US judge rejects Texas gun ban on youths after Supreme Court ruling

A federal judge in Texas overturned the state’s ban on 18-20-year-olds from carrying handguns Thursday in what appeared to be the first major court decision since the landmark ruling on gun rights handed down by the US Supreme Court in June.

The challenge to a Texas law banning young men who are not in active military service from carrying handguns in public was filed in 2021 by the Firearms Policy Coalition, a gun owners rights group. The group said the ban violates the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which states that states can organize militias and that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

In June, the US Supreme Court ruled for the first time that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to bear arms in public for self-defense. The decision also instructed the federal judiciary to apply the “date only” test when considering challenges to gun regulations, saying the regulation is constitutional only if it is similar to the one in the 18th century when the Second Amendment was ratified.

Judge Mark Pittman of the U.S. District Court in Fort Worth ruled that there was no historical tradition of prohibiting young people from carrying guns in public in an opinion that cited repeatedly in the new Supreme Court ruling.

The judge suspended his ruling for 30 days to allow Texas to file an appeal.

In finding the ban unconstitutional, Pittman wrote that “uncontested historical evidence establishes that persons between the ages of 18 and 20 were understood to be part of the militia in the founding era.”

Lawyers from the Texas Attorney General’s Office have argued unsuccessfully that there is a historical basis for determining who can carry a gun based on age.

Age restrictions only applied to carrying handguns; Long rifles can be purchased in Texas once a person turns 18, as was the case with the 18-year-old shooter who used a semi-automatic rifle to attack a school in Ovaldi, Texas, in May, killing 19 children and two teachers.

There was no immediate comment from the office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott or state Attorney General Ken Paxton, both Republicans.

Last year, Abbott signed a law that means Texans over the age of 21 are no longer required to obtain a license, undergo a background check or be trained to carry a handgun.

Democratic leaders across the United States have decried the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle and Revolver Association v. Bruin for making it so difficult to regulate guns in a country where mass shootings are frequent.

The Firearms Policy Coalition said it is challenging similar restrictions on young adults who carry guns in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Illinois, Minnesota, California and Georgia.

“This decision is a major victory for youth rights in Texas and shows the rest of the nation that similar bans cannot withstand constitutional challenges rooted in history,” Cody Wisniewski, the group’s lead attorney, said in a statement.

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