Court ruling overturning MN ban on gun permits for 18- to 20-year-olds triggers opponents

Just as the DFL-controlled legislature prepares to enact a series of constitutionally questionable gun control measures, a federal judge has upstaged them by recently striking down a state law already on the books that banned 18-to-20-year-old Minnesotans from obtaining a permit to carry a gun.

“Judgment is granted to Plaintiffs on the issue of whether MN Statute 624.714 violates the right of the individual Plaintiffs and the otherwise-qualified 18-20-year-old members of the MN Gun Owners Caucus, Second Amendment Foundation, and Firearms Policy Coalition to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”

The court ruling received widespread national attention in the media from Fox News and other outlets.

Assisted by gun-rights advocacy groups, three individuals who were under 21 challenged a 2003 state law that enacted an age requirement to apply for a permit to carry a pistol. They argued that the law unconstitutionally prohibited young adults from exercising their Second Amendment right to bear arms. 

In a 50-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Menendez agreed. Relying on the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Bruen, the judge concluded that Minnesota’s law was unconstitutional and blocked the state from enforcing it.

Yet the decision quickly came under fire from the gun control advocates at the Star Tribune editorial board. It probably didn’t help that the federal judge on the case was appointed by President Biden.

It is beyond frustrating, as the nation recovers from yet another mass shooting, to have a federal judge strike down a state statute that has served Minnesota well for 20 years — namely, the sensible restriction that limited handgun carry permits to those 21 years of age and older…

The idea that a state is so helpless that it cannot even restrict teenagers from owning deadly weaponry is farcical. Eighteen-year-olds must wait until they turn 21 to legally buy a drink or purchase a pack of cigarettes. You can’t even rent a car in Minnesota until you turn 21. But handguns? Apparently that is no longer a problem.

The paper took aim at the evolving legal framework for adjudicating Second Amendment cases, set by the Supreme Court last year.

She [Judge Menendez] said she was driven by an earlier U.S. Supreme Court ruling last June called New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which struck down a New York state law on gun permit restrictions and set a new standard for lower courts in future gun cases. Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the opinion in that case, said that going forward, the government must prove that any firearm law being challenged was consistent with historical traditions of firearm regulation.

The editorial team gave a shout out to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison for committing to an appeal of the federal court ruling. But the paper appears most concerned over the potential impact recent court cases expanding Second Amendment protections may have on some lawmakers.

The ruling also comes at a sensitive juncture in the legislative session. A series of gun laws that include firearms storage, expanded background checks and red flag laws used to restrict gun ownership by those a court has found may be a danger to themselves or others has already passed the House. The bills now await a vote in the Senate, where DFLers control by a single-vote majority. If they pass, Walz has already said he would sign them. These proposed laws have been years in the making.

Yet the groups behind the successful challenge to the Minnesota law barring 18-to-20 year olds from getting gun permits also have something to say to legislators.

“This decision should serve as a warning to anti-gun politicians in Minnesota that the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus and its allies will not hesitate to take legal actions against unconstitutional infringements on the Second Amendment rights of Minnesotans, ” added Rob Doar, Senior Vice President & Political Director.