The U.S. Supreme Court has been, of late, restoring Second Amendment rights taken away by states and cities — specifically in the overturning of handgun prohibitions in the Heller case out of Washington, D.C., and the McDonald case from Chicago.
But at what age does the constitutional right to own and carry a handgun accrue?
The National Rifle Association has filed suit in federal court in Lubbock, Texas, challenging federal and Texas laws limiting the right to purchase a handgun and obtain a concealed carry permit to those aged 21 or older.
The suit argues, “At eighteen years of age, law-abiding citizens in this country are considered adults for almost all purposes and certainly for the purposes of the exercise of fundamental constitutional rights. “
The plaintiff in the case is James D’Cruz of Lubbock, who was first trained in the handling of firearms by his grandfather, a veteran of World War II. Mr. D’Cruz is a member of the Navy Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps and is a member of the JROTC’s marksmanship team.
Of course there are those who continue to argue only criminals should be allowed to have guns.
A recent editorial in The New York Times, for example, wails over the implications of the success of this lawsuit, projecting images of carnage.
“In its recent Second Amendment rulings,” the Times editorialists write, “the Supreme Court struck down complete bans on handgun ownership, but explicitly left room for limits on gun ownership and possession by felons and the mentally ill, and other reasonable restrictions like Texas’ age limitations. The Supreme Court has said nothing to suggest that the Second Amendment requires Americans to allow armed teenagers in their communities.”
Armed teenagers! What a frightening thought. But hasn’t this country long allowed those as young as 17 to enlist in the armed forces and fight — with real guns?
Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, tells the Austin American-Statesman: “The U.S. Supreme Court clearly stated that the Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms for all law-abiding Americans. … That right is not limited only to Americans 21 years of age and older.”
The Times calls arming teens “breathtakingly irresponsible,” but then admits the criminal ones are already armed.
Citing FBI crime statistics, the Times says 18- to 20-year-olds account for 5 percent of the population but 20 percent of homicide and manslaughter arrests — apparently contending law-abiding teens should not be allowed to protect themselves from the marauding ones.
In the McDonald case, Justice Samuel Alito spelled out why the 14th Amendment was passed after the Civil War to extend Bill of Rights prohibitions to states as well as Congress. It was specifically to prevent states from disarming free slaves and leaving them at the mercy of armed gangs.
“Evidence from the period immediately following the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment only confirms that the right to keep and bear arms was considered fundamental,” Alito writes. “In an 1868 speech addressing the disarmament of freedmen, Representative Stevens emphasized the necessity of the right: ‘Disarm a community and you rob them of the means of defending life. Take away their weapons of defense and you take away the inalienable right of defending liberty.'”
But giving teens access to handguns would create a Wild West atmosphere, you protest. Perhaps that would be better than a turkey shoot.