Hirschfeld v. ATF: Defending the Minimum Age to Buy a Handgun from a Licensed Dealer
Case Information: Hirschfeld et al. v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives et al. (W.D. Va. amicus brief filed April 17, 2019).
At Issue: Over 50 years ago, after finding that minors under the age of 21 were disproportionately responsible for “serious crimes of violence,” and that licensed dealers were a major source of their weapons, Congress adopted a federal law barring minors under the age of 21 from buying handguns from federally licensed firearm dealers (FFLs). Other courts have upheld the law as constitutional, but two plaintiffs recently filed a new legal challenge alleging that it impermissibly burdens the Second Amendment rights of 18-to-20-year-olds. Our brief argues that plaintiffs’ challenge must fail because the minimum age regulation falls outside of the Second Amendment’s protection, and that even if it implicates the Second Amendment, it passes constitutional muster under intermediate scrutiny, the highest appropriate level of review.
Giffords Law Center’s Brief: First, our amicus brief surveys social science research about impulsivity in minors ages 18 to 20 as well as FBI crime data showing that firearm homicides and violent crimes disproportionately involve individuals under 21. We also acknowledge that minors attempt suicide at disproportionately high rates and access to firearms increases the likelihood and lethality of these attempts. We then argue that the challenged federal restriction falls outside the protection of the Second Amendment because it is consistent with longstanding historical limitations on the right to keep and bear arms that were explicitly recognized as legitimate in the Heller decision. Finally, we argue that even if the court were to apply heightened scrutiny, because there is a reasonable fit between the challenged regulation and the ‘substantial governmental objective’ of protecting public safety, this regulation passes intermediate scrutiny.