Court Passes On Challenges Restricting Handguns to Young Adults

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The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to consider whether the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms applies outside the home, taking a pass on a hot topic that has divided the lower courts.

The court declined to grant review of two laws that restrict handgun ownership by young adults — a federal law barring the sale of handguns to customers under 21 and a Texas law forbidding anyone under 21 to carry a handgun in public. Both laws were upheld by the lower courts.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to possess a gun at home for self-defense. Since then, the lower courts have split over the nature of gun rights beyond the home.

The cases the court acted on Monday involved challenges brought by the National Rifle Association and a group of Texas residents under 21. The federal statute allows the sale of rifles and shotguns to anyone aged 18 or older but sets the minimum age for buying a handgun at 21. The Texas provision excludes anyone aged 18, 19, or 20 from a state law allowing adults to carry a handgun in public for self-defense.

The state of Texas, arguing against the challenge, noted that three-quarters of the states have laws requiring a person to be at least 21 to get a license to carry a gun. The state's attorney general, Greg Abbott, was in the uncomfortable position of defending the law, putting him on the opposite side of the National Rifle Association in the case at a time when he is running for governor.

The Obama administration defended the federal law restricting handgun sales to minors. Congress acted after finding that young offenders were especially prone to misusing firearms, the government says. The federal law was meant to prevent minors from crossing state lines to buy guns that they could not get legally in the own states, it says.