Jones v. Becerra: Defending California’s Strong Minimum Age Law
Case Information: Jones v. Becerra, No. 20-56174 (9th Cir. brief filed January 26, 2021).
At Issue: Since 2011, California has prohibited individuals under the age of 21 from purchasing handguns, a requirement very similar to a federal law that has been in place for over 50 years. In 2018, California extended this age restriction to long guns. Plaintiffs argue that California’s age restrictions violate the Second Amendment and that preventing minors under the age of 21 from purchasing firearms will have no effect on gun violence in the state. A judge for the Southern District of California denied the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction to block the state from enforcing the law while the case was being decided on its merits. Plaintiffs have appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit.
Giffords Law Center’s Brief: We Joined Brady, the American Federation of Teachers, and the California Federation of Teachers in a brief that argues that the District Court was correct in denying the preliminary injunction, and in its determination that the challenge is unlikely to succeed on its merits. We argue that the District Court was correct in determining that, at most, California’s minimum age law triggers intermediate scrutiny. We then provide a brief overview of the empirical research finding that young adults under 21 are at an elevated risk of misusing firearms both as a means of suicide, and to commit violence, including school shootings. We also direct attention to research finding that minimum age laws are effective at reducing firearm fatalities in this age group. We argue that this research shows that the law reasonably fits the government’s objective of protecting public safety, satisfying intermediate scrutiny.