State’s 21-year-old age requirement for conceal carry permit faces legal challenge

A record number of Minnesotans applied for and received a permit to carry a concealed weapon last year — 96,554. An unprecedented number of residents — more than 358,000 — now hold a valid permit to carry with an avalanche of applications continuing to pour in to sheriff’s offices for verification.

The total would undoubtedly be even higher if Minnesota opened the process to all adults, rather than restricting permit holders to the age of 21 and over. A lawsuit recently filed by three Minnesotans under age 21 and three gun-rights groups takes aim at the constitutionality of the state’s conceal carry ban on younger adults.

A news release from the Firearms Policy Coalition summarizes their case.

This legal scheme is thus an unconstitutional total ban on the exercise of the fundamental human right to bear arms for a broad class of legal, law-abiding adults who can vote, serve on a jury, hold public office, marry, and serve in the armed forces.

The complaint states that “[t]hroughout American history, arms carrying was a right available to all peaceable citizens,” and that “[h]undreds of statutes from the colonial and founding eras required 18-to-20-year-olds to keep and bear arms.” Additionally, the complaint argues that Minnesota’s ban “is particularly illegitimate as applied to young women such as Plaintiff Worth” because “[f]emales between the ages of 18 and 21 commit violent offenses at an exceptionally low rate” while noting that “available data show that 18-to-20-year-old adults commit fewer violent crimes than those who are 21-to-24-years-old.”

The lawsuit says one plaintiff, Kristin Worth of Rosemount, wants the right to legally carry a Barretta 92x handgun to prevent her from becoming a victim of the crime she sees happening all around her.

Plaintiff Worth is frequently tasked with closing the grocery store. This requires her to leave the store at approximately 10 p.m. and traverse the dark parking lot to her car, alone. Additionally, Plaintiff Worth often travels alone while in public, to and from work, to and from friends’ houses, and to run errands. Based on this general vulnerability and the prevalence of street crime, including sex offenses, in her immediate neighborhood of Milaca, Plaintiff Worth desires to carry a handgun for self-defense.

Another plaintiff, 18-year-old Axel Anderson, got involved because he’s already faced situations in which he feared for his safety. From the Alexandria area in central Minnesota, Anderson told the West Central Tribune rural residents can be particularly vulnerable given the large, wide-spread areas patrolled by the police.

Anderson said that he worked the overnight shift at a hotel and there were multiple occasions where he did not feel safe and had no way of protecting himself. He said he’s called 911 before and that it took more than 15 minutes for anybody to arrive.

“That’s more than enough time to get robbed and have them leave without a trace,” Anderson said. “If I had a firearm, I would be able to protect myself instantly.”

He feels there are many situations other 18-year-olds are in where they feel unsafe whether at work or just walking down the street.

The lawsuit names the sheriffs of the respective counties the plaintiffs live in, as well as the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety John Harrington.

“As part of our continuing litigation efforts designed to ensure that all individuals are able to exercise their right to keep and bear arms, we filed this case to have Minnesota’s laws and policies declared unconstitutional and enjoined from enforcement,” said Adam Kraut, FPC’s Senior Director of Legal Operations. “There is simply no constitutionally acceptable justification for Minnesota, or any other state, to completely deny a broad class of adults their fundamental, individual right to bear arms. We look forward to vindicating the rights of our clients and the thousands of young adults who reside in Minnesota.”