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A recent ruling from the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals has deemed Pennsylvania’s restrictions on 18- to 20-year-olds carrying firearms during state emergencies unconstitutional.

The decision, based on a 2-1 vote, aligns with the US Constitution’s Second Amendment, extending the right to keep and bear arms to adults under the age of 21. This verdict follows the precedent set by the US Supreme Court’s June 2022 ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which recognized the right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense and stated that firearms laws must align with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.

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US Circuit Judge Kent Jordan, supported by US Circuit Judge D. Brooks Smith, both appointees of former President George W. Bush, authored the opinion. Judge Jordan emphasized that the term “the people” in the Second Amendment includes all adult Americans, including those aged 18 to 20, and highlighted the absence of any founding-era law that supports disarming individuals in this age group. In contrast, US Circuit Judge L. Felipe Restrepo, appointed by former President Barack Obama, dissented, arguing that the Second Amendment does not extend to individuals under 21.

The ruling questions Pennsylvania’s law, which requires individuals to be at least 21 to apply for a license to carry concealed firearms. Although unlicensed individuals could typically carry guns openly, a state statute prohibited people from carrying firearms on public streets or property during a state of emergency unless they had a license or qualified for other exceptions. Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry’s office, which defended the state laws in court, expressed disappointment with the ruling and is considering options for further appeal.

Gun rights advocates dubbed the ruling a “significant win” for gun rights advocates. Adam Kraut, the Executive Director of the Second Amendment Foundation, expressed satisfaction with the ruling, stating that it ensures young adults can defend themselves during a state of emergency.


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