Capitol Alert

Gun rights groups sue California to challenge age restrictions on buying firearms

Most Americans Want More Gun Control. Why Doesn’t It Happen?

Polls show solid support for stricter laws, especially after mass shootings. But there are also deep disagreement, staunch opposition and growing disenchantment with gun control.
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Polls show solid support for stricter laws, especially after mass shootings. But there are also deep disagreement, staunch opposition and growing disenchantment with gun control.

A coalition of California gun rights groups has sued the state in federal court to prevent the enactment of a law prohibiting people younger than 21 from buying firearms.

“Once individuals turn 18, they are adults in the eyes of the law,” said Carlsbad attorney John W. Dillon, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “Law-abiding adults are entitled to fully exercise all of their fundamental rights, including their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for all lawful purposes, not just hunting or sport.”

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. That’s the same district where Judge Roger Benitez struck down California’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines earlier this year.

Former Gov. Jerry Brown in September signed California’s law banning firearm sales to people under age 21. It expanded previous restrictions that prohibited people under age 21 from buying handguns. Military service members, law enforcement officers and licensed hunters have exceptions in the law and can own firearms.

Among the plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit is Matthew Jones, a 20-year-old Santee man whom the complaint alleges has no criminal record but who also is uninterested in pursuing a hunting license.

“Mr. Jones does not currently own any firearm but wishes to purchase one for self-defense and other lawful purposes,” according to the complaint.

A 20-year-old Vista man, Thomas Furrh, is another plaintiff who likewise wishes to own a gun for self-defense.

Other plaintiffs include the Firearms Policy Coalition, the Calguns Foundation and the Second Amendment Coalition.

“The Second Amendment is not a second-class right and adults over the age of 18 but under 21 are not second-class people,” said Brandon Combs, president of the Firearms Policy Coalition. “This case seeks to restore the Second Amendment human rights of legal adults who are being prevented from exercising them because of unconstitutional laws, policies, practices, customs that the State of California defendants are known to enforce.”

The lawsuit drew condemnation from state Sen. Anthony Portanino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, who wrote SB 1100.

“I’m outraged that some people would work so hard to put our school children in jeopardy by fighting this very sensible and appropriate law. Parents should not be worried about purchasing bulletproof backpacks or afraid of gun violence on our campuses when California has already put in place an effort to alleviate those concerns,” Portantino said.

The senator said the law does not discriminate against young people.

“Here, you cannot purchase alcohol, tobacco or rent a car at 18 so putting an age restriction on gun purchases is an effective and legal practice,” he said.

Portantino vowed to “do everything in my power to make our campuses safe from gun violence and to fight this effort to overturn SB 1100.”

Judge Benitez in late March overturned a 2016 California law that prohibited sales of large-capacity magazines. The law took effect, anyway, after Benitez granted a request to allow the state to enforce the law while it appeals his ruling.

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