Attorney General Tong Defends Federal Restrictions on Handgun Sales to Individuals Under 21(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong joined a coalition of 21 attorneys general filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit defending the federal government’s longstanding prohibition on the sale of handguns and handgun ammunition by federally-licensed retailers to individuals under the age of 21.
The case, Reese v. ATF, involves young Louisiana residents Caleb Reese and Emily Naquin, as well as three gun lobbyist groups representing firearm manufacturers and owners. They are challenging federal age restrictions on handgun purchases that date back to 1968 and the passage of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. Congress enacted the statutory restriction after finding at the time that individuals under the age of 21 accounted for a disproportionate share of violent crimes, including murder, rape, and aggravated assault.
The case was dismissed by a federal judge in Louisiana in late 2022. The matter is now before the 5th Circuit on appeal. In a similar challenge, a federal judge in Virginia last week struck down those same age restrictions. The U.S. Department of Justice is expected to appeal that ruling.
“This is yet another extremist challenge backed by the gun lobby seeking to erase longstanding, lifesaving public safety laws. The Second Amendment does not prohibit the government from enacting basic measures to prevent gun violence. We’re fighting alongside the federal government to defend our nation’s commonsense gun laws against this dangerous challenge,” said Attorney General Tong.
“We know all too well what tragedy can strike when access to dangerous firearms, including handguns, is unfettered. We have a long history of addressing this public health crisis with commonsense laws while still protecting Constitutional rights,” said Jeremy Stein, Executive Director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence.
The attorneys general argue that the Second Amendment allows governments to enact sensible and varied regulations to protect the public, including age-based restrictions on the purchase, possession or use of firearms. Although regulations vary based on each state’s needs, virtually every state has imposed some form of age-based regulations on firearms, and at least 19 states and the District of Columbia have imposed regulations mirroring the federal minimum age requirement of 21 to purchase handguns.
Joining Attorney General Tong in filing the amicus brief are the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.