Five gun rights cases to watch


This case is about who can legally obtain guns. It challenges the 1968 federal prohibition on licensed gun dealers selling handguns or handgun ammo to adults between the ages of 18 and 20. People in that age range can buy long guns, such as rifles or shotguns, and they can legally possess handguns. But they are barred from purchasing any of these items from licensed dealers, restricting their ability to obtain what they are permitted to own.

The case has dragged on since 2011, necessitating the addition of a new plaintiff (since the original pair of complainants have reached age 21). Two lower courts considering the case decided that 18- to 20-year-olds have no rights under the Second Amendment, never mind Heller.

The petition for certiorari requests the Supreme Court to decide “whether a nationwide, class-based, categorical ban on meaningful access to the quintessential means to exercise the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense can be reconciled with the Second Amendment.” That question has potential relevance beyond the age cohort at issue: There are legal limits imposed on the gun rights of convicted felons and those adjudicated mentally ill, for example.

The lower courts’ opinions in NRA v. BATFE show they are not taking the Second Amendment very seriously. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, which initially granted the government’s request to dismiss the case in September 2011, thought that since “Congress identified a legitimate state interest-public safety-and passed legislation that is rationally related to addressing that issue,” neither the Second Amendment nor equal protection of the law mattered. The court’s reasoning went like this: Congress did it, they thought they had their reasons, that settles it.