(CN) — Gun-rights organizations and a handful of young people in Illinois sued to overturn state laws banning people under 21 from carrying firearms in public, arguing that the rules violate the Second Amendment rights of young, but of-age gun owners.
In their challenge of the laws, the Second Amendment Foundation, Illinois State Rifle Association and Firearms Policy Coalition claim allowing only people over 21 to hold licenses to carry guns not only violates their Second Amendment rights but unfairly targets a group less likely to commit violent crimes than their older counterparts.
“The available data show that 18 to 20-year-old adults commit fewer violent crimes than those who are 21 to 24 years old,” attorney Christian Ambler of the Chicago firm Stone & Johnson wrote in the organizations’ complaint, citing 2019 data from the Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention. Ambler said this eliminates any potential argument that the restriction served a legitimate government interest.
“There is simply no constitutionally acceptable justification for Illinois to completely deny a broad class of adults their fundamental, individual right to bear arms,” Coalition senior director of legal operations Adam Kraut said in a statement. “The laws, policies and enforcement practices at issue in this case are nothing less than an unconstitutional ban on carrying arms in public.”
The groups name a number of law-enforcement defendants in their suit, and claim the restrictions are unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment. The defendants include Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Illinois State Police director Brendan Kelly and a number of county attorneys and sheriffs.
Raoul’s office did not return a request for comment by press time.
Joining the gun rights group as plaintiffs are 19-year-old Fayette County resident David Meyer, 19-year-old St. Clair County resident Mitchell Nalley and 18-year-old Kendall County resident Eva Davis. All three say they are law-abiding and want to carry firearms for self-defense purposes.
The plaintiffs say the trio “can vote, serve on a jury, hold public office, marry, sign legally binding contracts, join or potentially be drafted into the armed forces or called upon for federal and state militia service and even be held fully accountable before the law for criminal matters to the point of being executed,” but cannot carry a handgun in public.
Ambler also said Davis, as a woman, is particularly unfairly targeted. “Females between the ages of 18 and 21 commit violent offenses at an exceptionally low rate,” Ambler said. “There is absolutely no basis for broadly prohibiting them from carrying firearms in public.”
Illinois has some of the strictest gun-possession age restrictions in the nation, allowing only people over 21 to possess handguns and long guns like rifles and shotguns. It also requires firearm owners, whether carrying in public or not, to hold a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card.
Delays in issuing those cards led the Illinois State Rifle Association and Second Amendment Foundation to sue the state in early 2020, claiming the lack of funding for the program created an unconstitutional burden on residents’ Second Amendment rights.
The state's gun-related death rate is on the low side, ranking 35th among the states according to CDC data.
In 2015, the Seventh Circuit upheld Illinois’ tight restrictions on youth firearm ownership, finding that “the Constitution does not set forth an age of majority” and that a requirement that people under 21 get parental permission to buy a gun served a legitimate public interest.
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