Amendment ‘protect[s] an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.’ N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. Bruen.”
In its response, the State of Texas contended that Bruen’s striking down of the “two step analysis” only applied to the second step. That two-step analysis is the methodology courts used to determine whether a regulation 1) violated the right to bear arms and 2) “survived the proper level of scrutiny.”
Pittman agreed on the merits of Bruen, but further opined that “the Court considers the Step One analysis only to the extent that it persuades this Court that the Second Amendment’s plain text does not cover the proposed course of conduct at issue here.”
“The burden falls on Texas to ‘affirmatively prove that its firearms regulation is part of the historical tradition that delimits the outer bounds of the right to keep and bear arms.’ Because Texas failed to carry its burden, the law must be enjoined.”
With this finding, Pittman enjoined and restrained the government defendants from enforcing the prohibition, beginning 30 days after delivery of Pittman’s ruling pending any appeal made by the State of Texas.
Until now, the State of Texas has been on defense facing the suit brought by FPC. If the case continues through the appeal of the ruling, the state will be on offense trying to overturn a ruling that expanded handgun carry rights.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.