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Fraser v. ATF

Supporting restrictions on 18-to-20-year-olds’ ability to purchase handguns from federally licensed dealers.

Case Information: Fraser v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, No. 3:22-cv-00410 (United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, brief filed December 2, 2022)

At Issue: A 20-year-old is the named plaintiff in this class-action challenge to federal restrictions on 18-to-20-year-olds’ ability to purchase handguns from federally licensed dealers. Defendants–the ATF, its director Steven Dettelbach, and Attorney General Merrick Garland–have moved to dismiss, while plaintiffs have asked the court for summary judgment declaring the restrictions invalid. Following requests for supplemental authority to help decide the motions and oral arguments, the Court found that both parties had modified the positions taken in their initial briefings on important questions and ordered them to file replacement briefs.

Our Brief: With Brady, we argue that the challenged laws are presumptively constitutional, that plaintiffs cannot overcome the presumption of constitutionality, and that the court should dismiss the case. 

Numerous courts have found similar restrictions on young adults to be the type of “longstanding” and “presumptively lawful” firearm regulations that the Supreme Court has declared constitutional. While the challenged laws do not implicate the Second Amendment, our brief provides further context to show they would survive the framework for evaluating gun safety regulations articulated in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen and to identify an established body of empirical research demonstrating the laws’ soundness.

The Supreme Court’s opinion in Bruen made clear that gun safety laws are permissible if they set objective standards and can be analogized to historical gun laws either through a corresponding case or analogical reasoning, an approach that examines the “hows” and “whys” of modern and historical gun regulations to determine if they are part of the nation’s history and tradition.

Under Bruen’s framework, the challenged age-based restrictions are analogous to our historical tradition of firearm restrictions for specific groups posing a heightened risk of violence. Neuroscience, social science, and extensive data have shown that compared to older adults, 18-to-20-year-olds pose a heightened risk for gun violence. This age group is more impulsive, likely to commit crimes with firearms, and likely to attempt suicide–a danger exacerbated by access to firearms. For the above reasons, we urge the court to grant defendants’ motion to dismiss.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.


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