GunsStatewide NewsProposals Restricting 18 to 20 Year Old Firearm Possession Are ‘Unconstitutional,’ Gov. Abbott Says

The remarks come a week after the State of Texas lost a suit challenging its prohibition on adults under 21 from carrying handguns.
August 31, 2022
At a campaign stop Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott pushed back on calls for gun control and seemed to hint that the state would not contest a court decision that ruled unconstitutional Texas’ prohibition on adults under 21 from carrying handguns.

Asked about calls from some to restrict the age to purchase an AR-15 after the Uvalde shooting that left 19 schoolchildren and two teachers dead — perpetrated by an 18-year-old with an AR-15-style rifle — Abbott said that courts have made it clear such a measure would be untenable.

Despite a common misconception, the “AR” in AR-15 stands for its manufacturer ArmaLite, not “assault rifle.”

“There have been three court rulings since May that have made it clear that it is unconstitutional to ban someone between the ages of 18 and 20 from being able to buy an AR,” he said, referring to the Ninth Circuit Court decision from May that ruled unconstitutional California’s under-21 prohibition on the purchase of AR-15s. Abbott also referred to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen that declared unconstitutional a state law strictly regulating concealed carry licenses.

He then turned his sights to a Texas opinion from last week that ruled unconstitutional the state’s prohibition against adults under the age of 21 from carrying handguns and ordered the suspension of the law’s enforcement by the state.

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“And most recently, a federal court in the State of Texas struck down a Texas law that banned people between the ages of 18 and 20 from buying a handgun. So, it’s clear that the gun control law that they are seeking in Uvalde, as much as they may want it, has already been ruled to be unconstitutional.”

In that case, Firearms Policy Coalition, et al. v. McCraw, the State of Texas, specifically the Texas Department of Public Safety, was the defendant. That means unless a third party tries to intervene, the state would have to appeal the ruling for it to be challenged.

“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,” Judge Mark Pitman ruled in that case.

Gun policy rocketed into the spotlight after the tragedy in Uvalde on May 24, also primary runoff day in Texas.

At the federal level, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) was instrumental in pushing through legislation that expanded background checks for purchasers under age 21 and provided funding for states to implement red flag laws.

But at the state level, which just implemented a permitless carry of handguns last year, there is less likelihood for robust gun restrictions to be implemented. Abbott’s Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke has not only called for restricting under-21-year-olds from purchasing firearms, but also to remove all AR-15s and AK-47s from private possession.

The two will meet in a debate on September 30, at which gun policy is sure to be featured.


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Brad Johnson

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.

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