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Reese v. BATFE: Defending the longstanding minimum age for handgun purchases.

Case Information: Reese, et al. v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, No. 6:20-cv-01438-RRS-CBW (W.D. La. amicus brief filed June 3, 2021)

At Issue: Young people under age 21 are at a higher risk of suicide and commit a disproportionate share of crimes; easy access to a firearm—and in particular handguns—is an exacerbating factor for those risks. Federal law in place for half a century limiting handgun purchases by young people is a reasonable and tailored measure to protect against the increased risk of gun violence experienced and perpetrated by this country’s youth. And yet Plaintiffs here seek to have this federal law—which has already been upheld by the Fifth Circuit and other federal appellate courts—struck down. In an attempt to circumvent this on-point precedent, Plaintiffs advance a novel theory of questionable sincerity: even if the age restriction is constitutional as to young men, it is unconstitutional as applied to young women. Plaintiffs advance this argument despite the unconstitutional equal protection violation their desired result would necessitate.

Our Brief: Our brief presents compelling neuroscience and social science research showing that Congress’s decision to limit access to handguns by 18 to 20 year olds was a calibrated solution to a life or death problem. In addition to the findings that Congress made at the time it passed this life-saving legislation, we also present contemporary research showing that 18 to 20 year olds are not cognitively developed and are thus more impulsive as compared to older cohorts. Young people under 21 commit crimes with firearms at disproportionately high rates. And young people under 21 attempt suicide at disproportionately high rates; firearms make suicide attempts easier to carry out and considerably more lethal. Finally, our brief argues that the Fifth Circuit has already held that the government has sufficient basis to regulate firearm access in this way and did so based upon gender agnostic research, thus foreclosing the female plaintiff’s as-applied challenge. Even assuming the propriety of Plaintiffs’ contrived, gender-based line-drawing, available data comparing young women under 21 to older women 21 and older—the appropriate line of comparison—the challenged law still survives constitutional muster as applied to young women. 

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.